§ Mr. WILLIAM SHAW
I beg to move,That this House is of opinion that the time has arrived when the embargo on the importation of Canadian cattle should be removed.After a very considerable delay, the House has now an opportunity of expressing its opinion upon this very important question. I trust that we shall have a straight vote, and that the House will resist all Amendments that may obscure the issue or render the decision of the House doubtful or conditional. I feel that the great bulk of the people are, for their own interest, deeply anxious that this embargo should be removed.
§ Mr. SHAW
I hear an hon. Friend say "No"; but it is a fact that all the great municipalities and corporations in this country have forwarded resolutions asking that the embargo should be removed. Birmingham has done so, and Glasgow, which is in the county represented by the hon. and gallant Member; and Cardiff, and all the big towns. These people recognise that it is vital to the interests of the Empire and to the maintenance of the honour of this country that the pledge given to Canada should be honoured. The British people, irrespective of party, dislike and distrust quibblers. The detailss of the pledge have been widely circulated and read, and the people have made up their minds that there is no doubt that a pledge has been given, and that if it is not honoured our action will be derogatory to the honour of this country. For the 30 years that this embargo bas been in operation there has been a fight for its removal. Last year in this House, before the pledge became prominent, this demand became so persistent that the Government thought it convenient to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the matter. The opponents of the embargo did not ask for the Royal Commission. I imagine it must have been born of the pathetic belief in the present policy which seems to have gripped and held the mind of the Minister of Agriculture. The right hon. Gentleman probably 64 knew that a Royal Commission would gain time. He probably imagined that it would give a favourable Report, from his point of view. All the influence, all the knowledge, all the statistics of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries were thrown into the scale in favour of the embargo before the Royal Commission. The Irish Board of Agriculture was represented before the Commission by counsel, with a view of supporting the embargo. There was also the evidence of the National Farmers' Union of England representing all the farmers but it failed because it was shown that it represented only a minority of the farmers. There was, too, the National Livestock Defence Committee. On the one side was a strong coalition of all the parties, associations and trusts in favour of the embargo. On the other side what did we have? We had only a poorly organised crowd—so poorly organised, to begin with, that they did not arrange for counsel to represent them. The Commission was in Session, before they were in a position, to engage or brief Counsel, but all the parties had opportunities of putting forward their views. The personnel of the tribunal commanded general respect. It was presided over by Lord Finlay, an ex-Lord Chancellor, a judge of experience and international reputation, and before the Commission had reported it was given a certificate of character by the Prime Minister, who said:The Report has not come in yet, but when it comes in it will he our duty to act upon it.Had the Prime Minister discharged that duty it would not have been necessary to trouble the House with this Motion. Notwithstanding the support of the Prime Minister, those who were opposed to the embargo refused to accept the finding of the Commission. The Live Stock Defence Committee, presided over by Lord Crewe, issued a critical review of the evidence, and one of the principal reasons upon which they based their criticism was this:None of the Members of the Commission has experience or knowledge of the intricacies of rural life.It seems to me a very narrow and absurd basis of criticism. One might as well say that no judge is competent to preside in the Divorce Court unless he has intimate and personal knowledge of the 65 mode of life which brings one within the jurisdiction of that Court. We shall be told that the farmers and the whole agricultural industry are unitedly opposed to any change. They usually are opposed to any change, but I think the House would be very foolish indeed to admit this claim at its face value. I have sufficient knowledge of "the intricacies of rural life" to know that the farming community of England is not a particularly vocal community. At these meetings of associations and other bodies, there may be a certain number of people in favour of a motion, and that motion seems to be carried unanimously, yet in the hall there may be also a great body of opinion absolutely opposed to the motion which is supposed to be carried with unanimity. No doubt we shall have speeches from the eminent English agriculturists who represent the agricultural group in this House to the effect that an overwhelming majority is in favour of maintaining the embargo. During the three or four years I have had the privilege of listening on many occasions to these eminent English agriculturists speaking on the position and prospects of the agricultural industry in this country. I am within the recollection of the House when I say that on every occasion they have painted a picture of doleful and impenetrable gloom. I admired the manner in which they put their case, but I felt that if these speeches were founded upon their personal experience as agriculturists, then as agriculturists they must be held to be more eminent than successful. I venture respectfully to suggest to them that they might with profit consider whether some of their gloomy experience may not be due to mistakes in policy—whether it may not even be possible that they have made a mistake in policy regarding this embargo.
Many of the commercial farmers, both in the unions and elsewhere, are opposed to this policy. The backbone of the support of the embargo lies in what may be called the aristocracy of agriculture —the people who cut a great figure at the big agricultural shows. It is the commercial farmer who wants the embargo taken off—the man to whom profits are more than prizes. I warn the House that they need not put too much reliance upon the claim that the overwhelming majority of the agriculturists of England and Wales is in sup- 66 port of the embargo. The House no doubt recalls why the embargo was put on. It was put on because it was asserted that disease was being brought over from Canada. It is admitted I believe, on all hands, that this was an erroneous diagnosis of the case. It is admitted by all experts that the herds of Canada are to-day, and have been for 30 years probably, the freest from disease and the healthiest to be found in any country in the world. That was admitted in another place by the present Minister of Transport who was then speaking on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture. He said that on account of disease there was no justification whatever for shutting out from this country cattle bred in Canada. Before the Royal Commission, a certificate of health was given to the Canadian cattle by Sir Daniel Hall, chief scientific expert of the Board of Agriculture, and Sir Stewart Stockman, chief veterinary expert, gave evidence to the same effect. There was a great deal of evidence put before the Royal Commission on this point, because, after all, it is the main support of the embargo. The Commission heard all the evidence which could be brought forward to secure an adverse verdict against the Canadian cattle on this point. The supporters of the embargo also endeavoured to show that, because Canada had a long border line, Canada might be used as a corridor for bringing in disease from the United States of America. Having heard and weighed all the evidence, the finding of the Commission was:We are of opinion there is no substantial ground for the apprehension that such admission would introduce disease among the cattle of this country.4.0 P.m.
All this talk about protecting the herds of this country is—as far at least as Canada is concerned—absolute eyewash. Properly interpreted, it means protection of certain people's pockets. I see the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) is in his place. In several of his speeches outside the right hon. Gentleman has referred to the Safeguarding of Industries Act as an acid test. Here in this embargo we have got Protection far beyond anything contemplated in the Safeguarding of Industries Act, and I trust the right hon. Gentleman and his followers will stand this test and go into the Lobby unitedly, and as a party against the embargo. Even if this em- 67 bargo were taken off, the breeders in this country would still have very considerable protection. They would have the protection which arises from the cost of transport, amounting from £10 to £14 per head. That should be sufficient. It will be said that the early apostles of Free Trade told the same tale to the grain producers of their day. There can be very little in an argument founded on an analogy between the case of introducing grain into this country, and the case of introducing live animals which have to be carefully sheltered, fed and attended to on the way across from Canada. There is, and has been for many years, a great shortage of cattle in this country. This shortage was admitted by Lord Ernie long before the Imperial Conference of 1917. It was referred to by Lord Long, when, as Mr. Long, he was piloting through this House the Act which gave statutory permanence to this embargo. This is what he said on 23rd March, 1896, referring to this very shortage:But he had reason to believe that if stock-breeders were given security against disease, which the Bill would provide, the supply of stores would very soon more than meet the demand.That, like many other prophecies made under similar circumstances, has been falsified by events. The shortage of cattle in proportion to population is much greater now than it was in 1896. Notwithstanding this protection, the breeders in this country have never been able to make up that shortage. If it were not for the cattle coming from Ireland, we in this country would be in a very hopeless condition as regards store cattle. Before the Royal Commission a great point was made of the fact that Ireland was a part of the United Kingdom. Well, the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture has helped to abolish that argument. It cannot now be said that we have any control over the agricultural policy of Southern Ireland, which is three-fourths of the whole of Ireland. We must not look to Ireland for a sufficient supply of store cattle. It is absolutely essential that we should have a second source of supply, and it is admitted on all hands that the best place where we can get that supply is Canada.
We are often told that the stock breeders are the backbone of English agriculture. They are an important part 68 of the anatomy, but the man who cultivates the soil is really the backbone of the industry, and it is essential that those who cultivate the soil should have a plentiful supply of store cattle. Unless the farmer has the assurance that he can get a plentiful supply of store cattle at an economic price which gives him a profit, not only from the beef, but also by reason of the manure which he obtains for his land, he cannot be expected to plough up more land. He has to have store cattle in order to eat his root crops and make his straw into manure. This is more essential than ever because since 1896 we have had the development of motor traffic so that the manure formerly obtained from the town horses has almost vanished. In Forfarshire, the county I know best, there has been a very pronounced shortage of store cattle for many years, with the result that the farmers there are feeding only half the number of cattle that they could feed if they could buy store cattle on an economic basis. At present they are forced to keep on the cattle twice as long as they otherwise would do because they cannot get store cattle at a figure to show them a profit. If they could buy stores at an economic price, they would be able to double the output of their beef and he able to bring more land into cultivation. It is therefore certain that in this respect this policy of removing the embargo would increase the supply of fresh meat in this country, which is what the people want and require.
Those who are fighting the embargo are fighting for increased fresh meat supplies for the people of this country. The Minister of Agriculture has raised the point that there is no relation between the price of store cattle and the price of beef. It seems to me that there must be a very close relationship, because, if the breeder cannot make a profit out of feeding his cattle, he will gradually go out of business, and as he goes out of business the scarcity of fresh meat will increase and the price will rise. Already it is evident from the statistics that this shortage of fresh meat in this country is becoming more and more pronounced. In 1893, 65 per cent. of the meat in Smithfield Market was home-raised and home-killed. It has now gore down to something under 10 per cent. The supporters of the embargo tell us that the best way is to bring in frozen meat. 69 When I suggested to the hon. Gentleman who presides over the Kitchen Committee (Sir J. Agg-Gardner) that for one week we should have a supply of frozen meat in the Dining Rooms of this House so that Members might appreciate the difference between frozen and fresh meat, I was told, most courteously, that the Committee could not sanction a gastronomic experiment on Members. I oppose any such gastronomic experiment being made on my constituents and on the great mass of the people. I want to see the supply of fresh meat increased in this country, and I feel certain that this is the policy which will help to achieve that end.
It has been said that those who support the removal of the embargo wish to bring in the Canadian cattle, keep them for a few weeks, and then sell them as Prime English or Scotch beef. It seems to me that a bullock brought in from Canada and fed in this country would be just as much English or Scotch beef as a bullock brought in from Ireland. I am, however, quite willing to give the right hon. Gentleman my support if he will come forward with a proposal to strengthen the Merchandise Marks Act so as to give the home-bred and home-fed beef any protection or preference to which it is justly entitled. I cannot go into the question of the milk supply, but anyone who reads the Report of the Royal Commission will see that on that head also it is important that the embargo on Canadian cattle should be taken off. I think the supporters of the embargo have for some time now recognised that they are beaten in this controversy, but they hope, by insisting on a period of quarantine, to retain the substance while conceding the shadow. This question of a quarantine was gone into by the Royal. Commission. They heard evidence on it, and this is what they said:It was said by witnesses opposed to the admission of Canadian cattle that if they were admitted they should he subjected to a period of quarantine. It appears clear, from Sir Daniel Hall's evidence, that the system of quarantine, in the first place, would be extremely expensive, and, in the second place, would so hamper the trade as to render the permission to import illusory.This is now the quibble upon which the supporters of the embargo have been forced to fall back. It is an endeavour to defeat this demand for the removal of 70 the embargo. They have to admit that there is no disease in Canadian cattle, and, when they admit that, upon what can they found their demand for a quarantine? It is said that the Canadians insist upon a quarantine for cattle coming from us. We cannot give the Canadians anything like the same bill of health that the Canadians can give us. I put down a question to the Minister of Agriculture, asking him if he could give me one year since 1910 during which the herds of the United Kingdom had been free from diseases scheduled under the Diseases of Animals Act, and he had to admit that he could not name one year during that time. I venture to ask him if he can name one year during the same period when England has been free from foot-and-mouth disease. It is said that Canada insists upon a quarantine in the case of the animals which we send from this country. The animals we send from this country are breeding animals, and, in order to make the tuberculin test effective and to see that nothing has been done to render the test useless, it is necessary for the Canadians to have a quarantine of 30 days when the cattle land there. The question which we are considering, however, is not the conditions under which Canada is admitting our cattle, but the conditions under which we are to admit Canadian cattle, and if Canada were to insist upon a quarantine of six months it would not make any difference at, all to the health of the cattle coming to this country. This is simply another quibble in order to defeat the demand to have the embargo raised. I hope the House will see through it and have nothing whatever to do with it. It is essential in the interests of British agriculture, and in the interests of the people and of the milk consumers, that this embargo should be taken off. But it is not merely a domestic question; it has become an Imperial question. I am not going to delay the House by quotations from the Report of the proceedings before the Imperial Conference of 1917, and I am not going to quote the speeches of Lord Long and the Lord Chancellor in another place. Anybody who has read those proceedings and those speeches and has read in the "Times" what Sir Robert Borden has to say must come to the conclusion that there was a pledge given to Canada at that Conference. The Prime Minister, 71 in the White Paper issued last week, admits this pledge. This is what he said:I know, and I have had it in my mind, and so have all my colleagues, that the pledge was given by Lord Long and the late Minister for Agriculture, Lord Ernie. That pledge is very clear and unequivocal It was undoubtedly the intention of the Government to act upon it at the earliest possible opportunity.I cannot see how anyone, after that, can have the slightest doubt that a pledge was given to the Canadians to take off this embargo. I do not know that Lord Ernie denies that there was a pledge, and I find it very difficult to understand the position taken up by him. As far as I understand it, he practically admits that there was a pledge, but says it was! given with mental reservations, and that he does not feel called upon to consider it as binding on this country in the circumstances. You cannot conduct the affairs of a great Empire, you cannot negotiate with the great Dominions beyond the seas, on the basis of "heads I win, tails you lose."
§ Mr. SHAW
If that be the way in which the supporters of the embargo would carry on the affairs of the country, I feel sure that this House will vote against them by an overwhelming majority. I understand the Minister of Agriculture supports the position taken up by Lord Ernie. He appears to look upon the embargo as a sort of sacred Measure. I find it much more difficult to understand the position taken up by the Leader of the House. I should have imagined that here at least was a Minister who would think imperially, and that a definite pledge given at a Colonial Conference would have been something sacred to him. I cannot sec how any true Briton can refuse to honour such a pledge as was then given. It was given during the War. Canada was sending her sons in thousands and tens of thousands to fight on the battle fronts of France and Flanders, and the cry was reaching her to send more and more men. These men are our brothers: they have proved it. In the hour of our adversity we called on these men, and they stood the test, and I can conceive of nothing more likely to cause offence to Canada than the breaking of a pledge given her under such circumstances as this was given. Ministers may be broken. the Government may be 72 broken, but the word of Britain stands, and I call upon this House of Commons to demonstrate to the world by an overwhelming majority that we are determined that this pledge shall he kept.
I beg to second the Motion.
I noticed a short time ago that the Minister of Agriculture, in a speech, complained that he could never get away from the Canadian cattle question. I can assure him he never will, until justice is triumphant in this matter, and until he and his colleagues have made good the legitimate claims of Canada to trade with us in what is a vital necessity for the food supply of the people. Much has been said lately—and I have no doubt a great deal will be said—regarding the promises of responsible Ministers of the Government to remove the embargo. For myself, I am never much concerned about Ministerial pledges, for I find them too often possessed of that ephemeral character which is fatal to the credulous hopes of trustful men. Promises have been made, not only about agriculture but about many other things, and they have been blown about like chaff before every political wind. So I would rather pass over the promises, and respectfully submit to the House one or two considerations upon the merits of the ease, and the facts relating to them. What are these facts? Canada possesses large tracts of land suitable for the breeding and rearing, but not for the fattening, of stock. About 1870 she entered into a trade with this country to supply such stock to the British farmer for fattening purposes. At first, the trade was quite inconsiderable, but when experience proved that the cattle were of good quality and throve well upon British farms, the demand for them increased and eventually assumed quite respectable proportions, so that in 1884 we imported 80,000 head and in 1892 that figure had risen to 120,000.
This was done quietly smoothly unobtrusively, and with the good will of everybody. There was no organised opposition, there were no got-up lamentations about the impending ruin of the British stock breeder. He was then, as he had been before, quite a successful member of the agricultural community. He knew then, as he does now, that he never had been and never would he able 73 to supply all the demands of the British feeder. And so we were in this happy position, we had developed a trade with Canada in a new direction; we were paying to her considerable sums of money annually, which she was returning to us in the purchase of our manufactures, and incidentally in giving employment to our working men we had opened out a new source of food supply, and so avoided the palpable danger of being entirely dependent on the Irish market for our necessary imports; and, last but not least, we had by this trade drawn closer and made stronger the bonds of friendship and Imperial unity between the two peoples. It is not too much to say that general prosperity and general satisfaction were marching together, cordially and genially, hand in hand. But the event occurred referred to by my hon. Friend, in November, 1892, which completely shattered all the trade that had been built up by the energy and industry of 20 years. The powers invested in the Board of Agriculture were exercised, and a complete stop was put to that traffic. That was continued for some four years, and then the Act of 1896 was the concluding chapter of a great misfortune to Canada and to this country.
It is to be observed that the excuse of disease has been held up to the people of this country to prove that in the Canadian stock there was disease for, certainly, 25 years, and to demonstrate the danger of allowing any further importation from that country, but, as my hon. Friend said in moving the Motion, it is practically certain that there never was a case of pneumonia in the herd in question. The Board of Agriculture must have known for a considerable period that the reason for introducing the embargo was a bad reason and that a great injustice had been perpetrated. Lord Ernie, in his speech in another place only a few days ago, made this perfectly clear. He was speaking of the 1917 Conference, and be said:I wished to sweep away, so far as the machinery of our policy of exclusion went, all the allegations of disease to admit to the full the doubtfulness of the original case.When this knowledge came to the Board of Agriculture, I should have thought there would have been an honourable amend, an eager desire to make good the damage that had been caused, but silence was the policy for a long course of years, 74 until at last, in 1917, the Canadian Prime Minister lodged an emphatic protest against this spurious reason being continually advanced for the purpose of keeping on the embargo. Then we had Minister and ex-Minister of Agriculture and officials falling over each other to declare their intense pleasure in stating that the Canadian stocks had been for 30 years the cleanest in the world. But, strange as it may seem, that reason is still being trotted out in various official quarters throughout the country—the danger of infecting our stock with disease from Canada. Indeed, a Noble Lord devoted practically the whole of his speech in another place a few days ago to that very point. I cannot help thinking that, on a little analysis and careful consideration of the facts, the erstwhile opponents will become the most earnest advocates for the removal of the embargo, and for this reason: We must import stock. As I have already stated, the British breeders cannot supply the demand of the British feeders, and, instead of the position getting better, my hon. Friend has pointed out that it is getting worse. The stocks in this country are declining in proportion to the population, and, since we have to import, surely it is a matter of elementary common sense that we should import from the safest quarters, the quarters where there is least disease. Upon that point, may I be pardoned if I read just two or three sentences from the Report of the Royal Commission? I would refer hon. Members to page 10, the first paragraph:It is further, in our opinion, established that for the last 30 years, no cattle plague, pleuro-pneumonia or foot-and-mouth disease has existed in Canada.I read a little further down:Lord Ernie, although he gave his opinion against the admission of Canadian stores, said he considered the Canadian cattle healthier than the Irish. We have had a great deal of evidence as to the health of the Canadian cattle, and in our opinion it established that they are healthier than the Irish.On page 11, it says:We may point out that considerable inconvenience has recently been caused by the failure of stores from Ireland, owing to outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease.I submit that we have had it clearly established by the Royal Commission, first, that for 30 years there has been no disease in Canada, and, during that time, there have been repeated outbreaks of 75 disease in Ireland. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Hon. Members say No." I think they could not have heard the last, sentence I read. If they will kindly open their ears, I will read it again—We may point out that considerable inconvenience has recently been caused by the failure of stores from Ireland "—
I said "Ireland," as mentioned in the Royal Commission's Report,—owing to outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease.While, on one side, there has been no disease in Canada, on the other side there have been repeated outbreaks of disease in Ireland. I say to our opponents, with great respect, that if they would act in the public interest, for the safety of the stocks in England from infectious disease, they would do all in their power to stop importations from Ireland, where there has been disease, and import, as far as possible, entirely from Canada, which for a generation has shown an absolute clean bill of health. Surely that is the logical conclusion. But we are driven to another logical conclusion, and that is the danger and the folly of this country being dependent for her supplies upon one source. As I have already quoted from the Report, we have been put to considerable inconvenience on more than one occasion because of the shortage of supplies through disease, but I submit that if there were an outbreak of disease in Ireland, with a possibility of stopping, for a season, all the supplies, what would be the result? Great public inconvenience, if not suffering, and a financial crisis of the most serious character on the part of the British farmers. Take the figures. We have imported from Ireland anything from 250,000 to 600,000 cattle a year. Take an ordinary arable farm in England of 400 acres. The tenant must necessarily feed for the fat stock markets. His hay and his roots must be consumed, and his straw must be converted into that best general fertiliser, farmyard manure. A farm of that kind will feed about 50 cattle for winter feed. If we only take the small average of 300,000 a year, it means that 6,000 farmers will be entirely supplied from Ireland with their store cattle, and if that be stopped for a season, it must of 76 necessity caused the most serious financial strain on the part of the breeders in this country, and, indeed, hundreds of them, it can readily be conceived, would be driven into actual bankruptcy Vet we read in the same speech by the Minister of Agriculture that he would not be driven from his opposition to the removal of the embargo for any catch vote or newspaper stunt.Oh but man, proud man!Dress'd with a little brief authority:Most ignorant of what he's most assured,…Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven,As make the angels weep.I cannot but submit to the House that there is justification for saying that this bogey of disease has been held up to frighten the people for a long series of years, and there has been pursued a deliberate policy of prohibition, in order to protect the supposed interests of the breeders in this country to keep up their prices and to eliminate all competition. The authors of such a policy have been walking along the road of stupendous folly. Lord Ernle made the position clear when, in his evidence before the Royal Commission, he said that the real question was what the farmers would think. I should have imagined, with great respect, that it would have been more to-the point if he had said the real question was what the majority of the people would think was best for the people. I quite agree that the opinion of the farmers should be most carefully considered, but I do not agree that they should rule the whole situation. The Farmers' Union, as mentioned by my hon. Friend, have taken a very considerable part in propaganda on this question. They may speak for the breeders, but hey have no, authority to speak for the feeders. There is no general consensus of opinion between the breeders and feeders. The breeders of stock are entirely in favour of the embargo. The feeders of stock are bitterly opposed to it. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am only respectfully putting my opinion before the House. I may be wrong, but, from all my knowledge, gained on a large field of inquiry, I say that the feeders of stock, as a great body, are entirely opposed to the embargo. As far as the Farmers' Union are concerned, as I say, they may speak for the breeders, but I maintain that they cannot 77 speak for feeders, who are a large, important body, spread over the best lands of England and Scotland, for the most part possessing extensive farms, and engaged in the highest form of intensive cultivation, and backed by considerable capital, in the conduct of their business.
The Farmers' Union demand the exclusion of all imported cattle except from Ireland. Their policy seems to be the elimination of all competition on behalf of the breeder. Their ideal is that the farmers of this class should never be asked to emerge from the cotton-wool of their infancy, and that they should be the spoilt and petted children of the State. Experience has taught us that a great many other trades, and a great many other people, are perfectly willing, like the Farmers' Union, to be the recipients of special privileges, and only too happy when they can make other people pay and bear the burden. The great body of farmers has had for years to bear the most stern competition from all over the world in practically everything they produce—their corn, their hay, their wool and their fat stock. The importation of chilled meat, and of meat killed at the ports of entry, has been the most formidable form of competition to this class of farmer, but they do not mind. They bear their losses with stoicism, and they make their profits when they may. But they demand—and rightly demand—that when they have met this keen competition from all parts of the world by free imports, they shall have the right of free import of their raw material from Canada, when there is no fear of infection. And there surely can be no infection where there is no disease.
There is just one more point that I should like to mention, and which I profoundly hope the Government will keep carefully in view, that is, the Imperial point—possibly the most important point of all. As the matter now stands, we are allowing importations from Ireland and we deny them to Canada. What special debt of gratitude do we owe to Ireland that we should prefer her and ignore Canada, whose brilliant services in the days of our agony and trial stood out pre-eminent amongst the Commonwealths of the Empire? With blare of trumpets and with beat of drums the Government declared to the world only recently that in their Treaty with 78 Ireland that they had given her equal rights and equal privileges with Canada. Are they now going to refuse to Canada the same equal rights and equal privileges with Ireland? Surely not, unless they would be shamed and men would say of them, "With what little wisdom is the world governed!" We have in Canada a Dominion possessing huge territories, abounding in the most amazing potentialities, whose people, although not of one blood, yet possess but one heart of fervent loyalty to the old country and to their King; who when they speak of home speak of England. I can see her in the future years a great nation, beckoning with welcoming hand to those at home to go out to her, who are willing to take part in the carving out of her great destinies. Are we going to send our children there and yet refuse to help them by declining to deal with them in the products of their labours? Again, surely not! For if we did this unjust thing, if by our callous disregard we alienated her sympathies and loosened the bonds which now so firmly bind us, it would not be a misfortune for England only, it would he a calamity to the world.
§ Mr. ERNEST EVANS
I beg to move to leave out from the word "House," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the wordswhile taking note of the recommendations of the recent Royal Commission, is of opinion that it would be inadvisable to repeal or to alter the Diseases of Animals Act, 1896, at the present moment for the following reasons: that this legislation has given a measure of security and stability to stockbreeding unknown under the conditions which prevailed before that legislation was passed; that there is severe depression in agriculture which any interference with existing legislation would tend to aggravate; and that the opinion of the Royal Commission is definite that the interests of the consumers are not involved in this question, the effect of the admission or non-admission of Canadian cattle on the price of meat being in their view immaterial.Language may, in this matter, as in others, misrepresent one's own thoughts, and misdirect other people's. The fact that this question has been commonly and conveniently referred to as the Canadian Embargo Question has blinded the eyes of many people to the fact that the existing law is not directed especially against Canada, but applies to all countries, and that it constitutes not an embargo upon the importation of cattle but 79 a provision that when cattle are imported—as they are—they should be slaughtered within a certain period. It is sought in certain quarters to suggest that the existing policy involves a violation of the principles of Free Trade. I do not like this argument, because it casts such an aspersion upon the Liberal Governments of 1906 and 1910; of which I was an ardent supporter; and I also repudiate it on the ground that it is untrue. I realise, however, that, perhaps, my own opinion in this matter will not be sufficient without the authority of some others, and so I venture to quote one who occupies a very high place in the hierarchy of Free Trade defenders. I refer to Lord Crewe. Speaking last year, in March, at a Conference, which was summoned by the City Corporation to consider this question, Lord Crewe said thatThe question had of late been surrounded by a mist of misrepresentation. It ought to be made clear that this was in no sense a matter of Free Trade or Protection.It is regrettable to find that Lord Crewe has not been able to exercise more influence upon some of his colleagues. For example, I notice that Lord Lincolnshire, speaking the other day on this question, said:As Free Traders the Liberal party naturally refuse to have anything to do with Protection, veiled or otherwise.It is rather curious that he of all people should have made that statement, because he was for some years himself President of the Board of Agriculture, and took part in a Debate in May, 1906, when he occupied that position. He then said:This question, debatable as it is, is one neither of policy nor of principle. It is a question of industrial expediency, a sort of national insurance, and the point, so far as I understand it, is whether it is necessary in the national interests that this system of national insurance should or should not be continued.There was no question of Protection here, veiled or otherwise, when the Marquis of Lincolnshire himself was President of the Board of Agriculture. I notice also that the other day he made one of his characteristic sallies upon the Government and spoke of "these days of go-as-you-please inside or outside the Cabinet." But the Government of which he was so distinguished a member treated this matter in precisely the same way as the present Government. The reason was 80 explained by the Noble Lord in the Debate to which I referred, when he said:The Members of His Majesty's Government had different views, as is well known.Then he went on to say:There are three ways in which the Prime Minister can touch the heart of the British House of Commons. There is the affectionate way. He can go to the House of Commons and say, 'This is a debatable point and I would like to get your opinion upon the subject.' Then there is the violent or the autocratic way adopted by the younger Pitt. He might say, sic volo, sic jubeo, 'I do not care what your opinions are, you will have to toe the line.' Or he can use the sentence used by the late Marquis or Salisbury when he practically told a recalcitrant Archbishop of Canterbury, 'I do not care three straws what you think; what I mind is what you do.' Then there would be the diplomatic or Balfourian way. He might say, 'A disagreeable man has brought a disagreeable question before the House of Commons. It is a difficult thing to face, but there is one way of getting out of the difficulty—let us all stay away and not go near the place until the storm has blown over.' The Prime Minister has chosen the first of these three methods.In other words, what the Noble Lord commends in the Prime Minister of his own day he condemns in the Prime Minister of the present day. Having cleared away these misapprehensions, may I remind hon. Members that the present law dates from 1896, and was the result of 30 years' anxious effort to frame a policy which would give to every stockbreeder in this country that feeling of security which everyone realised he was entitled to expect, and which it was generally accepted was essential to the confident and successful conduct of the industry. I respectfully submit to the House that it ought not lightly to abandon that policy which has been in operation with such good results for so many years, unless very urgent reasons can be shown. The responsibility for establishing those reasons rests upon those who ask for the removal of the embargo. What are the reasons suggested?
It is difficult to listen with patience—if I may be allowed to say so—to one point put by both hon. Members who have spoken. They have dragged in the loyalty and bravery of the Canadian soldiers. Yet these are the very men who talked about the slur upon Canada! I should like to know which is the greater slur upon Canada, to suggest that her cattle may bring disease to this country, or to suggest that her soldiers went to the War to protect the farming interests in 81 Canada? It is said that a pledge has been given. If that pledge was given by anybody, it was given by Lord Ernie, and it was given by him, speaking on his own responsibility, without previous consultation with the Government. Lord Ernie himself says that the words which he used do not bear the interpretation which it is now sought to put upon them. When the Report of the Imperial Conference is read, it is clear that the Debate was initiated on the basis of the stigma attached to the Canadian cattle, and the delegates from Canada expressly stated that they had no desire whatsoever to interfere with the internal policy which we in Great Britain might adopt. When what Lord Ernie said then is read in its entirety it becomes clear that whilst he did say that the English Board of Agriculture favoured the views put forward by the Canadian representatives, the acceptance of that policy was dependent upon the fulfilment of two conditions, namely, a large extension of tillage in the United Kingdom and the assent of the Irish Board of Agriculture.
If Lord Ernle gave the pledge suggested, I, for one, find it very difficult to imagine any reason why he should seek to repudiate it. He has no particular ground for doing so. He is not a member of the Government. He owes no allegiance to the Government. He has no reason to fear the force of public opinion, or any section of it, and, apart from that, I think every hon. Member will agree that he is a gentleman who is not likely to seek to break a promise that he had made. Had he given the pledge that hon. Members opposite say he gave—in spite of what he actually did say—obligations of honour would have caused him to acknowledge it, and I cannot imagine any consideration that would induce Lord Ernie to repudiate it. I cannot help feeling that this question of a pledge has been introduced in order to distract attention from the merits of the case. When people talk so loudly nowadays about our honour, I would like to know where were these men in 1918, in 1919, in 1920 and in 1921? Where were they during the Dudley bye-election of 1921, when this question wag one of the main issues? It was not fought on any question of pledge. It was fought almost entirely on the argument that the removal of the embargo would lead to a reduction in the price of beef. 82 The "Times" newspaper, in a leading article on the election on the day of the poll, said:At first the election seemed likely to turn upon the Irish question; but a gentleman from Canada intervened through the Press by raising the question of the embargo upon Canadian store-cattle… and Dudley almost forgot Ireland in fierce disputation about the price of beef-steaks.It was on that ground that this matter was fought at Dudley. The House naturally is jealous of its honour, but in the talk of the pledge what may be creditable to lion. Members' hearts may not be always creditable to their heads. Another argument to which great prominence has been given is directed neither to hearts nor to heads but to pockets, namely that the removal of the embargo would cheapen the price of meat. We were then told that it would reduce the price of meat by sixpence per pound, but the Royal Commission, dealing with this matter, have expressed their views in a sentence which is as concise as it is eon-elusive. They said:We are quite unable to accept it.5.0 P.M.
Since then the amount has consistently and persistently diminished, and there is hardly a practical man in the country who would venture to make a prophecy of any reduction at all in the price of meat. It is true that the Royal Commission did say in one place that this might cause a slight reduction, but when their Report is read, it is clear that that opinion is based upon two premises. One is that 200,000 cattle would be imported, and the other is that that figure represents about 8 per cent. of our whole meat supply. The latter assumption is based on faulty arithmetic and the former on a guess which cannot be substantiated. That opinion is also inconsistent with the other part of the very same Report, where they say that their recommendations might lead to a decline in breeding in this country, and that by an adjustment of supply to demand a reduction of price due to excess of supply would soon disappear. It is also inconsistent with the fact that the imposition of the embargo led not to an increase but to a reduction in price, and with the further fact that the price of meat is governed by the price of imported beef. Moreover, the figure of 200,000 is highly problematical. Before 1890 the largest number was 70,000. I do not know 83 whether the House realises that nearly a million more calves are born every year than are turned into beef, a fact which disposes of the argument to which the hon. Member opposite devoted a considerable part of his speech, and supports our contention that the number of cattle fattened in this country is determined, not so much by the supply of stores as by other practical considerations, such as the amount of land available and the resources available for fattening cattle.
The result of the removal of the embargo would be that what the Commission contemplated as a contingency would be a certainty, that is, that the home supplies would be considerably diminished, though possibly not to the full extent of the imported supply. Despite what the hon. Member who spoke last said, I think this is a newspaper stunt. We all know that it was started by Lord Beaverbrook. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] it was run by him for all it was worth and a great deal more at Dudley, and the "Daily Express" put the "Times" out of joint—the "Times" had to join in, although up to that time it had taken up a reasonable attitude—these papers have raised a very hurricane of excitement, and my two hon. Friends who have spoken are orphans of the storm created by these newspapers. They have now been joined by a paper called the "Empire Mail," the editor of which tells us that "Canada is watching." One cannot fail to admire the manner in which this editor is able to combine this Imperialism with the announcement that the subscription for his paper is only 12s. per annum These views have been supported by a vigorous propaganda, and it would be interesting to know the source and the amount of money spent upon it. It is propaganda in the interests of the large graziers, and in the interests of certain towns which have facilities at their ports which they would like to see used—I am not sure whether Dundee is one of those ports—and it is supported by large associations of meat traders, particularly those in Scotland, who characteristically look forward to the time when they can welcome these cattle to their shores, and enable Scottish butchers to sell these cattle a few weeks afterwards to their English customers at 84 Scottish prices as prime Scotch ribs of beef. One writer in the "Times" of-10th June, says:Some say that to keep and fatten a Canadian bullock for a short time and put it in our market as prime English heel is a fraud on the public, but I cannot see this.Under these conditions that great institution known as "the roast beef of Old England" will become as liable to suspicion as Canterbury lamb. Of one thing there can he no doubt, and that is that this policy has done infinite good to the interests of agriculture and the interests of the country generally. Before 1890 on many occasions the country was ravaged by disease, causing untold loss to the farmers and imperilling the food supplies of our country. Since then we have been comparatively free from the most serious diseases of cattle plague, pleura-pneumonia, and with the exception of a few occasional outbursts, of foot-and-mouth disease. The hon. Member opposite spoke of constant outbreaks in Ireland, but he was not doing that country justice, because there have only been six outbreaks in Ireland in the course of the last fifteen years.
To-day as a result of this policy we produce better stock than any other country in the world, and we are generally accepted as "the stud farm of the world." Not only has our quality improved, but the number has consistently and steadily increased since the policy was adopted. With the exception of one county in England, every branch of the National Farmers' Union has passed a resolution protesting against the removal of the embargo, and the Agricultural Council of Wales has passed a similar resolution. In Scotland, although large breeders favour the removal of the embargo, the Royal Commission itself said that the removal of the embargo would make it difficult for crofters and small farmers in the Highlands to carry on their operations, and what is true of those in the Highlands is also true of the small farmers and smallholders in England. For these reasons I respectfully submit to the House that no valid reason has been shown for reversing a policy deliberately adopted after mature consideration, which has done infinite good, and the removal of which would, at a time when agriculture is passing through an almost unexampled period of difficulty and depression, deprive farmers of that 85 feeling of confidence and security which is in a special sense essential to the prosperity of Britain's oldest and greatest industry.
§ Captain ELLIOT
I beg to second the Amendment.
After what I may characterise as the masterly summary of the situation delivered by the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, it seems almost superfluous for anyone to trouble the House further. I wish to say that I have listened to the hon. Member's speech with very great pleasure because he did not break out into Shakespeare on the one hand, or flap-doodle on the other hand. I think it would have been better if the Mover and Seconder of this Motion had saved time by cutting down their perorations, which must have done duty so often on the hustings in their own constituencies, and treated us to a little more argument on the subject we are discussing. I will proceed directly to deal with one or two of the practical points of this case because we have been subjected to a perfect bombardment of leaflets and threatened with every kind of other consequences to ourselves if we dare to oppose the will of Lord Beaverbrook in this matter, ranging from the break-up of the British Empire to the personal hostility of the "Daily Express" at the next General Election. In spite of that I think Members of the House of Commons have maintained an open mind on this subject, and in general a very keen interest in it has been taken by hon. Members who desire to be governed in their views, not so much by rhetoric as by the arguments of the case.
There are one or two points which specially appeal to me to which I desire to draw the attention of the House. The first one is the aspect of the conditions which produced the Act of 1896. In so far as they relate to the spread of epidemic disease in this country, this was treated with great scorn by the Mover and Seconder of the Motion, who said that there could be no valid objection whatever to the admission of Canadian cattle on the grounds of possible danger from disease to the herds of this country. The proof of the pudding, however, is in the eating. This Act was not adopted as a Protectionist Measure after insufficient consideration, but after 30 years' experience of the free importation of live 86 animals from all over the world into this country, with powers given to the Board of Agriculture to prevent the importation of any animals coming from a country that had disease in it. We have seen the result with the gradually growing series of epidemics which swept this country year after year, causing inestimable damage. Whether that is a coincidence or not I do not know, but, at any rate, it is a very striking coincidence that, when we passed the Act of 1896, the country became almost free from these epidemics. During the period between 1880 and 1885, which the Mover and Seconder of this Motion ask us to contemplate as a time when angelic conditions of agriculture prevailed, there was an epidemic every year of foot-and-mouth disease. In the year 1883 there were over 18,000 outbreaks, affecting 75 counties and nearly 450,000 animals.
In the face of such outbreaks as those, how puerile is the argument that an interruption of the Irish store cattle importation would lead to financial disaster among the farmers of this country. Similarly with pleuro-pneumonia, the outbreaks in the 'seventies covered between 60 and 70 counties every year, and affected scores of thousands of livestock. One source of infection was undoubtedly the infecting of the market by foreign stock, and this led to the agitation for the closing of the ports, and caused the Act of 1896 to be introduced. I have taken out the figures from the Official Reports of the Department of Agriculture for the 20 years prior to the passing of this Act, and the 20 years subsequent to its passing into law. In the 20 years before the passing of the Act of 1896 there were 850,000 animals in Great Britain affected with either pleuro-pneumonia or foot-and-mouth disease. In the 20 years subsequent to the passing of that Act there were just over 4,000. These are very striking figures, because they show we had less than a two-hundredth part of cases of disease for each month. We had very nearly as much disease every month before the Act as we have had in the whole 20 years since we passed that Act. These figures require more than the ipse dixit of newspaper proprietors, or the resolutions of the corporations of large towns to sweep them away.
It may be that our opponents consider that it is impossible to spread any disease with clean cattle coming from a 87 clean country across a clean ocean. That might be a sound argument if we had not practical evidence to the contrary. One of the chief reasons that brought about the Act of 1896 was the outbreak caused by affected cattle imported into this country in 1892, and in this case you had clean cattle from a clean country across a clean ocean brought into other cargoes of cattle in London, and later on foot-and-mouth disease was discovered amongst them. By that time 28 cattle had been sold, and it is interesting to follow the course of the disease. On the 4th of February the disease was in London; on 29th February it was in Edinburgh; on 5th March in Glasgow; 8th March in Leith; and 10th March in Westmoreland. There were 43 separate outbreaks, and enormous damage was done to other cargoes of cattle coming from all over the country. If that can be done with one clean country, there is no reason to suppose the same thing will not occur in the case of another. The risks of transit are no mere bogey. We have many cases in point. There is the well-known case in 1881, when we had a cargo of Canadian cattle taken to Glasgow, with 237 of them affected with foot-and-mouth disease, some indeed dying of it. They had not got the foot-and-mouth disease in Canada. They travelled to this country viâ Boston. They contracted the disease in transit. If that can occur in one case, may it not occur in others, and why should we be faced with these gigantic risks to this country? This is a case for not taking any avoidable risks and of making sure, at any rate, that we are going to have some gigantic benefit from this Bill before we take these great risks.
It is a common contention of hon. Members in favour of this Motion that the policy which they advocate—the policy of free disease—is a policy of free or, rather, cheap meat. They say it will produce cheaper meat. Is it not a strange thing that the passing of the Act did not lead us to an increase in the price of meat, but was actually followed by a fall in that price? I do not say that the fall was due to the passing of the Act, although no doubt the freedom of our stocks from disease, which coincided with the passing of the Act, was a factor in producing cheaper meat for the consumer, because of the smaller 88 losses to the farmers of the country. The fall was not a small one, it was very pronounced. It was a fall of 8d. per stone. For the 10 years subsequent to the passing of the Act the price of meat at Smithfield averaged 8d. per stone below what it fetched in the days before the Act was passed. We, on this side, are as anxious as anyone to see cheap meat for the British consumer, but we claim, with a certain amount of justice, that it must not he assumed to be axiomatic that the sweeping away of public health regulations is the best way to produce cheap meat. Certain Members of the Labour party have been very vocal in their demands for sweeping away these sanitary regulations, but when shortsighted manufacturers have argued in favour of sweeping away restrictions on output for the sake of cheapness, Labour Members have been the first to protest against it. Can it be right to run these enormous risks to the stock of this country in order to secure a problematic cheapness?
In this country we have adopted a policy of slaughter for the stamping out of this disease. We have stock in this country worth over £100,000,000_ We have an export trade in breeding stock which represents £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 a year. What would be the effect upon that if we deliberately bring in, not merely steers and store cattle for feeding, but heifers as well The question of our milk supply arises in this connection. If you are going to bring in breeding animals, what is going to be the effect upon our herds by bringing scrub animals from the Western prairies? One of the great helps to the smaller men in this country at present the grading up of shorthorn breeds, and if we are going to bring in cows and heifers the shorthorn market will soon be closed. It cannot be denied that the grading up of animals in this country will be affected if it is not known what crosses have been in the immediate ancestry of the animals. We know, in connection with the shorthorn breeds, that the first calf may probably show all the signs of the breed and yet the animal may subsequently throw a calf which has none of its characteristics. If you are to introduce a strain which has nothing to do with the old shorthorn blood in this country, 89 you are running a great risk. But these are technical points which I apologise for introducing.
We cannot go back on that policy for the purpose not of a practical but of a theoretical protection. We know no more about foot-and-mouth disease now than we did in 1896. We have gone so far, I believe, as to give a subsidy of nearly £4,000 a year to agricultural colleges of all kinds for research into the diseases of animals, but we cannot hope on that basis to gain any solid scientific knowledge of the problems we are now attempting to tackle. If the House decides that it will be better in the long run to add 4,000 miles of ocean and 2,000 miles of rail to the chain at any point at which infection may occur and be brought into this country, if it decides that wherever a case of foot-and-mouth disease does occur, for, of course, the danger of infection in the market is 50 times greater than the danger of infection on the farm, if the House decides to increase the moving herds, and to do away with the decentralisation which we have carried through in the past 20 years, let it do so with its eyes open and begin by voting a sum for research which will enable us to tackle the problem of disease when it does arise, as it will undoubtedly do. To say that the decentralisation which we have carried out is a had policy, and to decide to go back to the idea of concentrating your herds in Canada and bringing them many thousands of miles co this country, even though there be no risk from war to the interruption of our supplies—a risk which the Royal Commission specifically declined to consider—at any rate, we ought to remember there is an increase of the risk in that chain of disease, because we have found not by theory but by practice that, when you had sea-born cattle brought into this country for feeding purposes, you had disease; when you had your ports open we had 850,000 cases of disease, while when the ports were shut we had only 4,000 cases; and when the ports were shut we had a fall in the price of meat, and not a rise. In short, whatever the risks from this policy are, the obvious advantages are extremely hypothetical, and, on these grounds, I have the strongest confidence that the House will reject the Motion.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
It seems to me that the governing issue can be, stated in a few words. I am not going to attempt, even if I had the competence and capacity, to follow the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken in his extremely able exposition of what I may call the technical aspect of this question. These are important considerations, but they nave been, as I think, put aside and left out of account in the situation in which we now find ourselves. Let me just in two or three sentences review the past history of this matter. It has been a burning, or, at any rate, a smouldering political question, almost ever since I have been in public life. The legislation for the prohibition of the admission of foreign cattle—and by foreign I mean cattle from extraneous sources over the sea, whether it be from the Empire or from foreign countries—was proposed by a Government of which I was a Member in the year 1894, when Mr. Herbert Gardner, afterwards Lord Burghclere, was President of the Board of Apiculture. As I well remember, it was proposed, it was supported, and it was carried, not for the protection of the British farmer against foreign competition, but for a very different purpose. It was for securing the immunity of our herds and our flocks against the possible importation of foreign disease. It was in that sense, and in that sense only, that it was protective legislation. At that time there was very serious ground for apprehension that the free importation, particularly of cattle—I dare say it applied to sheep also—from extraneous sources including our own Dominions, was, or might be, a formidable danger, not only to British agriculture as an industry, but to the British consumer. I think that that legislation was well justified at the time, and it has undoubtedly provided necessary safeguards, which have been justified by experience, against the dangers which were then not only contemplated but imminent and actual.
In the years which followed, a growing agitation arose, not only in the Dominion of Canada, but among the great urban communities in this country, for the relaxation, or indeed, the removal, of those restrictions as regards the Canadian source of supply. It was demonstrated as the years went on, and I do not think it is now disputed, that the forms of 91 cattle disease against the importation of which from outside we rightly endeavoured to safeguard ourselves, have, so far as Canada was concerned, ceased, or practically ceased, to exist. There was, however, for a long time a certain amount of doubt in that matter, and those who were responsible for the administration of the Board of Agriculture, and, indeed, the successive Governments of the day—for this applies not only to one Government, but, I think, to two or three—did not feel themselves, at any rate, unanimously, in a position to recommend adhesion to the Canadian demand. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiganshire (Mr. Evans), who made a most admirable and interesting speech, referred to the fact, which I well remember, that Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, who was Prime Minister, left the matter, as is being done to-night, to the free decision of the House. As a matter of fact no Division took place, but that is immaterial. That very well represented the state of opinion, Parliamentary and otherwise, which then prevailed.
Although for many years now I have been convinced that Canadian cattle ought to be, and might be, freely admitted to this country without any real danger to our own herds and to our own native sources of supply, I have always been ready to concede that there was a very strong case to be made upon the one side as well as upon the other, although the question of Canadian disease is, happily, now practically out of the argument. There are, however, two new factors which, it appears to me, without going into what I may call the technical merits of the case, ought to be conclusive to the House to-night. The first and more important is what took place at the Imperial Conference in 1917. I cannot conceive, and I have heard no argument yet which enables me to understand, how anyone who has read the proceedings of that Conference, and the official comments subsequently made upon them by no less an authority than the Prime Minister himself—I cannot conceive how they can seriously maintain that we are not hound in honour to one of the greatest of our own Dominions to implement the solemn promise which was then given. 92 I do not know that the exact language has yet been quoted, but, if it has, there is no harm in reading it again. The Conference was presided over by the then Colonial Secretary (Mr. Long)—
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. Churchill)
A former President of the Board of Agriculture.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
A former President of the Board of Agriculture, and recognised, as he has been for at least a generation in this country, as the typical representative of the agricultural interest. Mr. Walter Long presided over those proceedings. He was accompanied by the then President of the Boa-rd of Agriculture, Mr. Prothero, now Lord Ernle, and what took place took place in the presence of those two gentlemen, both of them by their official position, and, I think I may say by their special personal experience, perhaps more qualified than anyone else to speak for the Government of the day in agricultural matters! The House must remember that. What did they say? Mr. Prothero said:As far as I personally am concerned, and so far as the English Board of Agriculture is concerned, after the War is over"—I leave out the intermediate sentence, which deals with war conditions—we shah, f consider, be wise to remove the embargo. We do not believe that there is now, or has been for a great many years past, the slightest ground to exclude Canadian cattle on the score of disease.That was the statement of the President of the Board of Agriculture. He was followed by Mr. Long, whose language is more explicit, if possible, and more emphatic. Mr. Long said:As far as I am concerted—my name has been brought into it—I can only say entirely agree with Mr. Prothero's policy. I think the time that has elapsed has shown that Canada has had a complete and clean bill of health during that time, and now"—let the House observe these words, and consider the impression which they were calculated to make, which they were intended to make, and which, in fact, as we know, they did make, on the representatives of Canada who were there—now the position is that the restriction is to he removed. The Board of Agriculture will take such steps as are necessary for this purpose.Mr. ROGERS: Do not you think that we should have a Resolution93 Mr. Rogers was a wise and cautious man, and I think he was quite right. Whereupon Mr. Long said:You do not want a Resolution, do you?—or if you like you can simply move that the embargo on Canadian cattle be removed as speedily as possible.Mr. ROGERS: I beg to move that.Mr. LONG: Mr. Prothero accepts that and there is an end of it.It really does not require any comment. Can you be surprised that every Canadian statesman—I think Sir Robert Borden was the principal representative of Canada at that Conference—that every Canadian statesman from Sir Robert Borden onwards, including, as we know from the statement which he has made in the Canadian House of Commons, Mr. Meighen, the late Prime Minister, took that as an explicit and direct pledge, given with the full authority of the Imperial Government, that the embargo would be removed, and removed as speedily as possible? This Amendment asks the House to go back on that. Quite apart from the merits of the case—which, I agree, are arguable—this Amendment asks the House of Commons to authorise the Government to repudiate a pledge given with as much solemnity, as much emphasis, and as much definiteness as any pledge could possibly be.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
You can repudiate it if you like. But consider the effect of a pledge, given as far back as 1917, to one of your principal Dominions. Is the House of Commons going to go back on that?
§ Mr. ASQUITH
It was known to the whole world. It was given to Canada. It was published here; it was known to the British people; and it has never been repudiated to this day. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Does anyone say that it has been? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes!"] Well, I will give another quotation. That was in 1917. I come forward now to 1921, only a year ago. There had been various awkward little incidents in the meantime, to which I will not refer, but which made it necessary or expedient that there should he intervention on the part of the highest possible authority. I am now 94 quoting the language used by the Prime Minister on the 16th March, 1921, very little more than a year ago. He was then promising the appointment of a Royal Commission—on which I will say a word in a moment—under the stress of what particular motive it is not necessary at this moment to inquire. He was promising a Royal Commission, and was speaking of the scope of the inquiry and the ground of the inquiry by this Commission. I will quote his words:This inquiry will take the form of a Royal Commission, the members of which will be selected expressly so as to constitute an impartial tribunal without representation of sectional interests.He went on to say:The pledges given to Canada at the Imperial Conference in 1917 were very definite pledges on behalf of the Cabinet.Is that denied? It cannot be denied. It was a statement by the head of the Government on behalf of the Cabinet. He added, quite properly:I agree it is a matter for the House of Commons to decide.I want the House of Commons to realise what they are asked to do to-night. They are asked to repudiate, after five years, those pledges which have been understood by Canada, by the whole of the Dominions, and, indeed, by the whole world, as definite and binding pledges given on behalf of the Government of the day. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]
§ Mr. ASQUITH
Does the hon. Gentleman really say that, when an Imperial Conference is held, no pledge must be given which is not first submitted to the House of Commons?
§ Mr. ASQUITH
Then I should like to know what is the value of an Imperial Conference? If you cannot enter into a friendly, intimate discussion on the basis of equal membership of this great Imperial partnership, if the accredited representatives cannot enter into such a Conference with confidence upon all sides that pledges given by the authoritative representatives of the various Governments concerned have got to be honoured, there is an end of the whole system. The House of Commons, of course, can do it, 95 but it can only do it by casting discredit and implied censure upon the Government by which those pledges were given.
That is one fact which to my mind is conclusive and decisive for the purposes of this discussion, but let me add one other. The Commission which the Prime Minister promised was appointed. No one, I think, disputes that it was well constituted. As he truly said, it did not represent sectional interests, but it was an impartial, dispassionate, competent authority. I am not going to read all the findings of that Commission, but I will read just two of them. After finding that they are satisfied that there is no evidence of disease in Canada such as to render the importation of Canadian stores a source of danger, they go on to say in the second, third and fourth of their findings:We think such admission would tend to cheapen in some measure the meat supply of the country, but there are no data on which the extent can be accurately gauged. We think in the long run the tendency would be to bring prices to a level somewhat, but not greatly, lower than that which would prevail if the embargo were maintained.That is one important finding. Here is the next:We think that the importation of Canadian stores would tend to satisfy in some measure the increasing demand for fresh home-fed meat.That is another not unimportant consideration. Again:We are of opinion that such admission is advisable as providing another source for supply of stores for the purpose of scientific agriculture with a consequent increase of the food supply.Those are the conclusions come to after an exhaustive inquiry, in which evidence of every kind was admissible, and, I believe, was admitted, by this able body of thoroughly competent men into what. I might call the merits of the case. Even apart from those findings of the Royal Commission you will he taking a very grave responsibility on yourselves as a House of Commons in going hack upon pledges given by the Imperial Government through its accredited agents to one of our great Dominions. It will become still more, impossible, if there are degrees of impossibility, to do so when your own Commission, I think properly appointed for the purpose, has made findings which show that those pledges were 96 not given lightly or unadvisedly, but were based upon reason and upon experience. The question seems to me to assume a totally different, aspect from what it did 20, 10, or even seven years ago, and I earnestly trust that the House of Commons to-night will show to our Canadian fellow-countrymen, who have relied upon these pledges, that we are not. going to break faith with them, and if any reason—no reason is required really for giving substance and effect to a solid promise—if any reason of policy were required to reinforce that determination it would be found in the Report of this Commission, that the carrying out of your obligations will not be in any way injurious to British agriculture or to the British consumer.
The MINISTER of AGRICULTURE (Sir A. Boscawen)
This is essentially an agricultural question, and, as Minister of Agriculture, I desire to say a few words. I am not speaking for the Government as a whole. I am speaking my own views, and I am speaking for the views of the Department over which I preside. I claim to speak also for the great bulk of agriculturists. I am very glad to have an opportunity of saying a few words from a personal point of view. To read some of the newspapers it might be imagined that I was the cause of the whole of this trouble. It is said that my obstinacy has got us into this mess.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
At the Dudley election it was actually stated and believed that I had put on the embargo. At that time I had been a Minister exactly five days, and if I had, that would have been a piece of administrative efficiency that. I think, clearly my colleagues might well envy. As a matter of fact, if anyone ever inherited a difficult question, I did in this embargo. The line I have taken has been precisely that of all my predecessors, including Lord Ernie himself, and I was in no way either the author of the policy nor was I in any way responsible for any of the conversations or the pledges, if there be pledges, given at the Conference in 1917. In my capacity as Minister of Agriculture, I intended, and I still intend, to deal with the matter from the agricultural standpoint. In view of the speech 97 of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, I will at once say something about the pledge, as it is called, which is the principal argument put forward to-day, although at the Dudley election we never heard of it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, yes, you did!"] Well, we hardly ever heard of it. The great argument at the Dudley election was that I was in favour of dear meat. There was nothing said about a pledge that I remember. I will deal with it at once, because, it is the argument which is being used now by those who wish to remove the embargo, though it is a better argument than the old exploded cry of dear and cheap meat. The right hon. Gentleman says there is a new factor. There is a pledge. We are bound in honour. The pledge has never been denied. It. has been understood by the whole world. I ask him what is the pledge which has never been denied? Was it a pledge to admit Canadian stores, or was it a pledge to remove the stigma? If he says it was a pledge to remove the stigma, I agree it was an absolute pledge, so far as Lord Ernie was concerned, to remove the stigma. I put it to my right. hon. Friend, Was there any definite pledge to admit Canadian stores? I will call his attention to Lord Ernle's speech in the House of Lords last week. After all. Lord Ernie is the man who gave the pledge, and he ought to know what the said, and, whatever hon. Members may think about Lord Ernle's policy, at all events everyone will agree that he is a man of the most unimpeachable honour, In the House of Lords last week he denied, in fact, that he ever gave any pledge to admit Canadian stores. This is what he said:I do not agree with the Noble Marquis in his version of the pledge. There was a pledge undoubtedly given at the Imperial Conference of 1917. The obvious and simple interpretation of that pledge is that which the Noble Marquis has placed upon it, but I do not think that is the accurate interpretation. It was not my meaning.Later on in the same speech he said:For that reason I have always thought and I believe my successors in office have always thought, that there was no definite pledge to reverse our domestic policy of exclusion.How on earth, in view of that statement, can the right hon. Gentleman tell us that there is a definite pledge to admit Canadian stores?
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
I again refer the right hon. Gentleman to Lord Ernle's speech in the House of Lords, in which he said, "If you pick Out extracts from the Conference if you pick out individual sentences away from their context—"
§ 6.0 P.M.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
Lord Ernie pointed out that if extracts are torn away from their context it is quite easy to create the impression that there was a definite pledge, but let him take the White Paper as a whole and let him take other matters and other correspondence that took place at the same time. The last thing I wish is to be guilty of breaking any pledge to a loyal Dominion like Canada. Lord Ernle twice said that he had not consulted the Irish Department, and he said that in order to make it quite clear that he was not in any position to give a definite pledge. How could one individual Minister, who was not, even a member of the Cabinet, who had not consulted the Cabinet, without even consulting his colleagues of the Irish Department when the Irish Department was vitally interested in the question—how on earth could he give any definite pledge which was to bind not only him but all his successors and the House of Commons and another place and the country five years afterwards? It is absurd. Again, Lord Ernie actually stated that ho thought he could do whatever he proposed to do by administrative action. At the time he apparently was not, aware that legislation was necessary. He had no conception that he was binding the House of Commons, and all that is apparent in the White Paper. But there is a great deal that is material to this question which is not contained in the White Paper at all. What was the first intimation made to this House, made to the country, and made to Canada, as to what took place at the Imperial Conference? It was not the White Paper. It was a question deliberately put in this House in order that Lord Ernie might explain the position. I have the question here. In 99 the White Paper you will find that Lord Long suggested informing the world what happened by a question in the House of Commons, and Lord Ernie agreed to have a question put, as Government Departments sometimes do arrange that convenient questions should be put. On this occasion he got no less a person than my right hon. Friend the present Chief Secretary for Ireland to put a question. A perfectly proper selection. My right hon. Friend is a good Canadian, and, naturally, interested in the question. This is the question that was put by my right hon. Friend to Lord Ernie, four weeks after the holding of the Conference:Sir HAMAR GREENWOOD asked the President of the Board of Agriculture whether representations were made to him by the Canadian Ministers during their recent visit to this country on the subject of the prohibition of the landing of Canadian cattle except for slaughter at the port of debarkation; and whether be can make any statement on the subject?Lord Ernie (then Mr. Prothero) gave a long answer, which was the first intimation to the country of what had happened. I will not read the whole of the answer but in the latter part of the answer he said:I cannot say whether, or under what conditions, Canadian cattle, as defined above, might hereafter be permitted to enter this country except for slaughter at the ports. At present, when farmers at home are being asked to reduce their livestock, permission is plainly impossible. But the prohibition rests rather on the agricultural policy of the United Kingdom than on the risk of diseases from which, for many years, Canada herself has been most remarkably, if not entirely free."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th May, 1917: cols. 2635–2636, Vol. 93.]What did that answer mean? It meant that store cattle from Canada could not be admitted—that was the result of the Conference—at the time, and whether they could be admitted in the future would depend not on any pledge but on the agricultural policy of the country. I am prepared to take it on the agricultural policy, and I will tell my right lion Friend, as he has mentioned the name of Lord Long, that this was not the answer of Lord Ernie only, but the answer was submitted to Lord Long and approved by him before it was given in this House.
There is a further point that I should like to mention. When this question had 100 been asked and answered, the Canadian High Commissioner, Sir George Perley, made inquiries about it He was dissatisfied, and he made representations to Mr. Long, who was then Colonial Secretary. Mr. Long sent these representations to Lord Ernie, and Lord Ernie wrote a letter, in which he said this it was on the 4th June, 1917, less than six weeks after the Colonial Conference:As you are aware, the prohibition against the landing of Canadian cattle except for slaughter at the ports is under the Diseases of Animals Act, 1896. I should be prepared, as soon as feasible, to recommend that Canada should he exempt from that prohibition under the Diseases of Animals Act, but the legislation by which this removal of the stigma upon Canadian tattle was effected would have to be accompanied by a Clause stating that nothing in the excepting Act permitted Canadian cattle to be landed as stores.That letter was shown by Lord Long to Sir George Perley. Therefore, it is clear that as early as June, 1917—the first intimation, the only intimation that had ever been made—the Canadian Government, the Canadian people, the British Government, the British people, and the House of Commons all knew that the pledge, so far as there was a pledge, was a pledge to remove the stigma; and there was no definite pledge whatever to admit Canadian cattle as stores. I would go a little further. I would suggest to the House that, even if there had been a definite pledge to admit these cattle as stores, such a pledge given by an individual Minister, who was not a member of the Cabinet, and who had not consulted the Cabinet, could not in any way be binding on the House of Commons.
Let me give [...]llustration of what I mean. I have quite lately, in the exercise of the discretionary powers that, I possess, permitted a certain number of Friesian cattle, breeding animals, to be brought into this country from South Africa. I did that for al express purpose, because the Friesian herd was based on rather a narrow strain, and there was a danger of in-breeding. I gave permission, and these animals came here. They were very fine animals. They fetched a very large price, and I congratulate South Africa upon the venture. Supposing the South African Government, in view of the success of this particular venture, were to come to me, as they would be perfectly justified in doing, and were to ask me whether I would give an undertaking that 101 in future I would allow breeding animals to come from South Africa to Great Britain, without let or hindrance, without quarantine, in fact, free from all Regulations, and supposing I gave such an undertaking without first of all consulting the Cabinet, without consulting the Secretary for Scotland, who would be vitally interested, and without consulting anybody in the Irish Department. Does anybody tell me that with possibly a new Government, a new House of Commons and a new Minister of Agriculture, this House or this country would be bound by my pledge five years hence? Such a suggestion is really ridiculous when you come to analyse it.
Although I am most anxious to remove any ground of irritation, any cause of grievance which the Canadian Government may have, and while. I admit that there has been a grievous misunderstanding, and that this matter has been very badly bungled, I say that there has been no definite pledge to admit Canadian stores, but only a pledge to remove the stigma. My right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley did not read where Mr. Rogers and Sir Robert. Borden, the Canadian representatives distinctly laid it down that they had no desire to interfere in the domestic agricultural policy of this country.
In view of these facts, I hold that this House is absolutely free to deal with this question from the agricultural standpoint, and no other. Let me say a few words about the agricultural standpoint. What is the meaning of this so-called embargo? Why was it imposed? What is the origin of it? I may say, in passing, that the word embargo is a very inaccurate one. There is no embargo on Canadian cattle. Any number of Canadian cattle may come here for slaughter at the port. Any number of Canadian cattle may come here as chilled beef. When we talk about Canadian cattle coming to he slaughtered at, the ports, I would point out that a great many more Canadian cattle came here after the so-called embargo was put on than before. In the year 1899, no fewer than 194,000 Canadian cattle came here for slaughter at the ports. It is not a, trade that I admire. It is inevitable, with all the precautions that you may take, that it should be accompanied by a lot of suffering, and I look forward 102 to the time when the traffic in live animals across the Atlantic can be brought to a close.
There is no real stigma on Canada. How can there be The Act of 1896 does not apply only to Canada; it applies to every country. From no country, for very good reasons, is it permissible to send live cattle as stores, that is, to be distributed all through the country into Great Britain. There is really no particular slur on Canadian cattle. Why was the embargo imposed, such as it is—an embargo on store cattle? I will tell the House. We have to go hack a little into agricultural history. We used to be a great corn-growing country. We grew a great deal of wheat, oats and barley, and then, in the interests of our industrial population and our manufacturers, we repealed the Corn Laws, in 1846. I am not going into the question of whether that was right or wrong; but the effect was this, that as soon as ever conditions allowed the full effects of that policy to be felt, it became, obviously, an uneconomic proposition to grow corn, and especially to grow wheat, except in very favoured parts of the country. Our farmers who had made their livelihood out of corn, grown in most parts of the country, had to seek salvation elsewhere, and they found it in livestock. They were signally successful. They built up the finest flocks of herds in the world. We have become a great stud farm. Practically every nation that wishes to increase its head of cattle, comes here for its foundation stock and also to replenish its stock. Speaking generally, we have created an industry of great profit and great credit to our country. The value of the livestock in Great Britain alone was estimated two years ago at just under £300,000,000, and our export trade was £1,250,000. Now, are we prepared to take risks and to sacrifice all that we have accomplished in the past?
Why was the embargo imposed? For many years, during which we were endeavouring to build up our live stock, we were terribly handicapped by diseases. In 1865 there was a terrific outbreak of cattle plague, which caused tremendous losses. From that year up to the nineties we were constantly troubled with pleuro-pneumonia and foot-and-mouth disease. The country, realising that we had driven farmers out of corn growing 103 into cattle rearing, and realising the importance of that industry, took energetic measures to protect it. The country gave, first of all to the Privy Council, and later to the Board of Agriculture, very great powers of stamping out disease by slaughter. What is the good of stamping out disease by slaughtering here if we run the risk of importing it from outside? We found that our efforts in that direction were constantly being foiled by importations. Therefore, the country, first of all by administrative order by the Liberal President of the Board of Agriculture (Mr. Herbert Gardiner), and then, later, by legislation, laid down that no animals should come here, except for immediate slaughter at the ports. That policy has been signally successful. It has given our breeders a confidence against the risk of disease that they never knew before. Ever since that embargo was imposed there has been a steady growth in the number of our cattle, up to, at all events, two years ago, when, owing to the restrictions and control at the end of the War, there was, for a time, an excessive slaughter of calves. That has righted itself. We have once more replenished our numbers. We have 200,000 more cattle under one year old this year than we had last. year, and you have only got to maintain confidence among the producers for them to produce all the stores that you want in this country.
There is another very strong reason why we should not reverse that policy. It is not only a question of immunity from disease, but it is a question of the purity of the blood of our flocks and herds. We have been doing a great deal, especially in recent years, to try to grade up and to improve the commercial cattle of this country, and the extraordinary thing is this, that not only are the great bulk of the farmers of the country entirely opposed to removing the embargo, but, so far as I know, every single agricultural expert and scientific farmer is of the same view—the men on whom we rely for agricultural research, the men on whom we rely for agricultural education. I may refer, for instance, to Sir Daniel Hall, or Sir Stewart Stockman, or Professor Wallace of Edinburgh, or Lord Ernie himself, who possess the greatest knowledge of agriculture. Every one of them is opposed to this policy. The fact 104 is that to remove the embargo would be a thoroughly unscientific and retrograde act.
What is to follow? Are we to admit breeding animals? If we do, what happens to our scheme for live stock improvement? If we are going to allow any number of scrub bulls and heifers to come here, and breeding takes place, then good-bye to all that we have been trying to do during the last 20 years. What becomes of our milk-recording schemes We have been trying to improve, and have succeeded in improving, the yield of our dairy herds. What will happen if we allow any number of animals such as Canada would send—she might send us good animals or bad or indifferent animals—to come here, especially in view of the fact that the Canadian animals are good beef animals, but as milking animals they are very inferior? It would undo all the work which has been done by our milk-recording schemes.
Then is there to be no tuberculin test? Will anybody tell me that the Canadian animals are free from tuberculosis? I saw a most deceptive leaflet circulated this morning. It compared young Canadian animals of one or two years of age with the great number of old animals of five or six, or with old cows slaughtered at Glasgow. As everybody knows, the older an animal is the more likely it is to have tuberculosis. You have only got to read the reports of the veterinary department of the Canadian Government to realise that they know perfectly well that they have got tuberculosis. They are making the most laudable and successful efforts to stamp it out, but what on earth is the good of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health bringing in a Milk Bill, one object of which is to stamp out tuberculosis in cattle in this country, if you are going to allow animals to be brought in which may have tuberculosis?
Is there to be no quarantine? I gather that the people who are so anxious to remove the embargo will not hear of quarantine. I am willing to say that the Canadian animals are to-day exceedingly healthy. They have been so for 30 years, and it reflects the greatest credit on the Canadian veterinary service, but Canada has got a 3,000 mile land frontier with the United States, and 105 for us to allow animals to come from the American Continent without quarantine is simply to invite a reproduction of what occurred in the latter part of the last century, when cattle diseases of all kinds were constantly being imported into this country. I state freely that Canada has been very free from diseases, but I say also that she has been very fortunate, because she has not had foot-and-mouth and other diseases for over 30 years. When you have got a 3,000-mile land frontier, it does not say that you are not going to have disease. Scotland until lately had not had foot-and-mouth disease for many years. It came across the English border the other day, and Scotland had it very badly. The United States had foot-and-mouth disease very badly four years ago. It came very near to the Canadian border. How do we know that it will not cross it next time, notwithstanding any precautions which the Canadian Government may take? And yet without any kind of restriction, qualification, or regulation our friends here invite us to play ducks and drakes with the splendid cattle industry which we have built up, and to take risks that no nation would ever think of taking.
There is not a country in the whole world which attaches importance to its cattle industry which does not impose severe regulations. In the. Argentine they impose 40 days' quarantine and a tuberculin test. In Australia they impose 40 days' quarantine and a tuberculin test, or 28 days, with a tuberculin test in England, and 14 days on arrival. In Brazil they have two months' quarantine and vaccination against redwater. In South Africa they impose a 28 days quarantine and a tuberculin test at the cattle testing station in this country. The United States of America have a 30 days' quarantine and a tuberculin test on cattle of six months of age and older, and, lastly, take Canada. Canada, when she imports our best pedigree animals, probably the cleanest cattle in the whole world, imposes 30 days' quarantine and a tuberculin test for cattle six months old and over. On agricultural grounds the case against removing the embargo is the strongest ease imaginable.
What are the arguments on the strength of which we are asked to reverse this well-tried policy? Up to a little while ago 106 we were told that it was all a question of cheap meat. That was not found to be sufficient. So now exactly the same people talk about the pledge. The dear and cheap meat policy is, to my mind, the greatest fallacy that was ever put forward. How on earth could the addition of 200,000 Canadian stores—if there were such an addition—which are just about 2½ per cent. of the meat supply of the country, affect seriously the price of meat? It is impossible, and yet it is advocated chiefly by the butchers. I have never known the butchers so anxious to give the public cheap meat as they have been in connection with Canadian cattle. I had a little deputation of butchers at my office some time ago. They talked very big on the question. I said, "Gentlemen, what do you really want?" They said, "We want to give the public cheap meat." And I simply said, "Then why do you not do it?" I pointed out that the price of stores was only 28 per cent. above what it was in 1914, but that British beef was 75 per cent. higher, and the only result was that the deputation broke up in confusion, and they left my room with mutual recriminations.
I cannot believe in either these generous graziers or benevolent butchers who are so anxious to assist the public to get cheap meat, and I must confess that I am not a little surprised that the Labour party, who profess to represent the consumer, should be caught so entirely in the tentacles of these capitalist gentlemen. They are simply preparing the way for the meat trust. The great obstacle to the meat trust collaring our meat supply in this country is the small British breeder. You cannot rope into the combine these small men, these small farmers, these smallholders, these ex-service men whom we put on the land. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not many!"] We have put on a good many, though it may suit hon. Members opposite to pretend that we have not. Most of these small breeders are smallholders on upland farms, it may be in the Highlands or in Wales or the West of England or the North of England or the Midlands, and they are principally engaged in breeding on land that will not fat-ten animals. In order to benefit the philanthropic graziers and butchers, we are to sacrifice these people. They are a class of farmer that this country, and especially the Labour party, ought to 107 support in every way possible. I do not believe for a moment in this cheap meat cry. If anybody had any doubts about it, I think the Royal Commission entirely destroyed the argument. The Commission pointed out that it would be impossible that anything like 6d. a pound decrease in price would result from the admission of a small number of Canadian stores, inasmuch as those imports would not be in addition to the animals in this country. If you do this, you will destroy confidence among the breeders in this country, and for every Canadian animal that comes here there will be at least One calf less reared in this country.
Apart from that, Canadian animals come, as I have said, fat for slaughter at the ports. The stores that come will come simply in substitution for those fat animals. There will, therefore, be no addition whatever to the amount of fresh meat in this country. On the contrary, all you will do will be this: you will destroy your home production and you will make us dependent on overseas stores for the supply of our store cattle. The same identical individuals who were talking so loudly of cheap meat six months ago are talking about nothing but the pledge now. I had two deputations of the same individuals. The first time, the talk was all of cheap meat. The second time it was all of the pledge. We must look at this matter from the agricultural point of view. It is not denied that the removal of the embargo will be a blow, and I think a serious blow, at the agricultural industry. So far as it is a Canadian question, I would say that there is nothing I would rather do, if I could, than assist a great and loyal Dominion like Canada. I would like to promote Empire trade. I was a supporter of the Imperial Preference policy of the late Mr. Chamberlain, and a whole-hog supporter, at a time when many of those who are now advocating the removal of the embargo on Imperial grounds were his bitterest opponents. But there is a difficulty, amounting almost to an impossibility. I do not see how we can accede to the Canadian request, a perfectly proper request for the Canadian Government to make—I have no complaint to make of their action—without doing serious damage to our own agricultural industry. However important the promotion of Imperial trade within the 108 Empire may be, so far as I am concerned, the interests of our own people at home must come first.
On 30th June last the Secretary of State for the Colonies made a speech at the Canadian Dominion Day dinner. It. was a speech in which lie fully recognised the difficulties of the farmers and the importance of the agricultural industry in this country. My right hon. Friend spoke of the burdens on agriculture and of the struggles which those engaged in ear prime industry are compelled to make, and he went on:I remain fixed in my opinion that means can he found to help sustain agriculture without placing an unwarranted and unworthy stigma on the herds or Canadian cattle,Perhaps my right hon. Friend, in all friendliness, will allow me to ask him publicly and a little more closely what are the means. What are the means that can be found to help and sustain British agriculture? Is he prepared to support me in the Cabinet and elsewhere in asking for those means? I could tell him of several. We want a good deal of relief from the rates. We think that farmers are assessed for rates very unfairly. We want assistance in a scheme of agricultural credits. I hope my right hon. Friend will help me there. There are other means. Are these reliefs to agriculture to he concurrent with the removal of the embargo, or is the embargo to be removed first and these glorious things to happen afterwards? I can assure my right hon. Friend that the British farmer much prefers a bird in the hand to promises in the bush. This is an agricultural question and from the agricultural standpoint it should be judged. The agricultural standpoint is the national standpoint. Agriculture has been sacrificed over and over again to the supposed needs of the great towns and industrial population. There are limits beyond which it is not wise for any nation to go in sacrificing its agriculture. History tells us that no nation has ever succeeded in the long run if it has allowed its agriculture to decay, its fields to become derelict, its villages to be empty, and its whole population to be massed in the great towns. As there are no qualifications in this Resolution. nothing in any way assisting us, and as it is a bald Resolution that a thing is to be done which I say is to damage agriculture, I 109 can take no course, in my responsible position, except to vote against this Resolution, and to urge all my friends to do the same.
§ Mr. JAMES WILSON
We have been told by the Minister of Agriculture that he has behind him, in his opinion, not only the big pedigree cattle breeders of the country, but all classes of the agricultural community. Let us see for a moment how far he can substantiate that statement, in the light of known facts. I at once join issue with him when be, claims to represent entirely the pedigree stockbreeders of this country in urging the House to vote against the removal of the embargo. There is no one who knows better than the Members of this House how difficult it is, if not entirely impossible, to find any community of people who are unanimous upon anything. On a question like this, the House should have some regard for the opinions of men who have given a lifetime of study and effort to their work, and have rendered great service in promoting the breeding of shorthorn cattle, until the breed in this country is second to none in the whole world. I will mention only one name, because it is a name with which I have been familiar ever since a boy. I refer to Mr. Duthic. He is a man with sufficient experience to justify our giving serious consideration to his opinion on such a question as this. He has rendered service, second to none, in promoting the breeding of shorthorn cattle, and he has a herd of shorthorns, reared under his personal supervision, second to none in the world. This gentleman has consistently advocated the removal of this embargo.
I could quote from many other gentlemen of great experience who take precisely the same view. Why do pedigree stock breeders take that view? They take it for the very reason which is urged by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture—because they know that we have become the stud farm of the world and that in the breeding of the finer kinds of pedigree cattle, we are not only supplying our own farmers at home but those of every country in the world, in which interest is taken in cattle breeding, with our surplus stocks of pure bred cattle. The breeders, therefore, say that anything that can be done to promote cattle breeding, especially in our Dominions is calculated to 110 increase the demand for our pure bred cattle, and to open up markets which are not available to us at the present moment. To encourage to a greater degree cattle breeding, in Canada for instance, its calculated to promote the interests of, and to make more assured the position of the pedigree stock-breeder. There is another reason why men such as I have mentioned, after a lifetime's experience, hold the view that this embargo ought to be removed. They hold that in the breeding of cattle in a country such as ours, owing to our insular position, there is a great danger present with us always to which my right hon. Friend referred, and which he terms in-breeding. Undoubtedly that great danger has manifested itself, and does manifest itself in this country at the moment, in the shape of tuberculosis among our cattle to a most alarming extent.
It was my duty for some years to assist at the slaughter of home-bred cattle in a district which possessed herds second to none in the whole world. We slaughtered the best cattle which money could buy, regularly and in large numbers, for Smithfield market. Among the best of those cattle, for which in those days we were paying 20 guineas each to the farmer as the first purchase price, the visible and distinct traces of tuberculosis in apparently healthy and fine animals had reached alarming proportions. I do not ask the House to accept merely ray reasons for that condition of things. I do not believe it is due to anything inherently wrong in our herds, but in the opinion of men of very great experience, there is a two-fold reason. There is first the circumstance which I have just mentioned, namely, that we are suffering in these islands at the moment from in-breeding, and thy, second reason is that by a process of artificial feeding and the forcing of these animals to maturity long before their time, the vital organs of the animals are weakened and they are made easily susceptible to the tuberculosis germ. Those are the reasons advanced by men who have devoted a lifetime of study and labour to the question. If that be so, what can he better for this country than that we should have an infusion of blood from the cattle which have had natural conditions and have had to forage for their food in the health-giving and vast plains 111 of Canada and our other Dominions To suggest that such a condition of things is going to be prejudicial to the pedigree stockbreeder as such, is suggesting something which no facts have been advanced to prove.
Let me turn to another section of my right hon. Friend's followers, the farmers as such, quite distinct and apart from the pedigree stockbreeders. My right hon. Friend tells the House that he speaks for the farmers in this matter. My own view, from my personal experience, reinforced by hon. Friends of mine who represent Scottish constituencies, is that in that statement my right hon. Friend is not expressing the sentiments of the Scottish farmer, and I question very much—if one can place any reliance on what one sees in the newspapers—whether he is expressing the properly ascertained view of the English farmers. I observe there have been many meetings of farmers in different parts of the country at which this question has been considered and decisions taken thereon. I read the other week a report of a meeting at which over 1,000 farmers attended, and over which an hon. Member of this House was reported to preside. According to the report, a resolution for the removal of the embargo was carried by a very large majority. If these be the facts, it is difficult for laymen like those of us who sit on this side of the House to understand the apparently rash statement of my right hon. Friend.
I come now to analyse the different views held by different sections of the team of which my right hon. Friend at the moment claims to be the accepted champion. What do the farmers say about this embargo? They tell us that it would be useless and futile to remove this embargo. They say the most we can expect from Canada in one year is 50,000 head of store cattle, which would not to any appreciable extent supplement the stores in this country, but on the other hand, through the risk of imported disease, would make less secure the position of the home breeder and tend to reduce the number of home-bred animals. That is one of the reasons urged, by the team which my right hon. Friend is leading, for the continuation of this embargo. I listened with interest to hear what my right hon. Friend had to say to reinforce that con- 112 tention. There is another section of my right hon. Friend's following, which urges a totally different reason for the maintenance of the embargo. They say that to open the ports of this country to the admission of Canadian traffic would be to flood the country with stores above the number requisite and would result in the discouragement of home breeding. I suggest to my right hon. Friend's supporters that they cannot have their apple and eat it. If there is anything in which they are consistent, they are consistent in their contradiction of each other, and the House will find difficulty, from the speech of my right hon. Friend, in discovering which of the two sections of his team he is supporting in this matter. Not that it matters a great. deal, in my judgment, which of the two contending sections he supports. In the end they will leave us where we were, because they are both wrong as I shall endeavour to explain. We are told we can only expect 50,000 head of cattle from Canada. We are told that, in addition to the actual cost of the breeding of cattle in Canada, the freightage, which is estimated at £14 or £15 per head, will be such a burden that the Canadian stores cannot he sold in this country at a figure less than the home-bred stores. If that be so what are the farmers and the crofters complaining about? On the other hand, we are told that the importation of these stores to be fed here to supplement our home-bred stocks will do nothing to reduce the cost of fresh killed meat in this country. Let me point, out to my right hon. Friend—even assuming that he was correct in his first contention, which I do not for a moment admit—that there are two distinct ways by which you can reduce prices of foodstuffs more beneficially than those of almost any ether commodity. You can reduce prices by selling an article of the present quality at a lower price than that charged to-day. There s is another more beneficial way, and that is by selling a better article at the price which you are charging for the inferior article to-day. If, as appears to be the case, my right hon. Friend has a preference for frozen as against home-cured meat, I would invite him and all those who think with him to eat, their frozen meat themselves, because there is a great volume of opinion in this country which is incessantly and rightly demanding 113 that we shall be able to place on the market a much larger supply of home-killed meat than we can do at the present moment.
When we are told, as we have been told, that the importation of Canadian cattle w11 tend to discourage breeding in this country, and consequently to diminish our own home supplies, one would have thought that such a result would have made itself self-evident during the years when Canadian stores were coming to this country. The facts are all to the contrary. During the years from 1886 to 1892, when Canadian stores were coming to this country in comparatively largo quantities, the herds in the United Kingdom rose from 10,830,000 to 11,475,000—an actual increase, in a comparatively short space of time, of about 750,000 head of cattle in this country. Be it observed that that increase does not represent Canadian cattle at all, because the census upon which these figures are based is taken on 4th July of each year, or just before the Canadian stores began to arrive in this country. When the time arrived in the following year for the census to be taken, such stores as had arrived had all been fattened off and killed, so that Canadian cattle never appear in the census of the United Kingdom. Concurrently with the importation of Canadian cattle, our own home: supplies in the short period of six years increased by no less a total than 750,000 head of cattle. If we have regard to what one of my hon. Friends on the other side of the House told us, that the ravages of disease during the period when Canadian cattle were coming into this country were serious, we should naturally have expected, not a very large increase, but a diminution in the total of home-bred cattle in this country.
The figures I have given—I do not think they can he challenged, because they are the figures, not of my right hon. Friend, but are issued by his Department—speak eloquently for themselves. They give as complete an answer as can be given to the suggestion that during the period when Canadian cattle were coming here we were suffering from disease amongst our animals without parallel in the history of the country. That has been disproved, so far as cattle are concerned. What happened in regard to our flocks, because sheep are also included in this embargo? During the same period of six 114 years our sheep flocks increased from 28,888,000 to 33,562,000. I find that in the subsequent period our flocks have fallen to such an extent that in 1920 instead of there being 33,500,000 sheep in this country they have been reduced to 23,332,000. All that goes to show that not only was the importation of stores from Canada not a disadvantage to the British farmer but it stimulated and promoted the rearing of cattle and sheep in this country beyond anything of which we have any example in any corresponding period.
Then we come to the crofter. My right hon. Friend, in dealing with the crofter, reminded the very much of the chairman of a board of directors at, an annual meeting making an appeal for the small investor and the widows and orphans during a year when he is only able to recommend a dividend of about 15 per cent. What is the actual position of the crofter in relation to the importation of stores from abroad? Do the six years in question indicate to us that the crofter suffered during the period when we were importing stores? If he did not, I see no reason why in this matter history should not repeat itself. During the period when we were importing stores from Canada many men who had several years' experience in agriculture, but who had had limited capital, were able to increase their holdings and take larger farms owing to their having entered into arrangements with importers of Canadian cattle to sell their surplus root crops and fodder. They were thereby able to stock comparatively large farms without having to have recourse to the money-lender and to carry the burden of interest on borrowed capital. That gave an encouragement and inducement to the small farmer to become a larger farmer; to the crofter to become a small farmer; and to the labourer, in turn, to become a crofter. Those are circumstances which have come under my own personal observation during the period in which I was engaged in agriculture, and during the six years we have now under review. Therefore, so far from this importation being an impediment or an injury to the crofter, the crofter has everything to gain and nothing to lose by the removal of this unjustifiable and iniquitous embargo. After all, it is not the crofter who derives any benefit 115 from the sale of his stores, even if he is able to sell them at a comparatively high figure.
§ Mr. WILSON
My right hon. Friend asks why riot. I will tell him. It is because, during a period of comparatively high prices for stores, on every occasion when a croft comes to be let the insane and mad competition amongst the respective holders increases the price to an extent sufficient always to keep the crofter's nose to the grindstone. Therefore any question of increased prices in our home stores does nothing to assist the crofter or the public, although it does at all times offer a contribution to the pockets of the landowners.
Then, we are told that the people who are advocating the removal of this embargo have been guilty of a most despicable subterfuge in urging in the country that its removal would create additional employment here. I have made that statement on many occasions, and I am not going to apologise for doing so now, because I believe and know it to be true. Only the other week I noticed a statement in a London paper. It was not in the "Morning Post," it was not in the "Daily Express." It was in an organ which generally defends the Government, whether they be right or wrong, and I suppose that that organ would be supplied with figures from my right. hon. Friend's Department. What does it say? It says that in the autumn of this year we are likely to have a huge wheat shortage and that, in all probability, we will have to issue orders which will make the baking of white bread illegal, due to that contemplated shortage, and it goes on to point out that there were 500,000 fewer acres under cereals in this country this year than there were at this period last year. Apparently, 500,000 acres of land have been laid down to grass because there were no stocks to consume its product, despite the fact that during a similar period we have been battling with an unemployed army of nearly 2,000,000 people. Those 500,000 acres do not represent the whole case, for, in addition to the 500,000 acres less land under wheat, there are about 250,000 acres which would have been under root crops if the land had been farmed in the ordinary way. These 116 root crops have not been grown because there have not been the cantle in this country to consume them. The fodder which would have been produced by the growing of wheat has not been produced because there were no animals in this country to require it, and, consequently, you have had vast tracts of this country laid down to grass, employing no labour concurrently with a period of unemployment without parallel in the whole history of this country. My submission is that, if you increase your herds of cattle, you increase the demand for root crops and for wheat crops, and, in consequence, you find avenues of employment for our-people that are closed to-day. I make no apology, therefore, for having, submitted in the past, and for submitting to the House now, that the removal of this embargo will make a substantial contribution towards dealing with the unemployment problem.
There is one other point to which I desire to draw some attention. In the multitude of literature that has been sent to me, as well, I suppose, as to every other hon. Member in the House, I have seen a statement that the Premier of one of our Colonies took the view that to remove this embargo would involve us in applying a similar decision to every one of our overseas Dominions. I hope that that is a misrepresentation of that gentleman's point of view. I hesitate to believe that any gentleman who has risen to the eminence of being chief statesman of any of our Dominions would proceed to build up his case on that assumption. It is reminiscent of my schoolboy days, when we used to argue about our marbles, and we used to proceed along those lines. I want to say, in parenthesis that there are many other people who have been supporting the removal of this embargo, and distributing literature to Members of this House with which I profoundly disagree and I wish to make it abundantly clear to them, at least on behalf of my own party, if not on behalf of the House, that this House alone is the responsible authority to determine upon the domestic policy of this country, and that while we should always be prepared to consider any representations from any of our Dominions with a view to improving and increasing the trade between the Colonies and the Mother Country, each case must be considered separately and upon its merits, and we could not allow ourselves to be 117 pledged in advance in applying a decision in the case of one Colony to another Colony with possibly totally different circumstances.
If one on this side of the House would be pardoned for complimenting the Government upon anything, need I say that I very warmly approve of their decision to leave this to a free vote of the House of Commons? In the exercise of that freedom, which many of my hon. Friends opposite far too seldom have an opportunity of using, I would ask them o consider the ease that has been advanced for the continuation of this embargo and to see if there are any grounds, any sound foundations, upon which it has been placed. I think a calm and dispassionate consideration of the circumstances reveals that the grim end appalling spectre of disease that, in the imagination of those who desire to see this embargo continued, has been stalking through our land for years now lies broken and discredited by those who pinned their faith to it as a justification for the continuation of this embargo, and that the removal of this embargo will have the effect of increasing the supplies of home-killed meat, as all the evidence goes to prove conclusively. Therefore, if that he so, the law of supply and demand is bound in the very nature of things, ultimately to reduce the price of home-killed meat in this country. The removal of this embargo is, I have endeavoured to show, by a comparison between the periods when the embargo was in existence and when it was not in existence, not prejudicial to the farmer, to the breeder, or to the crofter, but is to the mutual advantage of all, and, in addition, there is another element that appears not to have been taken into consideration, certainly by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture. It will not be to the prejudice, but to the advantage of the consuming public, who, after all have a view point on questions such as this.
Lastly, that this pledge given to Canada could be disputed, especially by my right hon. Friend, passes entirely my comprehension. It was quite evident to everyone present during his speech that he himself felt that he was treading on very-thin ice, but to the average lay mind that pledge, given, reinforced, and accepted by the present Prime Minister of this country, was a pledge which 118 everyone in this country understood to be a pledge for the removal of that embargo. I have no doubt that that was the intention. Therefore, in conclusion, let me remind the House that one of the secrets of our success in Colonial administration has been that the citizens of our overseas possessions have always been able to regard the word of a British statesman as being as good as that statesman's bond. That that pledge was given, I think there is not the slightest shadow of a doubt, and we ask the House, therefore, by the removal of this embargo to implement that pledge and, consequently, to keep our good name with our Colonial friends.
§ Captain DIXON
I have been asked to speak against the removal of this embargo by the 'Ulster Government, and by the Southern farmers of Ireland, who represent the breeders of 47 per cent. of the whole of the stores of Great Britain. I would like to say a word, first, on behalf of the Southern Irish farmers. As an industry, that of the Southern Irish farmers did as well as any other industry in Great Britain during the War. I have not a doubt that if any members of the War Cabinet were present, they would say that, the Southern Irish farmers, in carrying out the Regulations, often irksome and often stupid, which were laid clown by the British Government, and in loyally doing everything that was required of them, did as much as any other industry in this country to win the War. In return for this, they have been the people who have suffered most from the policy of this Government, and now this House is considering the question of taking away their sole means of livelihood. I raise this point of the Southern Irish farmers particularly for this reason, that in the propagandist compaign which is being carried on on behalf of the Beef Trust, people like myself have been approached because politically we are opposed to the Southern Irish, and it has been put up to us that this is a chance of getting at them. I may say, on behalf of myself and of my Friends from Ulster, that this is not the sort of advantage which we are going to take.
This question was raised first at Dudley, where there was a stunt election, run by a stunt Press, in which a most respected Member of this House was unseated. The tragedy of it was that it was 119 in no way an expression of the will of the people of Dudley. The case for the raising of the embargo was won by two very crucial mistakes. One was that the Irish machine vote voted against the interests of Ireland, and the other was that the Prime Minister had forgotten that you should never lower the carrot before the donkey until you have got to the end of the journey. The two points which were made of this election were, first, cheap meat; and, second, that a pledge had been given. It was publicly stated there that meat would come down 50 per cent. Privately it was stated at all corners and elsewhere to the workers that meat would come down lower than pre-War. That case has been knocked sky high by the Royal Commission. The Royal Commission has found that there will only be a decrease in the price to a certain extent. It has also shown that only 16 per cent. of the meat sold in the London market is home-killed meat, and that the whole of the remainder is frozen meat. This being the case, the fact that the home-killed meat is entirely bought by the richer classes knocks out entirely the statement that the meat of the poorer classes will be decreased.
Then we come to the second part of this pledge, and, in my opinion, this is far the more serious. We are told that a certain Minister made a pledge that this embargo would be taken off. My, reply to that is, that no Minister had a right to make such a pledge, and for the reason that the British Government had entered into a contract with the Irish farmers years before. Before the Wyndham Act was brought in, the Government went carefully into the question of the actual amount the Irish farmers could pay. They took the value of their stock and their crops at the status quo. Had they not done that, Mr. Redmond and others, who were behind the scenes would never have agreed to the prices given by the Irish farmers for their farms. Those prices ran for 60 years, and they have only paid off 18, 19, or 20 years, and some only two or three years. So that that contract, really, has about 40 years to run with the Irish farmer. Supposing this embargo be taken off, what will be the position? Simply that this House breaks an absolute contract with the Irish farmers. It is an extraordinary thing to see the right hon. Member for Paisley 120 (Mr. Asquith) getting up and bludgeoning the Irish farmers as he does, and to see the Labour Members, who have received far more from the Irish votes than anyone else, turning round and trying to bring ruin on Ireland. It is breaking word with the Irish farmers, and bringing economic ruin upon Ireland. They make it absolutely impossible for the Irish farmer to pay his rent, and they, bring to a crash the Wyndham Act, and everyone knows what that would mean at such a time as this.
The Whips are off to-night, and Members have a chance of voting as they think fit. I would like to say that this Government, and the policy of this Government, have made a hell of my country, and before passing a Resolution which will undoubtedly bring about economic ruin in Ireland, which will undoubtedly strangle the whole economic life of Ireland, and will, therefore, make this hell, which is now in Ireland, a permanent hell, I ask those in this House who have done so much evil to my country, to do a little good to us by trying to preserve its one great industry.
§ Lieut.-Colonel GRANT MORDEN
I should first like to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture on a most eloquent and—almost—convincing defence. If I ever wanted an advocate to prove when a pledge was not a pledge, I would at once apply to my right bon. Friend. I approach the subject of this Debate from a different standpoint from almost any other hon. Member. I am a Canadian, but, at the same time, I am a small farmer and breeder in Buckinghamshire. Therefore, I have a knowledge of the subject from both ends, and, as a breeder in a small way and a farmer, I am thoroughly convinced that the removal of the embargo will not interfere with my farming operations, or with my breeding, but, on the contrary, if we allow Canadian cattle to come here. Canada is likely to buy mere of my pedigree cattle. Moreover, I am quite convinced, moving among farmers in my own district, and meeting farmers in other districts, that if a vote were taken of the farmers of this country with regard to the removal of the embargo, it might surprise a great many hon. Members of this House to learn of the number, if not the majority, of 121 the farmers who would favour the removal of the embargo. The agricultural societies of the various counties are largely made up, or dominated I should say, by large breeders and large landowners, and I do know that in many cases these large landowners are living more or less in the past, such as my Noble Friend Lord Chaplin, for instance. No one has a greater regard for Lord Chaplin than I have, but on various occasions, when I have discussed the cattle embargo with him, he has invariably harked back to a time practically before I was born, when he stamped out rinderpest in this country. I very much doubt whether even the farming community in Canada know what. is rinderpest. Those who are strongest against the removal of the embargo are living in the past, and not in the present. From many a standpoint, if I were Prime Minister of Canada, I would be more inclined to put an embargo on the export of cattle, and keep the by-products in Canada and also provide employment in. the making of in cans. But I am quite convinced, as a Member of this House, that the British public are not going to eat tinned beef, when they can get good, healthy cattle fattened here. I was interested in a pamphlet which I received from the Live Stock Defence Committee. I was ashamed to read in it the rather humiliating appeal to Canadian stockbreeders and farmers. They drew a harassing picture of the British agriculturalist. It says:He knows that such diseases are not likely to be brought in by your cattle; he realises how fortunate you have been in the matter of disease, but he fears that once the door is opened to let in the healthy cattle from the Dominion of Canada every other country in the world which can show an apparent freedom from disease will clamour to be admitted, and cannot well be excluded.There has never been a suggestion made that the embargo against foreign cattle should be removed. It is only the embargo against our own Dominions overseas which so many desire to see removed. This Live Stock Defence Committee, as I have said, freely admits that there is no disease. Another document I have received, as I believe every other Member of this House has received, says:The raising of the Canadian embargo, unfortunately, means the revival of cruelty to animals on a large scale.I yield to no man in my love of animals, as a breeder, as a master of foxhounds, 122 as one who is nearly always with animals. But this document is really amusing. There is in it an alleged photograph of a small ship from, I should judge, a foreign port arriving in Malta. Why do not the people who publish these things publish also a, photograph of Canadian cattle being brought in here to-day? Are they not aware that Canadian cattle under present conditions cross the Atlantic to be slaughtered at our ports How much better would they be treated if not for immediate slaughter? Then they have a terrible photograph of these animals being drawn up by their horns. Where can they take such a photograph at any port in this country of animals being treated in that way? Such methods to influence the sympathy of animal lovers is, in my opinion, beneath contempt. I turn to another document I received on Saturday morning from the National Farmers' Union. This document refers to the speech of the Prime Minister, and quotes the statement of the Prime Minister in this House on the 23rd: February, 1917. The pledge they quote, I submit, had no reference whatever to the Canadian cattle embargo, but the manner in which they put it here implies that it had reference to the embargo. They go on with the most unfair attack on the meat traders of this country. They say that the Members of Parliament are intimidated. The propaganda on the one side, I submit, has been quite as, and much more, inaccurate than the propaganda carried on by these in favour of the removal of the embargo.
Members for agricultural constituencies have been threatened—I know that, from my own personal knowledge—and told definitely that if they voted for the removal of this embargo, they need never expect to be returned again for their constituency. In the document I have in my hand there is recited the fact that theUnited Farmers of Alberta appointed a committee to examine the question of marketing beef by the chilled meat system and the committee recommended that the producers of livestock form a co-operative export meat company to handle this business as soon as possible. A recent Reuter's telegram showed that the export of Alberta chilled beef has already been begun.Is that the way to help the feeders and breeders of this country? To show how inconsistent is the statement of the 123 National Farmers' Union, let me continue to quote. They say:It would cost 6d. per pound in freight to land the living animal in this country.They endeavour to prove that it is not economically possible to ship Canadian live beef to this country. The next paragraph says:If the embargo is to be removed it will be dealing an irreparable blow to stock breeding and beef production in this country.That is utterly inconsistent. Again, their reference to Canada's representatives at the Imperial War Conference of 1917, who they quote, "Raised the question of the 'embargo' and a pledge was given to them which can best be understood from the following statement made in the House of Commons on 18th July, 1918, by the President of the Board of Agriculture"—The Canadians say they do not mind us keeping on the embargo, but they ask us not to put it on the ground of disease which is a slur upon their cattle. On the ground of disease it would be taken off, but there is no suggestion whatever unless we bring in legislation in this country that the embargo will he withdrawn.This statement is only part of a statement, and gives an entirely false impression. Then they state that "the pledge has been honoured." I submit that this is not only a misstatement, but a violation of the truth. They refer again to the Royal Commission—I am sorry it takes so long to go into this matter—[HON. MEMBERS: "Go on!"]—but here is a document sent to every Member of the House, and I think it ought to be analysed—they refer to the Royal Commission. They say that theCabinet considered the matter and decided to maintain our national policy. The duty of the House of Commons is to support the position of the Cabinet and to implement the assurance given by the Prime Minister in 1917 to the farmers…in the future the country will not be indifferent to the agricultural interests of the State.What does that mean? It implies that the Prime Minister and the Cabinet had decided against the removal of the embargo, which is an absolutely misleading and untrue statement. Let me quote from a telegram I received from the President of the Board of Agriculture in February of last year 124 at the time of the Dudley by-election. The right hon. Gentleman wired me:Many thanks for your telegram. The answers to your questions areThis was last year, and hardly conveys the impression that the Cabinet have, or had, decided the question. This document issued by the National Farmers' Union would certainly convey that impression. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the statement made by Lord Ernie in regard to what took place at the Imperial Conference. The right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) has read extracts from the Minutes of the Imperial Conference, and the Minister of Agriculture seemed to suggest that this only referred to the stigma on Canadian cattle. But, surely, the right hon. Gentleman underestimates the intelligence of Canadian statesmen to suggest that they in coming here and arguing for days to get the embargo removed so as to allow Canadian cattle to come in here, they were acting simply to remove a stigma, and not for the practical purpose of giving Western stock-breeders an opportunity to ship their cattle back home, for most of these breeders are mer who came from this country. They wish to keep up their relations with it in this way Let me read what the Chairman, Lord Long, said about this matter. The question was as to the restrictions being removed. What restrictions? The restrictions on the importation of Canadian cattle It is not a question of a stigma, [...] a slur. Let me quote:
- (1) I have freely stated that the Canadian cattle are now, and have for many years been free from disease.
- (2) I have never stated that I definitely pledged myself not to give consideration to the question of lifting the embargo. The question is one for the Cabinet and the Imperial Conference."Lord LONG: Now the position is that the restriction is to be removed. The Board of Agriculture will take such steps as are necessary for this purpose, but upon the understanding that, there being no tonnage, there cannot be any arrivals.Mr. ROGERS: I do not want any misunderstanding about it. If there is no tonnage, that follows.The CHAIRMAN: No, I do not want there to be a misunderstanding.Sir ROBERT BORDEN: cannot become effective because there is no tonnage.The CHAIRMAN: We cannot do that. I am sure the Shipping Controller would stop it at once.Sir ROBERT BORDEN We perfectly understand that.125Mr. ROGERS: We do not want to be placed in a false position.The CHAIRMAN: The Minister of Agriculture 11,1s undertaken to do it.Mr. ROCERS: Do not you think we ought to have a Resolution about it?The CHALRMAN: You do not want any Resolution, do you? If you like you can simply move that the embargo on Canadian cattle be removed as speedily as possible.Mr. Rogers: I beg to move that.The CHAIRMAN: Mr. Prothero accepts that, and there is an end of it.Can there be anything more clear than that pledge? I had a personal conference on the matter with Lord Long and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and the Canadian High Commissioner, and Lord Long definitely told my right hon. Friend at that meeting that a pledge had been made and must be honoured. [An HON. MEMBER: "By whom?"] Lord Long, the Chairman of the Imperial Conference, and Lord Ernie, both representatives of the British Cabinet. If the representatives of the Cabinet meet in conference with the Prime Ministers and Ministers of the Overseas Dominions and the representatives of the Home Government have no power to bind the Government, then Imperial Conferences in the future will be a waste of time. An Englishman's word has hitherto been understood to be his bond. The whole Anglo-Saxon world are waiting to-night to see if this is still true. There was never a time when we appreciated or wanted closer connections within our own Empire. Europe is devasted. We want and must have Empire trade. We have in our own great Dominions the markets that will keep our mills and works at home going. We have the raw material for those mills, and we have the country where there can be placed our surplus population, under the Union Jack. If we are going to shut the door in this way to the home market, shut the door upon the British Dominions to our own people, who have gone out to our Dominions, who to-day only ask for the right to trade freely with their Motherland, then I am afraid of what may happen. Small questions sometimes determine great issues, though I do not consider this a small question. I consider it a very grave question. If the Leader of the House or the Prime Minister were here, I should like to put to them a few questions. I should like to ask, "Suppose this pledge is not 126 carried out in its entirety, is it possible to have another Imperial Conference? If summoned, would any of the Dominions attend such a Conference? Would it not be most humiliating if the greatest Dominion invited to attend such a Conference should demand a guarantee that any agreement entered into by time representatives of the Imperial Government should be carried out?" Such a suggestion would be most abhorrent to hon. Members of this House. I, like every Britisher born overseas, have been brought up to look on the word of an Englishman and the pledge of the British Government as good as gold. I am certain that to-day this House, by the way its acts in the Division Lobby, will show to the Empire and the whole world that this still holds good.
§ Sir HARRY HOPE
In the few words I shall address to the House I shall endeavour to lay before it the agricultural standpoint. We have to consider whether the denunciation of this embargo will be best or otherwise for the country as a whole. There is a conflict of opinion, we know, among farmers as to whether the embargo should or should not be removed. On the one side we have the breeders, and on the other side we have the feeders. To-day, however, we should take a far wider view and standpoint than that of competing interests. We have to consider agriculture as a whole, and to consider, too, how the industry can best serve the interests of the community at the present time. What we should not lose sight of is the desirability of not only keeping under cultivation the present area of land, but, if possible, to increase it with a view of supplying food for our people, and also the fullest employment for them. Anyone with a real practical knowledge of agriculture knows that you cannot grow grain crops consecutively with success. Root crops must be grown if we are to have grain crops. They are, in fact, the pivotal crop. They are valuable because they increase the fertility of the soil by abstracting nitrogen from the atmosphere and also because they are the means by which land can be cleaned of weeds. But root crops cannot be grown unless we have an adequate supply of store cattle to consume them, thus a full supply of store cattle is an essential link in the chain of agricultural success and development.
127 On this, I think, we can all be agreed, and it is valuable that there should be common ground to begin with.
I think there has been a good deal of exaggeration on both sides in the advocacy of their case. If we consider how we can maintain our supplies of store cattle, we immediately see that there are two sources open to us, there is the home supply and the overseas supply. Our stock of cattle is about 12,000,000, and about 1,000,000 immature calves are slaughtered every year. This slaughter of young immature calves is a most serious matter—not only are calves of a fortnight old poor and soft meat, but we lose the numbers of home-bred cattle which are so needed. Ireland's supply is uncertain. The last Irish figures available are those which the Minister gave, in answer to a question of 11th July, when he said that for the year ending the 24th June, 1922, we imported from Ireland 160,000 store cattle as against 350,000 store cattle in the same period during 1913.
So much for the home supplies. If we turn to the overseas, we find that in Canada all the five Eastern Provinces—that is, next the Atlantic—are stocked with cattle of the dairying breeds, and therefore it is not until we get west to the three Prairie Provinces that. we find the shorthorn cattle which used to come over for fatting. The Provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta are the homes of the shorthorn cattle in Canada. It is from those 900 miles of prairie lands extending from Winnipeg to the base of the Rocky Mountains that we get those cattle, but we know that those lands are rapidly being broken up for wheat cultivation, therefore the numbers of Canadian stores may, in the future, not be large.
In view of this shortage of cattle, I have always held that the wise policy is to restrict the slaughter of our young immature calves and rely more on our home stock than on the overseas. No risk of disease would then result, and no chance of interference with the supply in case of war. But what does the Minister say? On the 16th May, the Minister of Agriculture, in answer to a question on this subject, said:This question has been carefully considered at different times during the last 128 few years, and was also referred to the Livestock Advisory Committee which I appointed last year. The Committee did not favour the imposition of Government control, a view with which I agree, and I do not propose to take any action.I think that was an unfortunate statement. We all agree, that an adequate supply of store cattle is essential. We say that it is a necessity in our agricultural chain, and yet the Minister of Agriculture says that we can get no relief in that way. What I say is that the breeders cannot have it both ways, and if they will not submit to a restriction on the slaughter of immature calves, they ought not to have what they are now demanding. We have heard that the small farmers in the Highlands of Scotland, in Wales, and in some parts of England will be ruined if Canadian cattle are allowed to come over here. But is that not a gross exaggeration? The cost of transit from Canada is about £10 a head. Is that not a sufficient protection, and will that cost not prevent bad scrubby cattle being sent over? Undoubtedly it will.
The only valid argument which can be brought forward against free importation is "the chance of disease. We in this country have our old memories and we remember the Rhinderpest of 1865. Those old memories still remain with us, and our breeders are afraid of these importations. I do not think that this House ought to lightly pass over that fact. But although we recognise that disease has to be guarded against, we are bound to take into consideration the findings of that expert Committee, which reported thatWe are of the opinion that there is no substantial ground for the apprehension that such admission would introduce disease among the cattle in this country.It is all very well for us to guard against the importation of diseased cattle, and we ought to do it, but we are bound to take into consideration the expert evidence given before that Commission. Another argument used against, the importation of cattle, from Canada is that it results in so much cruelty to the animals. I think the pictures drawn on this point of the suffering on board ship have been very much exaggerated. I remember that the Canadian cattle which used to be brought over 30 years ago were very good cattle, and they were far better "doers" than the Irish cattle. As a rule, Irish 129 cattle take about four or five weeks before they start fattening, but Canadian cattle start fattening on the very day they are put to pasture or into cattle courts. I think that is a proof that the alleged hardship which they are said to suffer in coming over in no way injures them. I remember that Canadian cattle, after about three months' fattening, were generally ready for the butcher, whereas Irish cattle take a much longer period. I think that shows that Canadian cattle are a great advantage to the agriculturists of this country.
If we get these cattle, we shall be able to maintain a larger area under root crops, and that is something of inestimable value. By this policy we should be able to give our people more fresh meat instead of chilled meat, and I think our people have a right to demand that more fresh meat should be sold to them. At the same time, by allowing in Canadian cattle, we should be able to do something for Canada in return for the preferential treatment she gives to our manufacturers. Taking all these points into consideration, if we can allow these Canadian cattle to come in without bringing disease to this country, as I think we can, I think we shall be doing a good and a wise thing. In the face of the expert evidence laid before the Royal Commission, I think we can let Canadian cattle come in with confidence, knowing at the same time that it is a wise step for us to take in the interests of the people of this country.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir GILBERT WILLS
In spite of the historical comments made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), when he drew the attention of the House to the fact that, under the Campbell-Bannerman Administration, this particular question was left to a free vote in the House, I must. say that personally I think it is a most extraordinary thing that on a question of such importance, over which we are led to believe that the great Dominion of Canada feels very strongly, and one which cannot possibly be without considerable effect upon British agriculture. His Majesty's Government have not been able to make up their collective mind sufficiently to give a definite lead to the House of Commons. Still more astonishing does that fact become 130 in view of the speech to which we listened earlier this afternoon of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture. He has sources of information open to him which, if not closed, are at any rate less the concern of other Members of the Cabinet, all of whom have their own responsibilities. With that information the right hon. Gentleman apparently is fully convinced.
What then has been his attitude in regard to his colleagues in the Cabinet? It would appear to be a fair deduction to assume that either he has not endeavoured to persuade them, or else that he has made that endeavour and has failed. From the point of view of British agriculture, I do not know which of those two alternatives can be regarded as the most unsatisfactory. But that is not all. We are informed that at a later hour this evening the Secretary of State for the Colonies will oppose the Minister of Agriculture, and speak from the same bench, and that Ministers in the same Government will advocate diametrically different courses for the House to pursue.
I ask what is the position of the House when placed in a dilemma of that sort? We are almost like the child which is placed in the invidious position that if it obeys mother it disobeys father. With regard to the arguments for and against, I will try to be brief, because there are many other hon. Members who desire to speak. I do not think that this point can be laboured to too great an extent, namely, that at the present moment there is no embargo on foreign or Colonial meat or foreign or Colonial cattle. As has already been pointed out this afternoon, tens of thousands of tons of chilled meat are annually imported into this country. Tens of thousands of cattle share the same fate. 32,000 head of cattle came from Canada alone last year. One asks to what extent these facts are known to those who have been leading this great campaign for the removal of the embargo. If they did know them they have taken care to give them very little prominence in their propaganda and in the speeches which they have delivered.
Statistics have proved that within five years after the embargo was imposed the tendency of the prices of home-killed meat was downwards and not upwards. I am one of those who do not believe for one moment that the admission of Canadian 131 stores into this country is going to affect the price of meat in a manner favourable to the consumer. If we may judge from the truly phenomenal drop in the price of fed cattle which has been taking place during the last 18 months or so, and if we also take into consideration the prices at which butchers' meat has been maintained, then I do not think there is much cause for imagining that the consumer is the person who is going to benefit even if Canadian stores can be introduced into this country at a price which is lower than that which the English producer has to pay. I believe, if there is any benefit at all, that benefit will go to the graziers, unless by any chance a Government Regulation is introduced making it compulsory to brand cattle at the port of entry. I have not seen that suggestion made, but if it were done, then I concede the butchers would share with the graziers in the benefit in price if they did not, in actual fact, take the lot. There is one point I would like to emphasise with all my power, and it is this. Unless the number of imported cattle is very much greater than the number of cattle we produce, prices are bound to rise to the same level as those for English fed, and therefore there can be no possible advantage for the consumer.
I should like to say a few words on the position of the farmer in this country to-day. Farming is at a pretty low ebb. Any hon. Member connected with it will admit it is not in a position to stand many more buffets at the present time. It has passed through a long period of Government control and interference. First, farmers were encouraged, then they were ordered, and then they were bribed to grow corn, and, finally, they were told that they could do as they pleased. We are getting back to pre-War conditions—the conditions under which we produced corn only on the best corn-producing land. Corn has been recognised for centuries past as one of the main factors of English farming. I pass from that with the single comment that the bottom has been pretty well knocked out of the market. Let me turn to milk. I do not want to occupy the time of the House with detailed references to the controversy which has been raging during the past summer over the price of milk. I will only say that at the price which has been fixed it barely pays the 132 producer to produce milk at all, and within the past three or four weeks freshly calved heifers have been sold in the open market at £16 per head. If the House agree that the margin in the producer's profits, as far as milk is concerned, is very narrow, it will follow me when I say that for these reasons, which are not new facts to anyone who has been keeping in touch with agriculture, I, personally, for some time past have felt that the description which has been alluded to this evening, that the future of this island, as far as farming is concerned, is that it should be the stock farm of the world, is becoming ever more true.
It is not true to suppose that the pedigree herds in this country, from which stock to South Africa, Rhodesia, New Zealand, Brazil, and Australia is provided, are all in the hands of wealthy enthusiasts and great landowners. More and more tenant and small farmers are paying attention to the breeding of their stock and by the careful selection of well-bred bulls they are en-deavouring to improve that stock. It is not an unusual thing for a quite small farmer to take the highest awards at some of the principal agricultural shows which are held in this country. That being so, the question of disease is a matter ever present, and must have importance in the minds of all those whose industry is connected with the raising of stock. I believe that Canada claims, and justly claims, that her herds are singularly free from disease of any sort. Let that be granted. The observation I would like to make in the first place is that if the Diseases of Animals Act, 1896, is altered, modified, or rescinded in such a manner as to admit Canadian stores, then I ask hon. Members, what earthly assurance have we that within a, very short time similar requests will not be addressed to the Government from other British Dependencies and other British Colonies—demands which it would be extremely difficult for the Government to refuse if they are accompanied by a statement that their herds are believed to be free from disease? Secondly, I would like to ask the Minister of Agriculture, or other hon. Members in this House who may be in a far better position to express opinions than I am, if it is possible that the vessels used for the transport of cattle from Canada to this 133 country can be kept unreservedly for that trade, and never used for the transportation of cattle to and from any other country. I should like to suggest there is absolutely no guarantee that the cattle which leave the shores of Canada in a state of perfect health will not be the means of disseminating disease in this country. The germs of contagious or infectious disease picked up on a cattle boat may not necessarily have gone through their incubation stages before the cattle have arrived, and have been passed from the ports through the markets, and finally find their way to their destination, scores of miles from the point of debarkation. Very little is known about the worst and most insidious forms of disease, which are a constant and a very real source of anxiety to all breeders of cattle in this country.
I should like to remind the House of the figures which have been already quoted in the Debate by the hon. and gallant Member for Lanark (Captain Elliot). If there be one Member now present who was not present when my hon. and gallant Friend alluded to those figures, I feel that I shall be more than justified in repeating them. The statistics he gave were based on figures which he had taken from official records in relation to what happened before and what happened after the passing of the Diseases of Animals Act. He drew attention to the fact that in the twenty years preceding the passing of that Act, over 800,000 animals were slaughtered in this country suffering from infectious or contagious disease, and that in the twenty years after the passing of that Act the number had dropped from 800,000 to 4,000. One wonders whether those figures were, consciously or sub-consciously, in the mind of Lord Ernie when, a few days ago, in another place, referring to the removal of the embargo, he said that it might be done with reasonable safety, but not with absolute safety. I am inclined to agree with the Noble Lord.
I feel that I must, before I sit down, make some allusion to the question of the pledge. Were I not to do so, my opponents on this matter would think that I was running away from it, and that is the last thing in the world that I want to do. This pledge, it is claimed, was given by two past members of a past Administration, and in that connection I would call attention to page 113 of the 134 Minutes of the Imperial War Conference, 1917. Mr. Rogers, whose name has already been mentioned in this Debate, was speaking. He said:If the Board of Agriculture conceive it to be their duty and to be in the public interest of Great Britain to have a policy of protection for their live cattle industry, then we should have no complaint and other no objection.In view of the speech to which we have listened from the responsible Minister, the Minister who is responsible not only to the Cabinet, not only to this House, but to the country, for the agricultural policy of this country, it seems to me that the conditions to which Mr. Rogers alluded have been fulfilled. Later, Mr. Prothero, in consenting to the removal, did so in a manner that appeared to be somewhat qualified, because he made these qualifying remarks:On the other hand, there has been a considerable increase in breeding in this country, but if we have, as I think we shall have, a large extension of the amble farming of this country, we shall want to increase our reservoir of store cattle. Of course your Canadian cattle will come over here as what are called stores, that is to say, they are to he fed and fatted here in England. We shall want a great many more store cattle if we have this great extension of arable farming. We shall want more animals to trample the straw and to eat the roots.Yes, but in point of fact, as things have turned out, there is no more straw to trample and there are no more roots to be eaten. The conditions which were present in the mind of Mr. Prothero when he gave that answer have not been fulfilled, and, according to answers which have been given by the Minister of Agriculture, we know that during the last two years some 750,000 acres have gone out of cultivation. If it were pointed out that the present Ministry of Agriculture holds the opinion to which Mr. Rogers alluded, and if it were further pointed out that that assumption and two others were present in the mind of Mr. Prothero when he gave that answer, I venture to think that our fair-minded and large-hearted neighbours across the Atlantic in Canada would feel that this House was under no moral obligation to support what has been called the promise in relation to store cattle. For those reasons, I, as a Back-Bench and generally silent Member, would venture to urge other hon. Members who may, and for the most part certainly do, represent urban and industrial centres to give the matter their care- 135 ful consideration before running even the slightest risk of imposing a further disability on the industry of agriculture—which, compared with the other industries of the country in the aggregate, may be small, but which, from the point of view of its vital importance, is a very real matter for consideration, not only to the agriculturists, but to the urban and other portions of the population.
§ Mr. GEORGE EDWARDS
I do not propose to deal with the arguments which have been used with reference to the pledge, but I shall endeavour to speak from the point of view suggested by the Minister of Agriculture, that is to say, from the agricultural point of view. In doing so I am afraid I shall have to differ from my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman); and there are so many points upon which he and I agree in reference to agriculture, that I rather regret that I shall have to differ from him on this. In my judgment, he is backing the wrong horse. Listening to the discussion, and especially to the speech of the Minister of Agriculture, one would suppose that agriculture consisted entirely of one system, namely, the rearing of stock. That is not the case. I come from a district which is largely a cattle-grazing district. Arable farming is carried on, and those engaged in agriculture there depend largely upon their store cattle. The last speech, although it was against the removal of the embargo, was, in my judgment, a strong argument in favour of its removal, for the hon. and gallant Gentleman informed us that a large number of acres of land had gone out of cultivation. If that be true, then it is an argument in favour of the removal of the embargo. We all know, that on land which is laid down to grass, stock-rearing employs but very little labour, and hence, when the land is laid down to grass, it means that there is a large depopulation of the villages. So, if the right hon. Gentleman's statement be correct, we claim that we who are advocating the removal have taken a course which is in the best interests of agriculture as a whole. The arguments in favour of its not being removed will not hold water. The Minister informed us—he is a splendid expert in setting up bogies and knocking them down directly—that, if it were removed, it would make no difference in 136 the price of meat—it would mean no difference in the price of the store cattle the grazier has to purchase, because the number of cattle imported from Canada would be so small. Then what on earth do we want to complain about its removal for? Where is the danger? If it is not going to reduce the price of the store cattle which our British breeders bring into the market, there is nothing whatever, from their point of view, to fear.
I am anxious that the man who grazes cattle should have the opportunity to obtain his raw material at the very cheapest rate he can possibly obtain. What is happening? For some years past the cattle grazier—I am speaking now of small holdings as well as large ones—can only go to the market to purchase his store cattle at a certain season of the year, that is in October, when he has grown his corn. At that time store cattle are at a higher figure than at any time of the year. In about three months, after he has purchased his cake and used his roots and put about 2 cwt. on to the beast, in any number of cases he has to take it to the market and sell it, and there is a slump in the price of meat, because if the Canadians are not able to send in their live cattle they will send them in slaughtered. The grazier, therefore, will have to sell it at less per stone than he gave for it. That, however, does not mean that the consumber will get it any cheaper. That is placing the grazier in a most unfortunate position. I hold no brief for the farmer, but I am most anxious to see that he should be able to carry on his industry with some fair amount of remuneration. Not only that, but I remember that in the arable farming districts it is highly essential that we should he able to produce as much farmyard manure as we possibly can. How is the farmer to do that unless he can grow roots and consume them by grazing cattle? I am now going to take the side of labour. We who know anything about agriculture at all know that there is no system under which the industry is carried on that employs labour like a root crop does. We want to see wheat grown, but that entails less labour than anything the farmer puts on the market. Further, there is very little British land that will stand a wheat crop year after year. Therefore it is necessary that he should 137 farm under what we call the four years' system. He must have a certain number of roots every year, and unless you are going to make it worth his while to grow roots and ensure him that when he has done that he is going to get some remuneration for it, he is not going to do it.
Therefore it is in the interests of our countryside that this embargo should be removed to enable those engaged in the industry to obtain their raw material at the very cheapest rate they possibly can. I do not believe the consumer is going to reap the benefit unless the Government breaks up the meat rings which are being formed at present. For these reasons I support the removal. A large majority of farmers, especially in my county, are in favour of it. A meeting was held at Norwich not more than six weeks ago, arranged not by wicked agitators, but by the farmers themselves. Over a thousand farmers were there, and only 12 voted against a resolution in favour of its removal. There are two sections engaged in agriculture which have got to be consideered. Surely we ought to consider the arable farmer, who is no unimportant factor of this very great industry. We are told that the Canadian is allowed to send his cattle here to be slaughtered on their arrival. Those who are in favour of frozen meat rather than the best old English beef can have two shares. They can have my share as well as their own. I am not fond of frozen meat, when I can have the good old English grade beef. It is well known that. the Canadian farmer cannot graze his cattle as we can graze cattle here. He does not produce the roots and the kind of food that would put the meat on to the beast, which would be of the same taste, relish and quality that we can do in England. Therefore, we are anxious that, even if the people would not get their beef cheaper, they shall at any rate have meat of the best possible quality, so that they may enjoy the fruits of their industry. I shall strongly support the removal of the embargo.
Does anyone imagine that it is in the interests of the Canadian producer and the Canadian farmer not to see that his cattle are in a healthy condition? It is not to their interests to send over diseased beef. If it is not right, if it is not safe to have Canadian cattle over here to be grazed, then you ought to stop the 138 importation of Canadian cattle for slaughter, because if Canadian cattle are not fit to be grazed over here they are not fit for human food. It has been well known for years that we have not had a clean bill of health. Let us remember what happened last year. That disease did not come from Canada. Thousands of animals had to be slaughtered because of foot-and-mouth disease. In the last 10 or 20 years we have constantly had diseases, either foot-and-mouth disease or some other kind of disease. Therefore, the question of disease is not a strong argument to make against the removal of the embargo. In the interests of the grazier as well as of the breeder, I hope that we shall carry this Resolution tonight, so that one section of the industry will be able to get their raw materials at the cheapest rate possible.
§ Mr. McCONNELL
In rising to address the House for the first time, I feel that, however important the removal of the embargo upon Canadian cattle is to English and Scottish agriculturists, it is a matter of life and death to the Irish farmer and stock-grazer. Ireland is essentially a country of comparatively small holdings, each holding having to maintain, as a rule, a considerable family. To all of these men life is a constant struggle for existence, and the margin is so small that they cannot afford to make any sacrifice or take risks in a, way that those who have larger resources can do. The repeal of the Corn Laws was the beginning of the ruin of agriculture in this country. It started a flight of emigrants from Ireland which in a little over half a century reduced the population by 4,000,000 of people. There were other collateral causes, but the root causes are as I have described them.
Agriculture being thus largely destroyed, attention was turned to the raising of cattle, which became a great industry in Ireland. If the embargo on Canadian cattle were withdrawn, the only difference it would make to Canada would be that they would have the right to finish their cattle here and put them in prime condition on the market. As I will show, that means that no additional Canadian cattle would be brought to this country, because up to the present she has exported every hoof that is available. The only difference that it will make to Canada will be that she will sell her cattle on the British market at a higher price than she 139 has hitherto done. So far from this resulting in cheapening the price of meat to the average consumer the very reverse will be the case. If Canadian cattle are to be finished in this country, it means a larger sum expended on putting the finished article upon the market, and since the consumer pays, the price of meat must consequently be increased. That is so patent that I am amazed when I read or hear the specious and sham arguments that are put forward to secure votes in this House by the gross misrepresentation that the working classes will get their meat cheaper.
If the House will allow me to say so, I speak as one whose knowledge and practical experience of this question is exceptional. The firm of which I happen to be the head is one of the largest, in fact the largest concern engaged in the cattle trade in Ireland. I speak, therefore, from knowledge based on long and intimate experience, and I tell the House, in all sincerity and deep conviction, that if this embargo be removed, while the results to Canada will be relatively small, it will be the death blow to the cattle trade in Ireland. I ask the House to look for a moment at the relative position of the Canadian cattle producer and the Irish cattle producer, and the relative position of the Irish taxpayer—by which, in view of the recent changes, I mean the North of Ireland taxpayer—and the Canadian taxpayer in Canada, the ranchers hold vast tracts of country at prairie prices. In Ireland, the hunger for land and the competition has enormously inflated the price, and the cost of cultivating the land is excessive, due to the fact that the smallholder is not able to afford the costly implements which are such a conspicuous feature of agriculture in Canada, and which tend enormously to cheapen the cost of production. These difficulties the Irish farmer has to face, and the competition is only lessened to a comparatively small degree by the freight charges upon Canadian cattle.
Turn to the position of the North of Ireland taxpayer. He has to pay every tax imposed by this Parliament, and pay in equal degree to any taxpayer in this country. You are going, at one blow, to destroy an industry out of which, none the less, you propose to exact the last shilling of taxation that is open to you. When the coal trade was involved in a 140 crisis, you subsidised it in the interests of the British public. This House is forced to recognise that its first duty is to every material interest in this country before all others, whether they be Dominion interests or foreign interests. You make this country responsible for the whole burden of Imperial defence, and the cattle producer in Ireland has to pay his due share of the cost of the defence of Canada and of every other part of the Empire, while no such burden is imposed on the Canadian citizen, who pays nothing to Imperial expenditure in the same way that the British taxpayer does.
§ Mr. McCONNELL
If you make the burden unequal in this way, equity demands that the persons on whom you lay the undue burden should be permitted at least to retain the position in their own country which alone enables them to sustain that burden. The cattle producer in this country is as fully entitled to some measure of protection in his own market as any other industry. If the producers of British cattle were free to enter the Canadian market in the same way as it is proposed that the Canadians should enter the British market, there would be nothing to complain of. But that is not the position. The demand is that they should have free access to our markets, and not only the right to sell dead meat or to have the animals slaughtered on arrival at the ports, but that they should add to those two serious factors the right to import the cattle on the hoof, finish them on the soil of British agriculturists, and then go into the meat market in conditions—because they are able to raise in Canada in vastly cheaper conditions than at home—that would leave the home producer at their mercy.
If the British cattle producer is to be hopelessly crippled, what will be the position when you are left at the mercy of Canada and of the huge beef trusts of America that are really behind this movement? The history of every monopoly that has been established has been that of an effort to starve out or trample down all competition and then bleed the public white. That is what would happen in this ease, and no arts of casuistry or specious rhetoric, or fleeting imagination can get rid of that 141 ugly and deadly fact. There has been no serious attempt, upon grounds of practical common sense, to justify the withdrawal of this embargo. Not one of those who advocate the withdrawal would act similarly in his own affairs in everyday life or if he did he would soon be ruined. Every argument has been abandoned, and the whole case is now grounded on the fact that someone in a rash moment, possibly in a moment of after-dinner excitement gave a pledge that the Government would withdraw the embargo and that the Government must honour its pledges. I deeply regret that any word or act of mine should tend to discourage this new desire on the part of the Government to keep its word, even when that word has been wrongly pledged, as it has been in this case. The history of the Government in this and to other matters is that the pledges which it ought to keep it ruthlessly violates, and the pledges which it ought never to have made it insists upon, to its own dishonour and to the injury both material and moral of the interests of this country. Someone appears to have rushed into this pledge, and because it was given without consideration of the whole thing, and in a hurry, it must not be withdrawn. Judas Iscariot could have put up just the same defence—
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. McCONNELL
—for the infamy that was perpetrated in the Garden of Gethsemane. When you rely on the Irish markets for your cattle you are relying not only on the most convenient, but also on the most certain market. It is not open to the perils to which the Atlantic routes would be exposed in ease of war. At the present moment there are more than 5,000,000 cattle in Ireland, as against 6,300,000 cattle in Great Britain. 47 per cent. of the cattle of the three Kingdoms is approximately in Ireland. The official value placed upon the cattle exported from Ireland was £36,000,000, equal to £8 10s. per head of the population of Ireland. Not so long ago the Prime Minister, speaking in the Caxton Hall, on this subject said that if in future this country should have an enemy we must not put in anybody's way the temptations to starve us. If you withdraw this Canadian cattle embargo you ruin almost beyond redemption the Irish eagle trade, which I have shown is so vital to you, 142 you expose yourself to this peril, and subject the enemy to the temptation which, the Prime Minister tells us, might mean the ultimate starvation of this country in a war.
I wish it understood clearly that I am as thorough an Imperialistic, and I speak for a party as thoroughly Imperialistic, as any other in this House, in Canada, or elsewhere, and I think that to make this a sort of keynote of Empire is ridiculous and preposterous. Not a single animal in Canada is to-day shut out to anyone who desires to bring it in. Not one. If you take off the embargo, it does not mean an additional Canadian animal. That is a common case. The only difference will be as to whether the animal is to be brought in dead, or slaughtered on arrival, instead of being kept here and fed and finished to compete against the British cattle-raiser to his great injury. The North of Ireland, from which I come, has contributed to Canada a great population, and the Ulster Scot has left his imprint large and deep in Canada. The greatest business concern in Canada, that of Eatons, is owned by an Ulsterman. I do not blame Canada in the least for having utilised to the utmost every opportunity for developing her market and selling her produce to the best advantage. That is her business. It is equally our business to see that practically the same spirit is applied to this country, and to see to it that the Britisher, whether he be a cattle-raiser, a textile manufacturer, a steel manufacturer, a coal producer, a shipbuilder, a shipper, or anything else, is in the same way, and in equal degree, protected by the Government which acknowledged it.
I know that there has been a vast deal of lobbying, wire pulling and misrepresentation, and I must add mean intrigue, behind this movement. It has been, in fact, a newspaper stunt, and a side line for many of the vested interests. I trust that the destinies of this country are neither going to be left in the hands of, nor swayed by, such people. In this, as in all other matters, let us lay down the principle of Britain for the Britisher, and if we depart from that position in the matter of the cattle trade you will no longer be able to resist the demands for further encroachment upon any other industry which with swiftly he poured in upon you. Agriculture has suffered deeply 143 in these islands, and the folly of that policy was fully realised in the War, when we stood within measurable distance of starvation. Do not let us ever forget that the shadow of another European War still hangs over us, and that in last resort it is on your own country and your own agriculturists that you must literally depend for your lives. Do not gamble on your resources. Do not dissipate, and do not destroy them as you are asked to do by this proposal, and, above all, do not let us have foisted upon us a fantastical, outrageous misrepresentation of imperial sentiment to justify a wrong. An alliance that can only be held together upon the pretext that what binds us is the difference as to whether an animal shall be slaughtered upon arrival or kept here for a few weeks, or something of this kind, would not hold together a parish council, much less an Empire. No case has been made, nor can there be a case for the withdrawal of the embargo. No vote can be given in support of the Motion except under a complete misapprehension of the realities of the case or in gross disregard of them.
§ Mr. NEVILLE CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. Member who has just spoken has used some rather strong language. I doubt very much whether strong language will add anything to the arguments addressed to this House by the Minister of Agriculture. The right hon. Gentleman made a speech which put the case for the agricultural interest as well as it can be put. I could not help thinking that those who agreed with him would do well to leave the matter where he left it. The Minister of Agriculture would have convinced me completely if I had felt that this case was the case merely for agriculture in this country. It seemed to me that the right hon. Gentleman failed to deal very specially with considerations that were put forward by the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith). We have here to deal, not merely with local affairs; we have to deal with Imperial affairs. What did the Minister of Agriculture say? In alluding to the proceedings at the Imperial Conference in 1917, he stated that the promise made at that time by the then Minister of Agriculture was not a promise that Canadian cattle would be admitted to this country, but was a promise to remove a stigma. We have to 144 consider the circumstances of the case when we are judging what was the nature of the promise that was made by Mr. Prothero, as he then was.
Let me first call the attention of the House to the White Paper which has been issued, and which gives an account of what took place at that Conference. Is this White Paper entitled, "Extract from the Proceedings at the Imperial War Conference for the Removal of a Stigma upon Canadian Cattle"? No, Sir. It is an extract from the proceedings at the Imperial Conference in regard to "The admission of Canadian cattle into the United Kingdom." When we are told that Mr. Prothero, in saying that the embargo would be removed, meant only that he would remove a stigma upon Canadian cattle, we have a right to ask what was in the minds, not only of Mr. Prothero and Mr. Walter Long, but what was in the minds of Mr. Rogers and Sir Robert Borden. Will the Minister of Agriculture assert that all they asked for was a pious expression of opinion that Canadian cattle were healthy, and that no ground existed for excluding them because of disease? Of course, what they were asking for was the admission of Canadian cattle into this country. That was the sense in which they understood the assurances which were given at that time both by Mr. Prothero and Mr. Walter Long. If we come down to later times, to the conversations between the Prime Minister and Mr. Meighen, we find that the Prime Minister said:The pledge is very clear and it is unequivocal. It was undoubtedly the intention of the Government to act upon it at the earliest possible opportunity.What was in the Prime Minister's mind then? Again, you have to consider what be said in the light of what had been said just before. The statement quoted was in reply to an interruption by Mr. Massey. Mr. Massey had said:There is a point which. I do not think has been sufficiently emphasised; the cattle referred to are not fat cattle.It was after that interruption that the Prime Minister said:Yes, I thoroughly realise that. I know, and I have had it in my mind, and so have all my colleagues, that that pledge was given by Mr. Walter Long and by the then Minister of Agriculture. Lord Ernle.That pledge meant a pledge in respect of cattle that were not fat cattle. They are 145 what we now call stores, or what the Prime Minister would possibly call lean kine. The Minister of Agriculture has told us that this promise was qualified immediately afterwards by a communication which was made to Sir George Perley. I listened very carefully to the words that he used. I understand that what he said was this: To remove the embargo would require legislation. It seems to me that it would be feasible by legislation to remove the embargo on Canadian cattle by altering the Diseases of Animals Act, but that would have to be accompanied by a Clause to say that nothing in the amendment of the Act should imply that Canadians stores should be admitted into this country.
What did he mean by the amendment of the Act? If he meant that the Act was to be amended so as to admit other cattle than stores into this country, what becomes of the whole argument that it is necessary to exclude Canadian cattle on account of the danger of disease? The danger of disease arises the moment you admit any cattle, whether stores or cattle for breeding purposes. All that the argument shows, to my mind, is that at the time when he was pressed by the Canadian representatives, he made a promise that they should be satisfied as to what they wanted, but afterwards Mr. Prothero found he was getting into trouble with his agricultural friends, and he began at once to try to explain away the words that he had used and to give them a sense which was not the sense put upon them at the time by the Canadians and was not the sense put upon them by anyone reading impartially the words which he used. This promise has been called a pledge by the Prime Minister. It. has been taken as a pledge by the Canadian people. We are told that what really matters is not so much the actual results that may follow as what the farmers may think that those results will be. Are we not to consider what Canada will think if we break what they think to be a pledge?
I hope that Members of this House will realise what the effect of their vote will be in Canada. In Canada the national spirit has been aroused. To them this is no longer a question merely of the interests of a certain section of the farmers in Canada. It is not a question of the admission of cattle at all. It is a 146 question as to whether faith is to be kept between two of the nations which compose the British Empire. What the Canadians would resent above all things is that, having acknowledged their status as a nation, having acknowledged that Canada is equal in status to ourselves in the Empire, we should then treat them as we should never think of treating the United States and as we should never expect another nation to treat us. The Minister of Agriculture suggested that the pledge was now being brought up as a sort of after-thought by those who desired to remove the embargo upon other grounds. I hope that he would not associate me with any such suggestion as that. I know that it has been represented and is believed by many people in this country that the removal of the embargo would mean a cheapening of the price of meat and an increase in the production of milk, and that various other beneficial results would ensue. I cannot see that there is any likelihood that any large number of stores would come into this country even if the embargo were removed. I certainly cannot believe that such as would come in would lead to the results anticipated by hon. Members above the gangway. These are not the considerations which appeal to me, but I am deeply impressed by the danger to our future imperial relations if we do not remove the embargo. It will be interpreted all over Canada as a breach of a solemn pledge and undertaking given to Canada. It is for that reason, and that reason alone, I intend to vote for the removal of the embargo, and I hope the House will so decide.
§ Mr. HARBISON
There are one or two points which have been only lightly touched upon so far in this Debate, and with which I should like to deal. May I, in the first place, congratulate the Minister of Agriculture on the perfect argument he has presented in reply to a most imperfect case put against him. I wish to deal with certain aspects of this question from an Irish standpoint, but also from an Imperial standpoint. This is a vital question to us in Ireland, but it is an even more serious question to the people of England. We in Ireland are the largest producers of cattle in the British Dominions. We are constant and consistent suppliers of store cattle to England. We are told that if this 147 embargo is removed the number of cattle imported from Canada will be negligible. That may be so, but there is a likelihood that in some particular year, or in some particular number of years, there may be a large inflow of Canadian cattle into England. We know that the numbers of the herds in Canada fluctuate to an extraordinary degree. In some years the number of cattle may be something like 5,000,000 or 6,000,000, and in other years it may be 10,000,000, and it will be according to the numbers of the herds in Canada that you in this country will get your imports of store cattle. That will make the cattle market here very uncertain. Does the House imagine that when the Irish farmers cannot get a stable market for their cattle they will continue to breed store cattle for the benefit of this country? I do not believe they will, and I do not think they would be business men to do so, and I put it to Englishmen, as business men: Are they going to endanger the supply of store cattle from Ireland which is their biggest supply at the present moment? In putting that question I am speaking as much from the English standpoint as from the Irish standpoint.
We have passed through one of the greatest crises in our history. Throughout the world War it was the constant flow of Irish cattle which supplied food to this country. Without that flow of Irish cattle—I do not think I am romancing in saying so—there was a grave danger that this country would not have achieved the position it is in to-day, that of a victorious country over a conquered enemy. In order to properly analyse the arguments for and against this Motion, the House should have the full facts. The House cannot discuss this question fully without having all the information at its command to which it is entitled. I have here the Report of the Royal Commission. The reference of that Commission was so circumscribed and narrow as to make it impossible for any jury of men or any Parliament to come to a just conclusion on the question of whether or not it is right to raise the embargo. The reference, in my humble judgment, does not meet The case which we are arguing here to-day. The Commission was set upTo inquire into the admission into the United Kingdom of livestock for purposes other than immediate slaughter at the ports: 148 whether such admission would increase and cheapen the meat supply of the country, and if so to what extent; and whether such admission is advisable having regard to the necessity of protecting livestock bred in this country from the introduction of disease, and of restoring a number after the losses to which they have been subjected during or since the War.I now read the three last findings of the Commission, and I will again point out their reference both to England and Ireland:(9) We are of opinion that the admission of Canadian stores might make it difficult for crofters and small farmers in the Highlands to carry on their farming operations successfully owing to competition with them in the market for the sale of stores.(10) We are of opinion that the admission of Canadian stores might to some extent deprive the Irish farmers of the market which they at present enjoy in Great Britain for their stores.Now I come to the last and most important of these findings, which is like the posteript to a lady's letter:(11) We have not thought it within the terms of reference to enter into questions of Imperial policy, as regards the food supply of the country in time of war, protection of home industries, or the effect of possible political changes in the Constitution of the United Kingdom.Without any reference to, or inquiry into, those three points, the findings of that Commission, if I may say so with due respect, are not worth the paper they are printed on so far as this question is concerned. The real vital facts of the arguments against the raising of this embargo have not been touched upon. There is the question, again, of the relations between these countries. At the present moment, as the last words of that document state, there has been a change in the Constitution of these three kingdoms. Ireland, to-day, is passing through the throes of what is practically a revolution. She is doing her best, against terrible odds, to start, house on her own. I put it to this House, is it good Imperial policy, when the country which is, if I may call it so, the jugular vein of your whole system, so far as the cattle supply is concerned and which supplies you with the life-blood of your country, is in the throes of getting over a revolution and of establishing a Government—is it fair that her essential industry should be struck a blow from which she may reel and stagger? It will not be vital in her case, as it would be in the case of England. Thanks to the work of the Agricultural 149 Department in Ireland during the last 25 years, even if we lost the store trade, our Irish farmers, I am glad to say—I give all credit to the Agricultural Department—are educated farmers, now, and they could change to other branches of farming with success equal to that which they achieved with regard to stores. If they find that the raising of stores is not a profitable branch of their industry, they are able and competent to turn to other branches and to let the store trade slip. That is all I have got to say. This question is of vital interest to Ireland and it is of more vital interest to the people of this country. It is the one question which, to my mind, is vital to both countries. It is an indissoluble link between the two countries. No matter who in Ireland or who outside says that these two countries can be severed, I say that they never can be severed, but this is one of the binding links which hon. Members are trying to break. There are many links of common interest which must bind us for ever, but this is the chief link and hon. Members are trying to break it.
§ Mr. ACLAND
The Debate this evening has turned a good deal on the Government pledge. I am afraid, having made a special study of Government pledges, that I am getting rather cynical about them. If the statements made by Lord Ernie and Lord Long, which we have heard this evening, were the only quotations on which the pledge rested, I do not think it would carry us very far. That sort of pledge, if it simply concerned different classes in the United Kingdom, or if, at the time it was made, it got the Government out of some difficulty, is, from my experience of other occasions, not the sort of pledge which the Government would have hesitation in breaking if it suited them to do so. There is, however, surely nothing more definite in what was said at the Conference itself than in the statement of the Secretary of State for the Colonies at the General Election about nationalising the coal mines, or in that of the Minister of Agriculture. I think, however, there are other things more than that, and that it goes further. When you are dealing with matters in which your own people across the seas are concerned and not your own supporters in this country, you must look at the way the pledge has been taken by them, and not only at the words that may have been used by yourself. Un- 150 doubtedly, in Canada, it was taken as a pledge, and as being as sacred as if it had been embodied in a Treaty. We cannot, after all, expect the Canadians, owing to their distance, and their ignorance of our home affairs, to realise what we realise about the particular habits of this Government as to pledges. They take it seriously, and that makes a great deal of difference. It is very difficult, the pledge being what it was, for loyal supporters of the Government not to act up to the supposition that in matters between friends and relations the Government, when they have allowed a definite impression as to our intentions to become prevalent, must see to it that that impression is carried out.
I should still have some doubt about the pledge, however, if it rested simply on what was said at the Conference. People who rely on the pledge argument need not go further than one particular thing, which the Minister of Agriculture, of course, did not quote, but of which I am bound to remind the House, namely, what was said by the Prime Minister, which put the hat on it, so far as British agriculture is concerned. In March of last year the Prime Minister said that the pledges given to Canada at the Imperial Conference in 1917 were very definite pledges on behalf of the Cabinet. The two Ministers, when they spoke, did not commit the Cabinet. They expressed their own views; they implied that the Cabinet had been consulted; they did not commit the Cabinet, the Government, or the people of this country. The Prime Minister's statement, however, seems to me to be almost impossible to get behind, and it must be taken—unfortunately, from my point of view—as a very ruling matter in the controversy.
The Government has put the House of Commons and Parliament in an extraordinary position. One would have thought that, if the Prime Minister did hold that that Cabinet—and, of course, by succession the present Cabinet—were absolutely pledged in that matter, they would not have done what they have done. In the first case, for months the Government said they were determined not to make any change in policy then they said they would leave it, as they are doing this evening, to a free vote of the House. One would have expected, except for the curious habit of the Government as to pledges, that it would have been 151 carried out in the only way possible, by the introduction of a Bill, and by the staking of the reputation and career of the Government on the fulfilment of a pledge definitely made. However, it is left to us to discuss it, and by our votes this evening, apparently, it is to be decided. Therefore, one must assume that we are not supposed to be bound by what the Government has said on our behalf without any consultation with us, and without any authority from us.
Taking it as if it were still an open subject—which I find it very difficult to feel it truly is, after what the Prince Minister has said—may I suggest this? I cannot get away from the general Free Trade standpoint, that the wider the area from which you can draw your supplies, and the larger those supplies, the better it will be for any country. The more your supplies, the bigger the market is; the more competition there is, the more choice there is between competing markets. If there is a falling off in one source of supply, there will probably be compensation from another source. That doctrine, however, rests on the assumption that you can keep conditions fairly steady, and if you substitute foreign for home supply, your home supply will not fail you. That is one particular point to which I want to draw the attention of the House. If we should get the certainty of foreign supply to make up for disorganisation of home supply, then I think on balance—though I take the farmer's point of view and am pledged to vote in support of it—there might be an advantage to this country. If there were on the side of Canada any sort of promise that they would keep up steadily, from year to year, say, for the next five or eight years, 200,000 stock coming over, at certain charges and qualities, and it may be with certain relation to world prices or English prices, then I think, on balance, there would be an advantage to this country.
I am afraid, however, that our home supplies will be disorganised; of that there is no doubt at all. It is no use hon. Members saying, "Why do not farmers grow roots?" There are hundreds of farms in this country where it is not possible to grow roots, and where you cannot obtain an oat crop more than once in five years or so. There are all the crofting farms in Scotland; there are 152 thousands of acres in Wales and wherever hilly country of that character exists. There is no doubt, therefore, that you will disorganise our home supplies very greatly indeed. I hope the farmers are not more afraid than they need be, but they are desperately afraid of the total disorganisation of their industry, and what guarantee have you really got from the other side?
Until quite recently this matter, from the Canadian point of view—I say it with all respect to them—has been a political question rather than a practical question. I do not blame them in the least, but what do they want? They have now got a. 30 per cent tariff against their cattle in the United States staring them in the face, and what do they want to do? They want an extra string to their bow. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not!"] Certainly, but it is not practical politics from our point of view. They want an extra string to their bow, and they want to say to the United States, "The British market has been opened to our stores, and if you do not give us cheap maize to feed our stock, or allow us to bring our stock into your country, we will send 250,000 or 300,000 head of our stock to Great Britain, and you will never get it at all." They naturally want to use it in that way as a bargaining power to get the tariff of the United States taken down against them, and when the embargo is lifted we shall start one year with an importation of, say, 200,000 cattle, all our small men in this country will go out of their business, and then, the United States tariff being taken down, they will say, quite naturally and rightly, from their point of view, that they cannot send any more. They have said it over and over again. Their Minister of Agriculture said, quite recently, that he would never dream of giving a guarantee of a settled supply to our country such as would really replace the stock we have got now. We should have to whistle for our stores, and meanwhile our own industry would be disorganised.
§ Mr. J. H. THOMAS
The last speech clearly indicates the difficulties of the House in coming to a decision on this question. I always understood that my right hon. Friend the Member for Camborne (Mr. Acland) was a champion of Free Trade. I listened to his Leader, the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), 153 who first clearly indicated that there was a Government pledge and that that pledge ought to be fulfilled, but, apart entirely from the pledge, he argued that the general principle of Free Trade was in itself the best assurance that this pledge ought to be redeemed. My right hon. Friend says that, apart from any pledge, he clearly understands this to be a question of Free Trade versus Protection. Curiously enough, we have had other arguments introduced into this Debate. An hon. Member who spoke from Ireland, the hon. Member for North-East Tyrone (Mr. Harbison) obviously forgot that this House has decided that shortly Southern Ireland is to become a Dominion Power. He asked the House not to lift the embargo, as that would be an injustice to Ireland, clearly assuming that the embargo that we are discussing is applicable only to Canada, when, as a matter of fact, if the embargo be not removed, we shall have hon. Members in a few months' time coming down to the House and saying, "By your decision you have done an injustice to Ireland." Was there ever such logic? Was there ever such confusion? The short truth is this, that the hon. Member knows perfectly well that this embargo is part of an Irish environment. We all know very well the circumstances in which it was made. The protection so far having worked in the hon. Member's favour, he ought to be the first to say, "Let us remove it now, because we will get the best of both worlds. Having had the advantage up to this moment, immediately it is removed we shall again get the advantage when Southern Ireland becomes a Dominion."
On the other hand, we have heard the argument as to what is going to be the effect upon the British farmer. I think we ought in this matter to say, Where does John Bull come in? Where does the interest of the British public come in? On the one side, it is argued, clearly and definitely, that to remove the embargo will be an injustice to the British farmer, and from the point of view of the Irish farmer it is said it will be an injustice to Ireland, by bringing in a legitimate competitor whom they want to keep out. Is not the consumer, the British public, entitled to say, As between your sectional and personal interests, we ought to be considered? I think it is generally agreed, so far as one can follow the Debate and all that is written and said 154 about it, that, so far as disease is concerned, Canada is at least in as favourable a position as Ireland, to put it no higher than that. So far as the consumer is concerned, he will certainly benefit by the removal of the embargo.
§ Mr. THOMAS
My right hon. Friend says "No," and he says "No" on the ground that the first result will be that the Irish, the Scottish, or the Welsh farmer will import Canadian cattle and sell it as either Irish, Scotch, or Welsh beef; in other words, that he, being such a consistent and pronounced stickler for honesty and integrity in all matters, is the first to say, "We, the House of Commons, have got to do an injustice to the consumer because we are afraid of the Scottish, Irish, or Welsh farmer perpetrating a fraud."
§ Mr. THOMAS
That, I put it to the House, is the clearest admission that we have got to consider the interests of the consumer. That, I submit, proves absolutely what I am contending, namely, that apart from the Irish, English, Scottish, or Welsh farmer, the English consumer in this matter is the one who is likely to benefit by removing the embargo. Therefore, upon those grounds, I am going to support the removal of the embargo. With regard to the pledge, earlier in the Debate the right hon. Member for the City of London challenged the statement that this House was under any obligation to redeem the pledge. When the right hon. Member for Paisley was arguing that the Government themselves, the Cabinet, had committed the Government, the right hon. Member for the City of London rather indicated by his interruption that he took the view that this House of Commons was not bound.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I certainly think a pledge given in another House of Commons by Members who are not Members of the present Government, or of the present House of Commons, does 155 not bind the House of Commons to repeal an Act passed in another House of Commons.
§ Mr. THOMAS
I am sure my right hon. Friend knows perfectly well that it is precisely the same Cabinet which gave a pledge, and which pledge was further endorsed at a later stage by the present Prime Minister. The same Government gave a pledge in 1917, and in 1921 the present Prime Minister said in substance, "Of course, we are bound by the pledge." The point I am making is this. Supposing that pledge were a contingent pledge. Supposing the Cabinet said, "Yes, as far as we as a Cabinet are concerned, we are prepared to pledge our word, subject. to the House of Commons endorsing it." Surely our position to-night would then be very easy. Canada would have understood that the pledge was a pledge contingent upon the verdict of the House of Commons. But that is not what we are asked to do tonight. What we are asked to say to-night by our vote is this. The pledge, having been given in 1917, and admitted in 1921 by the present Prime Minister, this House of Commons is asked to say to Canada, "We not only repudiate the pledge. We not only repudiate the Prime Minister; but we say to you that, at an Imperial Conference, no Cabinet Minister, or Prime Minister, has a right to speak for this country." I put it fairly to the House that that is exactly what we have got to say. With what result? At any future Imperial Conference the people of Canada and the remainder of our Dominions would be able to say to this House of Commons and to this country, "Although we send men to represent us; although we send to you our responsible statesmen, we refuse to send them as representing Canada; we merely send them as delegates without being able to say a word that binds us." That is exactly the situation that will be created if this House of Commons does not reverse this decision.
I think a profound mistake has been made by the Press and speakers in this Reuse in introducing the loyalty of our Canadian soldiers. What right have we to assume that those who gave their lives, those who risked so much, those who fought so gallantly, those who went over the top, said, "I am prepared to risk my life merely for the removal of this 156 embargo"? It is a slur and an insult on them to say it. No, that is not the kind of tie that binds our Empire. That is not the kind of thing that influenced our Canadian soldiers in fighting our battles. That is not the kind of thing that influenced our Canadian people in supporting us in our hour of trial. All those things should be wiped out. What we ought to say is: "Can we first, as a Parliament, say that we will be a party to an injustice to one of our Dominions?" Secondly, "Can we, as a House of Commons, having made a solemn promise through our responsible Minister, and the Prime Minister himself, take the responsibility of repudiating their word given on our behalf?" That is an answer to the pledge, but, so far as the great mass of the British public are concerned, they believe that this is an artificial barrier. They believe that this does tend to keep up the price of meat. They believe that free importation would be better. For all those reasons, I support the Motion now before the House.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I am sure the House, without exception, will cordially agree with what my right hon. Friend has just said as to the introduction of the suggestion into this question of the Imperial spirit, which the Empire showed in the Great War, in the Dominions and Colonies, and particularly Canada. Everybody will agree with that. Upon the other two points he made, I should like to say a few words. He suggested that the interests of the consumer in this country were that the embargo should be removed, and I am certain that he made that suggestion perfectly honestly, and believing that it is so. May I suggest to him that the real interests of the consumer lie in getting the largest possible supplies, and the greatest possible security that those supplies will continue? My right hon Friend was in favour of free imports Does he realise how free importation is? The importation of meat into this country is absolutely free and unfettered, as regards chilled meat, as regards frozen meat, as regards live cattle on the hoof, provided they are fat cattle slaughtered at the ports. The only point on which there is not absolute freedom is that these cattle should come in fat, and should not come in as lean stores. Does my right hon. Friend really suggest that that small barrier, as to the class of cattle 157 which may come freely into this country, is not worth keeping up for the enormous security that it gives to the breeding industry in this country?
That is really the point, and I am sure he will agree that it would be no advantage to this country, as has already been pointed out in this Debate, that these cattle should come here lean instead of coming here fat. You gain nothing by that, but what you will do is to make it absolutely insecure for the breeding industry in this country to continue its present operations. My hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Sir H. Hope) and the hon. Member for Norfolk (Mr. G. Edwards) both raised the point, which is a real point, but which only affects a very small area. They raised a real and an absolutely genuine point that there are districts in this country where stores have to be imported, because of the methods of farming there carried on, and they used the argument that the importation of more stores will increase the fertility of those areas. I admit the strength of their case. I do not wish to minimise it, but I wish to point out that that only referred to very small areas in this country.
§ Mr. STURROCK
Does my hon. Friend know that the Scottish Board of Agriculture, as a whole, is in favour of the introduction of store cattle?
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I have nothing to do with the opinion of the Scottish Board of Agriculture. I am speaking to the point as to what proportion of the area in this country is dependent upon imported stores. That is a very small proportion. The National Farmers' Union represents 100,000 farmers of this country. It has branches in every county. There are only two counties in England where there is a majority in favour of the removal of the embargo. In every other county there is a great majority against the removal of the embargo. The simple fact is that in a very large proportion of the rural areas where the cattle can be both produced and fatted off it is far more 158 advantageous. But there are large areas where the stock never can be fatted, because the land is wholly unsuitable for the purpose. May I also remind the House that these areas are not only seen in the mountain lands where there are smallholders, who are largely dependent upon breeding stores, but it also covers a large proportion, indeed almost the whole of the poor lands all over the country. One of the greatest difficulties we have to meet in agricultural conditions here is to keep the poor land in cultivation. I know what my hon. Friend the Member for Southern Norfolk (Mr. G. Edwards) said about his county is quite true; but in the adjoining county of Suffolk, where the land is very much poorer, the main industry is the breeding industry. It is on that breeding industry in Suffolk, and in large districts in the country outside Suffolk, that the maintenance of arable land depends.
We plough out the arable land in these poor lands and districts. Whether we shall get a crop depends upon whether we get rain. This year we have got rain, but too late. Last year we had no rain at all. If it was not for breeding high-class pedigree stock it would be absolutely impossible to keep that land under cultivation at all. I believe that the breeding industry in this country is really the mainstay of British agriculture, not only from the point of view of maintaining the poor lands, but also because it is really the basic foundation of the whole meat trade of the world. I do not think I exaggerate in saying that, because all the stock which comes back to this country in the form of meat, or nearly the whole of it, whether it comes from the States or Canada or the Argentine—wherever it comes from—it all has its origin, characteristics, and continuance in the stock which is produced here—that is, the pedigree animals. Believe me, it is a very short view to suggest that this small measure of restriction to give security to that great breeding industry in this country which keeps our poor land in cultivation, which is the foundation of the whole of the meat supplies of the world, is wrong—to deny that small measure of security in order to secure pedantic adhesion to the extreme Free Trade point of view is really to sacrifice the best interests of this country.
We cannot get security, as has already been pointed out, for our breeding indus- 159 try in this country, for our meat supplies, if we are dependent upon the importation of Canadian cattle, for that importation depends upon the continuance of the United States tariff. The Minister of Agriculture of Canada, in giving evidence before the Commission, used these words:I do not guarantee that under no condition whatever the Canadian, whatever his patriotism, will send his cattle here over to Great Britain if he can get more money for them somewhere else.That is pretty plain speaking. If we are to become dependent upon foreign stores instead of upon home-bred stores it is quite obvious that this must diminish our security both in peace and war. But on that point I do not think anyone can add anything to what has been said by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture (Sir A. Boscawen). I have always felt very grateful for the efforts he has made in the interests of the agricultural community, but I do not think I was ever more grateful for anything than for what he has said to-night and its great influence in this Debate on everyone who heard it.
I wish to say a word or two on the further question referred to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas). He dealt with the suggestion that my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley Mr. Asquith)—whom I am sorry to see is no longer here —that this House was bound by the pledge given at the Imperial Conference. I think it is rather a large suggestion that this House should be considered bound, and absolutely bound, as suggested by the right hon. Gentleman, by pledges and arrangements which were come to at the Imperial Conference. It chanced that on the very same day, 26th April, the 14th day of the Imperial War Conference, that there were two Committees sitting, about one of which we have heard so much to-night. The other considered the question of Imperial preference. On that very same day, probably at the very same hour, this Resolution was proposed by the Chairman:This is the Resolution settled this morning at the Imperial War Cabinet.The time has arrived when every possible encouragement should be given to the development of Imperial resources, and especially making the Empire independent 160 of other countries in respect of food supplies, raw materials, and essential industries.With these objects in view the Conference expresses itself in favour of the principle that each part of the Empire; having due regard to the interests of our Allies shall give specially favourable terms and facilities to the produce and manufactures of other parts of the Empire.I am not aware that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley has consistently pressed upon the House the urgent necessity of giving effect to that Resolution. I do not know whether he considers the House, or the House considers, himself or themselves bound by it. But there was a little difference between these two proceedings. We had an answer given on the Floor of the House some little time ago to the effect that the pledge given by Mr. Prothero and Mr. Long—as they then were—at the imperial Conference was not preceded by any Cabinet decision whatever. The thing merely arose in the discussion which then took place. But this Resolution which I have just read was very different. Sir Robert Borden—other Ministers being present—seconded the Resolution.Sir B. BORDEN: I think it should be stated in connection with this, that the whole subject has been discussed very fully and exhaustively in the Imperial War Cabinet. The particular words of the Resolution have been settled after careful drafting; so that great care and attention has been given to the precise phraseology as well as the principle expressed. For that reason it is not necessary here to go into a full discussion on the subject.Sir JOSEPH WARD: I would like to say, too, that if this matter had not been up before and settled by the Imperial War Cabinet this morning, this Resolution would certainly have been the subject of very considerable discussion.That makes it perfectly clear that that Resolution about Imperial preference was exhaustively discussed and drafted by the Imperial War Cabinet, and that it had the fullest possible authority at the time it was passed, whereas the Conference to which reference is now being made had no such authority, and it also bears witness in the White Paper to having been of an extraordinary and casual character. I was very much struck in reading the Report of this Conference to notice that Mr. Prothero first of all said that he had only seen the papers that morning, and further on he says:We were rather jumpy at that time on account of the cattle plague because just before 1896 we had been bringing cattle from the Argentine suffering from foot-and-mouth 161 disease, and that was why we made these most drastic alterations which we could not do by legislation but merely by order of the Board of Agriculture.The CHAIRMAN: I think that is not so.Mr. PROTHERO: I have not looked into this thing for 20 years, and I am afraid that I have not looked at the Act on this specific point, but I will look into it.That hardly seems to be a foundation on which to give a pledge of this kind. Therefore, I claim that this pledge was given in a very casual sort of way. I also claim that it was a conditional pledge, and that was obvious, because preceding the giving of the pledge there was this expression of opinion by Mr. Rogers, who made out the case for Canada.Of course we naturally argue that this embargo has been placed as a matter of policy by the Board of Agriculture for the development of British live cattle industry. If the Board of Agriculture conceive it to be their duty and in the public interest to have a policy of protection of their live cattle Industry we should have no complaint and offer no objection, but we do complain that an embargo is placed against our cattle which implies this protection that also carries with it the stigma that they are likely to convey pleuro-pneumonia.Therefore it follows that Mr. Long's pledge and the pledge given by Mr. Prothero were given on the strength of these views, that there was not to be any stigma against the health of Canadian cattle, and if, from the point of view of our own agricultural policy, the security of our flocks and herds, it was desirable that it should be maintained, then, if it did not place any slur upon the health of Canadian cattle, they had no objection to it. It was upon that understanding that the pledge was given, and I think that bears out Lord Ernle's statement that, in giving that pledge, he only thought that he was removing a stigma, and that is direct evidence that that was prevailing in his mind at the time.
There is another point with regard to the pledge which I think makes it perfectly clear, as the Minister for Agriculture pointed out, that the insistence on the pledge now is rather an afterthought. At the time of the Dudley election the newspaper stunt was very much on a par with the Chinese Labour agitation which took place in this country some years ago. At that time the whole question was cheap meat, and it was said that we were going to get a 162 reduction of 6d. per 1b. in the price of meat. There has been a fall of 6d. per 1b. in the wholesale price of meat, for the farmer, and no doubt, if the embargo had been removed, we should have been told it was due to that But although there has been a fall of 6d. in the price of home-grown meat to the butcher, the fall in the price to the consumer has only been half that amount. Since then the meat traders have been extraordinarily silent upon the question of cheap meat, and we have heard very little from the meat traders since the change in the price took place.
Now we hear a great deal about the pledge, and that is the whole issue according to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley, who used the expression that we need not discuss the technical question at all, and he says that all we have to consider is the pledge. If that be so, why was the Royal Commission appointed? If this House and the country were absolutely bound by a definite pledge given to the Canadian Government, that Canadian store cattle should be admitted without restriction, why was it necessary to appoint a Royal Commission? I have in my hand the Report of the Royal Commission, and I have the reference to it, and there is not one single word in that reference about a pledge. I think this is very remarkable. If the pledge is a main issue, why was it not mentioned? It is a fact that not even Canada was mentioned. The terms of the reference areTo inquire into the admission into the United Kingdom of livestock for purposes other than immediate slaughter at the port; whether such admission would increase and cheapen the meat supply of the country and to what extent; and whether such admission is advisable having regard to the necessity of protecting livestock breeding in the country from the introduction of disease and restoring their numbers as to losses to which they have been subject during the War.The Commission had not to deal with the pledge and, according to their own statement, not having to deal with the question of the protection of the home meat industry against competition, the first half of their Report was a very halfhearted and tentative statement that there might possibly be some small reduction in the cost of meat, but they were very doubtful about it. They did not seem to have any doubt whatever as to their opinion that the admission of Canadian stores might make it difficult for the 163 small farmers in the Highlands to carry on their operations, and that the admission of Canadian stores might deprive Irish farmers of the markets they enjoy in Great Britain. They did not think it within their terms of reference to enter into questions of Imperial policy as regards food supplies in time of war.
Every word that is said there as regards the Highlands, smallholders, and the Irish farmers, applies equally to the whole breeding industry of this country, wherever it may be. It is perfectly clear that the Royal Commission were of the opinion that the importation of Canadian stores would be very detrimental to the breeding industry of this country. Everybody agrees that Canada has been extraordinarily free from disease for the last 30 years. Scotland was free from disease for 20 years prior to the last outbreak. We have been told that there have been continual outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease in Ireland, but it is a fact that during those 20 years when Scotland has been absolutely free from foot-and-mouth disease 2,000,000 stores have been introduced from Ireland into Scotland, and no single outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease has occurred. The fact is that the danger of disease comes from the 3.000 mile frontier in the United States. It is perfectly clear that disease can be air-borne. Contact is not required. Air-borne foot-and-mouth disease has come across the North Sea and the Channel, and it may at any time come into Canada. The danger to my mind is not so much that disease would be introduced from Canada into this country. The danger is its introduction from the United States into Canada. If it did there is no doubt whatever we should have to put restrictions on the import of Canadian cattle in any form whatever, and, therefore, there is an entire uncertainty of a constant and continuous supply from Canada to this country. Our supplies from Canada cannot be as certain as they are from stock bred here.
Another point also made, which is of great importance, is that it is only our home-grown meat which is perfectly safe against interference by the Meat Trust. It is all very well, and it is perfectly true that as between Ireland and Canada there is naturally a very strong feeling 164 in this country, and bearing in mind the events that have happened during the War, this country is as much drawn to Canada as it is to Ireland. We do not want to carry on that feeling now, but, quite apart from that, one cannot ignore geography. Ireland is one of the British Islands, and naturally the market for Irish cattle is in Great Britain. We cannot get away from that fad. Just as naturally the market for Canadian cattle is the United States. As long as Canadian cattle—so we were definitely told by the Canadian Minister—can find a better market in the United States, they will send their cattle there and not here.
I will not stand between the House and the right hon. Gentleman who is to follow me, but will only make one more point. I think it is quite evident that the reason why Canada prefers sending us stores to sending us fat animals, is the very same reason why the British farmers object to that course being taken—because they wish to increase their own breeding industry, and to increase the number of cattle produced in Canada. They would rather send their cattle to us as stores than fat them and send them to us as fat animals. We, on the other hand, know and feel that our only security for increasing home production, from the time when the animal is bred to the time when it is eaten, is to support our own breeding industry. In view of what was said by the Canadian representatives at the Conference, as to their desire to do nothing to interfere with our own agricultural policy, I feel perfectly confident that, if there were a round-table conference between the representatives of British agriculture and of Canadian agriculture, and if the whole case were laid before them as it has been laid before this House by the Minister of Agriculture to-day, Canada would never insist upon this pledge being carried out to the detriment of British agriculture. The case was never made. It was a perfunctory discussion. The circumstances were wholly different from what they are to-day. This House never has been pledged, and never can be pledged, to sacrifice British agriculture, to sacrifice the security of our own meat supplies, on such a trivial pretext as this, and I am quite certain that the House, having heard the Debate to-day, will come to the conclusion that, if this embargo be removed, there will be neither 165 a larger nor a better, nor a cheaper supply of meat to this country.
I wish I could have put the case more strongly than I have, but I can safely leave it where it was left by the Minister of Agriculture. On the grounds which he put to the House, and which have been put repeatedly in this Debate by those who represent British agriculture in all parts of the British Isles, I think we may take our stand; and I earnestly hope that, when we go to a Division, we shall be able to say that for once British agriculture has been supported in a real, concrete case. We get a great deal of sympathy and good will in the abstract, but when a concrete case comes before the House we are told that the interest of the consumer prevails, and that the British farmer must go to the wall. I hope the House, when it goes to a Division, will not let the British farmer go to the wall on this occasion.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Although it falls to my task to speak at the conclusion of this Debate, I hope the House will realise that, like my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, I have no pretensions to speak for the Government. It is not as a Member of the Government that I intervene. But I should like to say on behalf of the Government, entirely as a non-partisan observation, that I think we have been thoroughly justified in the course we have taken in leaving this discussion, and the vote which is to conclude it, to the free discretion of the House. If ever there was a subject which should be left to the open vote of the House, it is this particular question; and, curiously enough, the precedents of the past justify that course. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) has reminded us, when this matter was last discussed in a serious manner in the House exactly the same course was taken by the Government of the day, although that Government and that Parliament were very differently composed from the present ones. The interests are very diverse on -this question. Every party in the State is split to its foundation upon this issue except, I believe, the Labour party, who are the only party united on this issue, probably the only issue on which they are united. The House has seen during the course of the Debate how different are the interests and the points of view. There 166 is the town interest versus the country interest. There is a certain difference, I am told, between the East Coast and the West. There are serious differences even in the ranks of the agriculturists themselves—between the feeders and the breeders. It is a question on which every party in the country has a right to express its opinion, on which every Member representing a constituency has a right to compare two points of view, first of all the main points in the interest of the country as a whole, and secondly the special interests of his constituency. I listened to the able speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman), and everyone knows what an indefeasible title he has to speak on agricultural questions. I assure him, speaking for some of those who wish to see this embargo removed and who propose to testify it in a few minutes in the Lobby, that I absolutely disclaim any want of sympathy with British agriculture, most of all at a time like this and in a year like this, when that great and premier industry of this nation, and of every other nation, has suffered quite exceptionally from the movement of prices and, as we are assured, from the caprice of the weather.
But it seems to those who examine the structure and composition of this country, with a vast industrial population, and mighty manufacturing power, on which our military and naval power have been upborne, that that industrial power and those millions who have come into existence on the basis of industrial power, have only come into existence by the assurance to this country of cheap and abundant supplies of food. And the mere fact that we have had to prefer this major interest—for irresistible forces have led us to prefer this major interest—should certainly equally lead us, out of the wealth we have acquired by industry, out of the strong position we have acquired through our manufacturing industry, to regard agriculture, which has suffered for the sake of this industrial development, as a fostered industry, provided that fostering and that favouring does not operate through the maintenance or creation of an artificial scarcity which cripples the main manufacturing power. As my right hon. Friend has said, sympathy is of very little use to agriculture, but in the Budget some of that sympathy took a practical form, and, for my part, as I 167 am challenged by the Minister of Agriculture to say what I mean by there being other ways of making up to, agriculture anything they may lose, or consider they may lose, by the settlement of a question like this against their wishes and their views, I say without hesitation that I will give him my support in anything that will foster agriculture provided it does not inflict the hardship of scarcity on the great mass of people of the country. Those who have listened to the whole Debate will be struck by the brilliancy of the hopes expressed on the one side and the appalling hues which the fears of others on the other side have taken. My view is that both the hopes and the fears are exaggerated. There is not nearly so much to be got out of the removal of the embargo, either for this country or Canada, as is expected. There is not nearly as much injury to British agriculture or disturbance of existing conditions as is apprehended by those whose lives are wrapped up in that industry. If hopes are dupes, fears may be liars. Take the first case, of an overwhelming inundation of inferior Canadian scrub cattle—I believe that is the expression used. In this matter I do not pretend in the least to have any expert knowledge; but I have a, right to state an argument to the House. There is the natural protection of distance across the sea, and distance along the railway routes, which is bound to play an effective part both as regards the quantity and quality of the imported cattle. I think it is common ground between both sides that no large importation is to be expected. It would also seem that inferior stock like these scrub cattle will not pay for transportation. There will be a protection as to the quality of the stock which will arise from the cost of transportation by railway and sea. We have heard arguments about cruelty to animals on board ships. Surely, we need not argue about that. It must be a matter of regulation, and of strong regulation. There will be no dispute with Canada about that. There will be no dispute with any part of the British Empire about that. By all means, Regulations must be made to protect these beasts from being ill-treated or landed in a damaged and broken 168 condition. These Regulations will add to the existing natural protection of distance, both by sea and land.
As to the effect on prices, I am certainly not coming before the House to suggest that they should give a vote for cheap meat and dear honour. I am certainly not going to press a combination of such very opposite and unsuitable ideas. There is a hope, a reasonable hope, which is entertained, of a certain modification in the price of meat arising from a larger market in respect of those store cattle, but it is a hope that may be wrong. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture may be right when he says the effect will be very small, almost negligible. He says:How on earth can — the admission of 200,000 Canadian store cattle seriously affect the price of meat?If that is so, at any rate, agriculture is reassured so far as prices are concerned. I quite agree, as far as I have been able to study the question—and it is the view of the Royal Commission—that the effect will be from the point of view of prices, beneficial to the general public, but not by any means revolutionary or violent, and not likely seriously to affect the prices which may be realised by the agricultural producer. We are told that the Canadian stock being brought in will lead to a great reduction in the amount of cattle raised in this country. But for ten years before this legislation, I am informed, and it is recorded in the evidence given before the Royal Commission, that the herds of this country increased by 1,600,000 heads, and that there was the most rapid increase in proportion to the total that had ever been experienced. This enormous increase took place in spite of the ravages of foot-and-mouth disease, to which reference has been made, which were taking place at the time, and probably that importation was the only way in which a very serious shortage was prevented. When Lord Ernie, of whom I shall have a word to say before sitting down, gave his reasons for the Imperial Conference in 1917, he did not come to them and say, "If the Canadians want us to give up the embargo we will do so." He came forward and volunteered for good reasons, on the merits, the removal of this embargo:So far as I am personally concerned, so far as the English Board of Agriculture is concerned, after the War is over, we consider that it would be wise to remove the 169 embargo. The demand for store cattle in the Eastern counties has been somewhat imperfectly met for many years past.All these passages are familiar to the House. Then speaking of Ireland, which was advancing most rapidly in its agricultural development—I am afraid that it is not advancing quite so rapidly at the present moment—he said:If you get cattle from Ireland, they will increasingly come over as fat cattle. Therefore the supply of Irish store cattle will tend to diminish, and in that way again the fact that we can turn to Canada for store cattle will he of great advantage to us.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
He said also that he looked forward to a great increase in arable farming, which turned out to be quite the reverse.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I will not trench too deeply upon ground which I cannot profess to have spent my life in recon-noitring. I will shelter myself perhaps behind Lord Ernie, who has been held up to-night as a great authority, and is even now held up by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Agriculture as a great authority. And he gave good reasons on the merits, and not as a mere concession, for taking this decision. But all these complex arguments which are brought forward about the shorthorn book, and the milk supply, were submitted to the Royal Commission. And the Royal Commission has specifically dealt with nearly every one of them in its recommendations. There is a recommendation, all to itself, about the milk supply, stating that there would be no danger to the milk supply from the importation of Canadian cattle. All these matters were examined for many weeks by the Royal Commission which was particularly selected of impartial persons, who nevertheless had special aptitude for studying this matter. And the Royal Commission Report was on every single point unanimously in favour of the removal of the embargo.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I do not want to argue about it, because the recommendations of the Royal Commission have been circulated as a White Paper, and every Member can read over and judge for himself. It is upon the Report of the Royal Commission, and on the scientific merits of the agricultural problem that 170 those who are in favour of the removal of the embargo must necessarily take their stand. That volume, with its many hundreds of pages, represents one of the greatest scientific investigations of the age. We cannot all claim to be agricultural experts. The House, I know, is almost exclusively composed of agricultural experts. We who have to give a vote to-night on broad, general principles find this solid volume a very firm foundation on which to base our opinion. [HON. MEMBERS: "Have you read it all?"] Naturally, I should not presume to take part in this Debate if I had not read every word. But there is one argument which stands on an entirely different footing from all others. That is the argument of disease. If it can be shown that disease would come in from Canada, that our herds, worth £400,000,000, the greatest and almost the unique centre of the world in this respect—if it can be shown that these priceless herds, the pride of Britain and a most valuable element in our export trade, were to be endangered, then I agree that that would be the kind of issue on which ordinary Members, who have no special aptitude in regard to agriculture, would be bound to take a very decided part. But is there any question of disease? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] I will quote Lord Ernie:We do not believe that there is now or has been for a good many years past the slightest ground to exclude Canadian cattle on the score of disease.That was in 1917. But the most remarkable statement was made by the Board of Agriculture two years later, on 26th April, 1919. It is a, statement made in advance almost to answer the speech of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture, when he spoke of Canada's 3,000 miles of frontier with the United States. This statement was made after the Board had had two years to think over the pledge given in 1917:It is admitted by the Board of Agriculture that the bar to the importation of Canadian stores can no longer be maintained on the score of health. For many years cattle born and bred in Canada have been exceptionally free from all forms of infectious disease; indeed there are probably no cattle in the world which can show co clean a bill of health. Even the possibility of the introduction of infection by cattle which somehow or other had crossed the long line of frontier between Canada and the United States can be dismissed, because suitable precautions would undoubtedly be taken to ensure that any imports allowed were cattle horn and reared in Canada, which 171 were leaving it for the first time for direct shipment to British ports.Then there is the Royal Commission which confirms that statement. I will not take up the time of the House by reading the Commission's findings; it is one of their definite recommendations that there is no danger from disease. On all the evidence which has been brought before us in the House during the whole of this controversy, the argument that we are shutting out Canadian cattle, because we are afraid they will infect our herds with disease, is mere pretence and indeed is no longer sustained by any of those who championed it—[Interruption]— except by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture who has just interrupted me to the effect that he does. The right hon. Gentleman's speech was— and I think I am expressing the general sense of all who were present in the House at the time—a magnificent Parliamentary performance. If anyone could champion this particular aspect of the British agricultural position it is my right hon. Friend, and those who hold that view were fortunate to find so stalwart, obdurate and pertinacious a defender, and one who rejoices in those settled convictions which result from complete concentration upon his special point of view. Now, from the point of view of disease, how can the Irish case be met? The hon. Gentleman who seconded the Amendment opposing the removal of the embargo admitted that in 15 years there have been six outbreaks of disease in Ireland. Yet we have borne with that all the time, and British agriculture has got on in the face of an Irish importation vastly larger in numbers than anything that is anticipated from Canada, and far less immune from disease. This is a point which must be considered in relation to Canada. When Lord Ernie was asked at the Royal Commission why it was reasonable to import store cattle from Ireland, which was admittedly subject to foot-and-mouth disease, while they could not be imported from Canada, which was healthy, he answered:If you ask me my candid opinion unofficially, I should say I would rather have store cattle from Canada.That is Lord Ernie—still an authority. You must consider this question of Ireland as a new factor in the situation. 172 Ireland is a Dominion, or will shortly be a Dominion.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Well, Southern Ireland. It is a very serious thing to draw an invidious distinction between Canada and Ireland, to the detriment of Canada. It is not for me surely, at the present time, to disparage Ireland; I hope its services to the British Empire in the future will compare with those which we expect from the greatest Dominion, but at the present moment, surely, it is a very invidious thing to say, "We will accept any amount of cattle from Ireland, where there have been six outbreaks in the last 15 years, and where there is absolutely no sea quarantine, and we will refuse cattle from loyal Canada, which gave us such aid in the Great War, although she has been absolutely free from disease, and there is something like 10, 12, or 14 days' sea quarantine on the way over." I think that is a very dangerous course to pursue. My right hon. Friend said, "This is an agricultural question." He spoke as Minister of Agriculture, representing the Department. I am entitled to say to the House, "This is an Imperial question also." I am entitled to speak to them as representing the Colonial Office. I am bound to put the Canadian aspect before the House. Canada has never challenged our rights. Canada has never said to us, "You ought not to put a tariff on the cattle." On the contrary, Sir Robert Borden repeatedly, and Mr. Meighen repeatedly, said, "If we put a tariff on your goods, if you like tax ours. That is your business; but what we do object to is your putting a slur and a stigma upon our herds, which injures them not only in your markets but in the markets of every other country in the world." If this slur be not removed, if this stigma be not taken away, then I am bound to tell the House that undoubtedly you will have committed an injustice to Canada which will rankle and offend Canadian sentiment far out of proportion to the actual material injury which she will suffer. Canada does not threaten. Let me make it absolutely clear. All those who are our friends in Canada, the great mass of vigorous men and women who are working for the well-being of the British Empire, say, "Whatever you do, we shall continue to work for the unity 173 of the British Empire"; but they also say this "There are many new elements in Canada, there are many unassimilated elements in Canada, there are many interests in Canada which undoubtedly would be served by all kinds of tariff and other arrangements with the great Power which lies over the border. Do not place on our shoulders an unnecessarily heavy burden, do not hamper us unnecessarily in the work we have to do to promote the general and permanent unity of the British Empire." I think the House, in view of all that has been said, would make a very grave decision if it decided, by refusing all redress of this undoubted grievance and injustice, to place a stumbling block in the path of weaker brethren in Canada and hamper our strongest friends in working for Imperial consolidation.
I must finish by referring again to the pledge. I have kept it to this moment because it has been dealt with so vigorously and clearly by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) earlier in the Debate. There is no possible doubt about the pledge—none. There is no dispute about it. The words can be read by everyone, but Lord Long, who was the principal Minister there at the time it was given, stated only a few days ago, in decisive language, that the pledge is unmistakable and absolute. Lord Long made it perfectly clear that he meant the pledge as any one of us would read it, and that it was accepted by Canada in that same sense. It was not a pledge merely to remove a stigma, as has been stated. Anyone who reads it will see it was a pledge to remove the restriction, and the express term was used; otherwise, why should you have waited for the ships? You do not require ships to remove a stigma.
The pledge was given in the sense that as soon as the shipping became available after the War the Canadians should be allowed to send their store cattle in here. That is their view, and that is the view of those on this side who gave the pledge. When this matter was brought up in 1921 Canada had, I think, been very patient. The Prime Minister said, "The pledge is undisputed; no one can dispute it"—I am not quoting textually. In answer to Mr. Meighen's demand that the pledge should be removed, he made the clearest and plainest admission, which he repeated in this House, that we were 174 pledged to it. He said that many interests were involved in this country, and so we were going to set up a Royal Commission, composed of impartial persons, to determine what was best to be done. That showed what concern we had for the agricultural interest.
The Royal Commission has now reported unanimously in favour of the removal of the embargo and the fulfilment of the pledge as demanded by Canada. This view is held in the strongest and most explicit manner by every Canadian statesman with whom I have been brought into contact, by the late Government and the present Government, by Sir Robert Borden, by Mr. Meighen, by the late High Commissioner and by the present High Commissioner, and by the present Administration in Canada. Those hon. Members who have read the Debate in the House of Lords know that the late Governor-General of Canada, the Duke of Devonshire, has explained in the plainest way that they hold us to our word and bond—our word, our promise and our bond. I say that we cannot afford to break faith with them on a question of this kind, at this juncture. That would be entirely foreign to the path pursued by the British Government and the House of Commons in dealing with Imperial affairs. We must do our duty in keeping our promise, and then, if it be found that British agriculture has suffered and has paid an undue price for the pledges given on behalf of the nation as a whole, it will be for the House of Commons to consider in what way and by what methods we can sustain and support that industry. Let us support it by every method that is open to us, but do not let us support it at the cost of our good sense and our good faith.
§ Mr. W. SHAW rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but Mr. Speaker withheld his consent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
If the statement by the Prime Minister at the Imperial Conference constitutes a pledge, then a fresh pledge has been given on 29th July, by the Prime Minister. The right hon. Gentleman then said:Of course, if the embargo were withdrawn, it would have to be withdrawn all round.175 I wish the House to understand, when they go into the Division Lobby, that they will be voting for the removal of the embargo all round. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!" and "No!"]
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 247; Noes, 171.177
|Division No. 233.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Glanville, Harold James||Mitchell, Sir William Lane|
|Adkins, Sir William Ryland Dent||Glyn, Major Ralph||Molson, Major John Elsdale|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Goulding, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward A.||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M.S.||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J.|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Gray, Major Ernest (Accrington)||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Atkey, A. R.||Grayson, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Henry||Morden, Col. W. Grant|
|Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hack'y, N.)||Morris, Richard|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Sir Hamar||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert|
|Banton, George||Gregory, Holman||Murray, Hon. A. C. (Aberdeen)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertitlery)||Greig, Colonel Sir James William||Murray, Hon. Gideon (St. Rollox)|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Grenfell, Edward Charles||Myers, Thomas|
|Barrand, A. R.||Gretton, Colonel John||Nall, Major Joseph|
|Bartley-Denniss, Sir Edmund Robert||Grundy, T. W.||Naytor, Thomas Ellis|
|Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||Guest, J. (York, W.R., Hemsworth)||Neal, Arthur|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Guthrie, Thomas Maule||Newbould. Alfred Ernest|
|Benn, Capt. Sir I. H., Bart. (Gr'nw'h)||Hallwood, Augustine||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Halls, Walter||Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)|
|Bigland, Alfred||Hamilton, Sir George C.||Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Birchall, J. Dearman||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)||Ormsby-Gare, Hon. William|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Blair, Sir Reginald||Hayday, Arthur||Pearce, Sir William|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Hayward, Evan||Peel, Col. Hn. S. (Uxbrldge, Mddx.)|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Hills, Major John Waller||Pennefather, De Fonblanque|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hirst, G. H.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Bowles, Colonel H. F.||Hoare, Lieut.-Colonel Sir S. J. G.||Perring, William George|
|Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Hogge, James Myles||Rae, Sir Henry N.|
|Bromfield, William||Holmes, J. Stanley||Raeburn, Sir William H.|
|Bull, Rt, Hon. Sir William James||Hood, Sir Joseph||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Burdon, Colonel Rowland||Hope,Sir H. (Stirling &Cl,ckm'nn'n,W.)||Ramsden, G. T|
|Butcher, Sir John George||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian)||Randies, Sir John Scurrah|
|Cairns, John||Hope, J. D. (Berwick & Haddington)||Rendaii, Atheistan|
|Carr, W. Theodore||Hopkins, John W. W.||Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)|
|Carter, R. A. D. (Man., Withington)||Home, Sir R. S. (Glasgow, Hillhead)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Sprlng)|
|Casey, T. W.||Houlton, John Plowright||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Houston, Sir Robert Patterson||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Chamberlain. N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Robinson, Sir T. (Lanes., Stratford)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Irving, Dan||Rodger, A. K.|
|Clay. Lieut.-Colonel H. H. Spender;||Jephcott, A. R.||Rose, Frank H.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Jesson, C.||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Cowan, O. M. (Scottish Universities)||Johnstone, Joseph||Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Jones, Sir Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustavo D.|
|Dalziel, Sir D. (Lambeth, Brixton)||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Kennedy, Thomas||Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Seager, Sir William|
|Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoin)||Kenyon, Barnet||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Kidd, James||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)|
|Davies, Sir William H. (Bristol, S.)||Kiley, James Daniel||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Simm, M. T.|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale)||Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)|
|Edge, Captain Sir William||Law, Rt. Hon. A. B. (Glasgow, C.)||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
|Ednam, Viscount||Lawson, John James||Spoor, B. G.|
|Edwards, C (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander|
|Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South)||Lloyd-Greame, Sir P.||Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)|
|Edwards, Hugh (Glam., Neath)||Loseby, Captain C. E.||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||Lunn, William||Stevens, Marshall|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Lyle, C. E. Leonard||Stewart, Gershom|
|Falie, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Lyle-Samuel, Alexander||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Macdonald, Rt. Hon. John Murray||Sugden, W. H.|
|Fildes, Henry||Mackinder, Sir H. J. (Camlachie)||Sutton, John Edward|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)||Swan, J. E.|
|Foot, Isaac||Maclean, Rt. Hn. Sir D. (Midlothian)||Taylor, J.|
|Ford, Patrick Johnston||Macnamara. Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Foreman, Sir Henry||Mallalieu, Frederick William||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Forrest, Walter||Malone, C. L. (Leyton, E.)||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West!|
|Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Manville, Edward||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Gardiner, James||Martin, A. E.||Tillett, Benjamin|
|George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Matthews. David||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Gilbert, James Daniel||Middlebrook, Sir William||Vickers, Douglas|
|Glllls, William||Mills, John Edmund||Wallace, J.|
|Walters, Rt. Hon. Sir John Tudor||Wilkle, Alexander||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Ward, Col. J. (Stoke upon Trent)||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Ward, William Dudley (Southampton)||Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough, E.)||Young, E. H. (Norwich)|
|Warren, Sir Alfred H.||Wilson, James (Dudley)||Young, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon)|
|Waterson, A. E,||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. w. (Stourbridge)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Watson, captain John Bertrand||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Col. L. O. (R'diag)||Younger, Sir George|
|Wedgwood, Colonel Josiah C.||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|White, Col. G. D. (Southport)||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Wignall, James||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.|||Mr. W. Shaw and Mr. Percy.|
|Wild, Sir Ernest Edward||Wood,Major Sir S.HIII-(High Peak)|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis D.||Forestler-Walker, L.||Murray, Rt. Hon. C. D. (Edinburgh)|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross)|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Gardner, Ernest||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Allen,' Lieut.-Col. sir William James||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Newson, Sir Percy Wilson|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel Martin||Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John||Newton, Major Sir Harry K.|
|Armstrong, Henry Bruce||Gould, James C.||Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)|
|Ashley, Colonel Wilfred W.||Green, Joseph F, (Leicester, W.)||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Greer, Sir Harry||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Gwynne, Rupert S.||Pain, Brig.-Gen. Sir W. Hacket|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. sir F. (Dulwich)||Palmer, Major Godfrey Mark|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Hall, Rd-Adml Sir W. (Llv'p'l.W.D'by)||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Harbison, Thomas James S.||Pilditch, Sir Philip|
|Beck, Sir Arthur Cecil||Hayes, Hugh (Down, W.)||Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles|
|Beckett, Hon. Sir Gervase||Henncssy, Major J. R. G.||Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Herbert, Col. Hon. A. (Yeovil)||Poison, Sir Thomas A.|
|Bellairs, Commander Canyon W.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.|
|Bennett, Sir Thomas Jewell||Hickman, Brig.-General Thomas E.||Redmond, Captain William Archer|
|Betterton. Henry B.||Hinds, John||Rees, Cast. J. Tudor (Barnstaple)|
|Bird, Sir William B. M. (Chichester)||Halbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Held, D. D.|
|Boscawen. Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Remer, J. R.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.||Home, Edgar (Surrey, Guildford)||Remnant, Sir James|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Hotchkin, Captain Stafford Vere||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Hume-Williams, Sir w. Ellis||Rothschild, Lionel de|
|Brown, Major D. C.||Huntor-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Royds, Lieut.-Colonel Edmund|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. Clifton (Newbury)||Hard, Percy A.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Bruton, Sir James||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert Arthur|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Sharman-Crawford, Robert G.|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Jameson, John Gordon||Smith, Sir Harold (Warrington)|
|Burn, T. H. (Belfast, St. Anne's)||Jeilett, William Morgan||Smithers, Sir Alfred W.|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Jodrell, Neville Paul||Starkey, Captain John Ralph|
|Carew, Charles Robert S.||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin)||Kellaway, Rt. Hon. Fredk. George||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Blrm. W.)||Kelly, Edward J. (Donegal, East)||Terrell, George (Wilts, Chippenham)|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur||Kerr-Smiley, Major Peter Kerr||Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Thomas, Brig.-Gen. sir O. (Anglesey)|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Lister, Sir R. Ashton||Townley, Maximilian G.|
|Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tlngd'n)||Ward-Jackson, Major C. L.|
|Cope, Major William||Lorden, John William||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)||Lowe, Sir Francis William||Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.|
|Courthope, Lieut.-Col- George L.||Lowther, Maj.-Gen. Sir C. (Penrith)||Whitia, Sir William|
|Craig, Capt. C. C. (Antrim, South)||Loyd, Arthur Thomas (Abingdon)||Williams, C. (Tavistock)|
|Davidson, J. C.C.(Hemel Hempstead)||M'Connell, Thomas Edward||Williams, Lt.-Col. Sir R. (Banbury)|
|Davies, David (Montgomery)||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||McLaren, Hon. H. D. (Leicester)||Wills, Lt.-Col. Sir Gilbert Alan H.|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.||Wilson, Capt. A. S. (Holderness)|
|Devlin, Joseph||Macnaghten, Sir Malcolm||Wilson, Col. M. J. (Richmond)|
|Dewhurst, Lieut.-Commander Harry||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Windsor, Viscount|
|Dixon, Captain Herbert||Mallaby-Deeley, Sir Harry||Winterton, Earl|
|Dockrell, Sir Maurice||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Wise, Frederick|
|Donnelly, P.||Meysey-Thompson, Lieut.-Col. E. C.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Day Pre, Colonel William Baring||Mildmay, Colonel Rt. Hon. F. B.||Wood. Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Edgar, Clifford B.||Moles, Thomas||Wood, Sir J. (Stalybridge & Hyde)|
|Elveden, Viscount||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.||Morrison, Hugh|
|FitzRoy, Captain Hon. Edward A.||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Flannery, Sir James Fortescue||Murchison, C. K.||Mr. Evans and Captain Elliot.|
Main Question put, and agreed to.
That this House is of opinion that the time has arrived when the embargo on the importation of Canadian cattle should be removed.