Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £10, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1922, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, including Grants for Agricultural Education and Training, a Grant in Aid of the Small Holdings Account, and certain other Grants in Aid; of the Agricultural Wages Board, and of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
§ 8.0 P.M.
The MINISTER of AGRICULTURE (Sir Arthur Boscawen)
I desire to ask the Committee to pass this Supplementary Vote, the total amount of which is £645,000, and the whole of which is met by Appropriations-in-Aid and savings, so that I have only put down what is generally known as a token Vote, amounting to £10. Of the £645,000, £400,000 is in respect of the expenses incurred in consequence of the very serious outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease which we have been experiencing and £245,000 is in respect of the employment of Admiralty trawlers, for purposes which I will describe later, by the Ministry over which I preside. The Appropriations-in-Aid which I have mentioned are principally the sums received in respect of the trawlers, amounting to no less than £190,000. The savings represent efforts in economy made by what I hope is a very well managed Ministry. We have been able to save a very large sum, partly due to the change of general policy and very largely duo to real efforts in economy. Altogether we are saving £80,000 this year on the cost of the staff of County Agricultural Committees, £35,900 by surrender of balances in the hands of County Agricultural Committees, £91,000 on improvement of the 146 cultivation of land, £83,000 on the Small Holdings Account, and £126,500 on the training of ex-service men, a very excellent scheme which is now finished. Therefore, from the financial point of view, we are really utilising Appropriations-in-Aid and savings and are not asking for any additional net amount.
With regard to the objects for which this money is asked, the first, as I have said, is in consequence of the very serious outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. When a disease of that character breaks out, the law has always been that in the first instance the money required is found by the Local Taxation Account. Originally, I believe, stamping out the disease was regarded as a local service, and consequently in the first instance the charge is made on the Local Taxation Account, but the practice has been for many years that Parliament should vote an amount not exceeding £140,000, which is placed in what is called a Cattle Pleuro-pneumonia Fund, and out of that annual sum the Local Taxation Account is recouped by the sums taken out of it for this purpose. Of the £140,000, £40,000 is allocated definitely to swine fever. We generally spend rather more than £40,000, and the balance falls, and has done for a good many years, on the Local Taxation Account; but for other diseases, that is to say, pleuro-pneumonia and foot-and-mouth disease, we have been in the habit of putting in the fund every year just a sufficient amount to cover the expenditure, and I think it is a great justification of the policy we have pursued in the past that for 32 years, since the plan of stamping out the disease, chiefly by the method of slaughter of the infected animals and animals in contact, was introduced, we have kept the country practically free at an average cost of £9,000 a year. That speaks very well for the manner in which the service has been carried out by the officers of the Ministry of Agriculture, and is a justification of the policy.
Now, however, we have had a very serious outbreak, quite unlike anything which has occurred since this policy was first initiated. This outbreak began a couple of months ago in the North of England. It broke out among cattle which were being sent from market to market for sale, chiefly store cattle, and unfortunately we were not notified. Of 147 course, we can take no action whatever unless we receive notification. It is all very well for people to say, Why did you let the thing get beyond you; why did not you take action sooner? Unless we are notified that there is foot-and-mouth disease on a farm or in a market, it is impossible that we should take action. We cannot have inspectors on every farm and in every market, and it is the duty of local authorities and of farmers and of all concerned to give notification at the earliest possible moment.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
Yes, there is, and in many cases we have prosecuted, and we shall have to prosecute in many more cases, I think, on this particular occasion. The whole matter is carefully investigated. On this occasion, unfortunately, the disease broke out in certain markets and got a tremendous hold, and at one time, I confess, I was very seriously alarmed as to whether it would not become epidemic all over the country, and as to whether it would, indeed, be possible for us to stamp it out. I am glad to say, however, that the measures which have been taken have been, on the whole, fairly successful, and I think we may say that we have the matter well in hand to-day. If I may weary the Committee with a few figures, I will just show how serious the outbreak has been, and also how very much better things are at the present time. We first heard of it on the 23rd January. I have no doubt it had been in existence for some days before, but we had not been notified. In the week ending 28th January, there were 33 outbreaks: in the following week, 266 outbreaks; and in the week after that, 294. It was at that time, that I confess, I felt the matter to be very serious indeed. Then, I am glad to say, there came a progressive decline. In the next week, the week ending 18th February, there were 174 outbreaks; in the following week, 114; in the week ending 4th March, 83; 11th March, 35; and 18th March, 30. Therefore, instead of having, as we were a month or five weeks ago, 300 outbreaks in a week, we have got it down to 30, and I hope we are in a fair way to stamping it out altogether.
The process, of course, has been a very large and extensive one, and it has 148 been very costly. There have been altogether 1,029 outbreaks, in no fewer than 43 counties. The number of animals we have slaughtered has amounted to 21,510 cattle, 17,971 sheep, 8,575 pigs, and 41 goats; a total of 48,097 animals; but the Committee need not be alarmed that we have thereby in any serious way depleted our flocks and herds. I have read some most extraordinary statements. I read the other day that I was the person who had slaughtered already half the cattle half the sheep, and half the pigs in the country. As a matter of fact, the percentage of cattle slaughtered is 0.32 per cent., or about one-third of 1 per cent.; in the case of sheep it is even less, that is to say, 0.09; and in the case of pigs it is 0.33. Therefore, I do not think there need be any serious alarm as to the depletion of our flocks and herds.
I want to say another thing. We are often charged with a policy of wholesale slaughter. That is not the case. We never slaughter any animals except those which actually have the disease or have been in such immediate contact that they may reasonably be thought likely to get it in the course of a day or two,' but all through, where it has been possible to use isolation with any degree of safety, we have adopted the isolation policy. From the very first, I said I did not think we ought to slaughter in the case of valuable pedigree herds. You are then destroying flocks and herds which have meant a great deal of care in bringing up and producing, and the country cannot afford to do that if it can be avoided. As a matter of fact, in the case of most valuable pedigree herds, the owners possess buildings where the animals can be isolated without any real fear of spreading the disease. I have extended that to other cases which fulfilled that test, where isolation was possible without any real fear of spreading the disease. On most ordinary farms that is impossible, and if you attempt isolation, you are bound to spread the disease. On most farms it is impossible to keep the animals really segregated, and therefore, in the case of 1,029 outbreaks, slaughter has been carried out in the greater number, but in 51 cases in England and Scotland we have adopted the policy of isolation. I have, of course, come between conflicting fires and been charged with slaughtering half the cattle in the country; on the other hand, 149 I have been very seriously criticised because in certain cases, where my officers thought it safe, I have adopted the policy of isolation, but I would point out that the policy of slaughter and compensation is not adopted for the purpose of insuring farmers against disease, or compensating them for losses. It is adopted merely in the public interest to prevent the spread of the disease, and if the spread of the disease can be effected without this expensive and ruinous policy of slaughter, naturally we adopt it.
As regards the cost, the cost altogether has been as follows. Compensation has amounted to £761,460. From that you must deduct £95,000 for what we call salvage, that is to say, the value of animals, not infected animals, but animals that have been slaughtered as contacts, which have been sold for food. That has happened in many cases, for we have slaughtered a large number of fat animals which may be perfectly ready for food, and in most cases they are valuable salvage. That gives a net total of compensation of £666,460. In addition to that, there has been the cost of administrative staff, including valuers, £30,500; and miscellaneous expenses, that is, expenses of slaughtering, disinfecting premises, and so forth, £123,500. Therefore, the estimated net cost up to the present moment is £820,460. It is very regrettable that this large sum should have been expended, but I venture to say, if we look at the facts of the case, and the experience we have had in this country, and the experience of other countries, we have been entirely justified in spending this money. It is quite true foot-and-mouth is a curable disease. It is quite true that a great part of the Continent adopts a policy of isolation, but where you have land boundaries no other policy is possible. What has been the result? They have foot-and-mouth disease in Prance, Belgium, Holland, Germany, and, in fact, all over the North of Europe continuously. The losses experienced by these countries in consequence of foot-and-mouth disease are very great. In France, in the years 1919–20, it is estimated that 855,000 cattle, excluding sheep and pigs, were affected by this disease, and it is estimated that the loss from mortality and loss of flesh and milk amounted to over £5,000,000.
150 The same thing was true in this country before we adopted this policy of stamping-out. In the year 1877, when foot-and-mouth disease was rampant, we endeavoured to deal with it solely by a policy of isolation. The disease continued up to 1885, when we adopted the present policy. It reached its height in 1883, when 219,000 cattle, 217,000 sheep and 24,000 pigs were affected, and it is estimated that the loss to the country in consequence of the outbreak in that year was equivalent to £1,500,000. On the other hand, countries that can adopt the policy of stamping-out, as we can with our island position, always adopt it. They do it in Scandinavia, where their land frontier is very unimportant. In the United States they adopted it with signal success in 1916. They then had, probably, the worst outbreak ever known, and they adopted a perfectly ruthless policy of slaughter. They killed altogether 170,000 animals, at a cost of over £2,000,000. Their Department of Agriculture have stated that, in their opinion, it was the best spent money they have ever expended, because, they entirely stamped out the disease in the United States, and they have not had any serious recrudescence of it.
Under those circumstances, I hope the Committees will believe that we have adopted the right policy. It was a very serious thing, but it had to be tackled, and I think, notwithstanding that some mistakes may have been made by my staff, the work has been very well done. I hear, of course, criticism that there was delay in carrying out slaughter, animals were held up unduly in trains and exposed in other places, and mistakes of that sort were made; but let me point out that this was a tremendous outbreak with a sudden rush of cases, and the staff was entirely inadequate for anything of the kind. We never had anything of the kind for 40 years, and it was necessary to adopt the most rigorous and drastic measures in order to tackle the thing at all. Although, as I say, mistakes have been made here and there, and delays inevitably have occurred, it speaks volumes for the staff that, although at one time we were getting 300 cases a week, the spread of the outbreak has been arrested, and we have now got it within reasonable limits.
As regards this particular Vote, the question arises how this money is to be found. As I pointed out, the regular 151 practice is for the money to be found, in the first instance, out of the Local Taxation Account for England and Scotland, and for the sum to be repaid year by year by Parliamentary Votes. This year we have taken the ordinary sum of £100,000 for foot-and-mouth, and £40,000 for swine fever in our Vote, but it is clear, if we are going to spend anything in the neighbourhood of £1,000,000—and we have already expended over £800,000—and place the whole of this on the Local Taxation Account, and only recoup it to the tune of £100,000, we shall be doing a thing quite unfair to the ratepayers of this country. For that reason, the Government have agreed that one-half the cost should fall upon the Local Taxation Account, and the other half should be met out of the Exchequer. Therefore, I have asked for this additional £400,000, which, with the £100,000 already put into my Vote, will make it up to £500,000, so that if the cost amounts to £1,000,000—and I hope it will not—half of it will be found out of the national fund, and that is the meaning of this particular Vote.
I have already explained the general policy we have pursued, because I thought, in voting these large sums, the Committee would like to have a general statement of policy. There are many difficult questions connected with it that have arisen, and will arise, and there are also points which have been raised as to the method of administration. I think that the whole of this question will have to be inquired into, and I have already taken steps to set up a strong Departmental Committee, over which my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman) will preside, to inquire into the circumstances and origin of this great outbreak, to consider the policy pursued in tackling it, and also the methods of administration, with a view to making suggestions as to any improvements, either in administration or in machinery, which may be necessary to deal with such a state of affairs should it arise in the future, as I hope it may not.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
Certainly; that Committee will take evidence from all and sundry who are capable of giving their views as to the origin of the 152 disease, the manner in which it was allowed to spread, difficulties of notification and methods employed in tackling it, and to make suggestions as to improvement. That is all I have to say at the present stage about the Vote, so far as it is concerned with this deplorable outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. The other part of the Vote, £245,000, relates to the employment of Admiralty trawlers by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries during the years succeeding the War. What happened was this. The Admiralty possessed, at the end of the War, a number of trawlers. They had been used, of course, for war purposes, and had done exceedingly good work. It was always intended that they should be handed over to the trawler owners and authorities for fishing purposes as soon as possible. Some of these trawlers were trawlers that had been handed over by trawler companies. Others had been specially built with a view to their conversion for fishing purposes after the War. How we first went into the business was this. In 1919, when the herring fishery was at its height, there were a certain number of ex-service men who were fishermen, and who found that, owing to the fact that their drifters had not been given back by the Admiralty, they were out of a job. Therefore the Admiralty lent a certain number of drifters for the express purpose of employing the ex-service fishermen, and enabling them to take part in the fisheries. The business gradually expanded, and finally it was closed about a year ago.
I found when I took up my present position that the business was being carried on at a loss, and I took steps to close it down. It was always intended that some of these vessels should be handed over, by purchase, to ex-service fishermen, and that has been done in some cases, but the falling off in trade rendered that impossible in the great majority of cases, and in the meantime these ex-service men obtained good employment. The receipts were £100,000, and that meant that the fishing had been carried on at a loss of £7,000. In addition to that you have to add something like £10,000, the cost of reconditioning these vessels, that is, of fitting them up again for fishing instead of war purposes. The Admiralty, however, would have had to have done that in any case, and we make allowance thus 153 far. There is a sum of £7,000 coming to the Admiralty for stores, which means, taking all these items into account, a deficiency of £25,000.
In addition to that, there was another scheme during the railway strike of 1919. It was impossible to get fish landed at the ports transported by rail to London, and a number of Admiralty trawlers were used as carriers to bring the fish direct to Billingsgate. After that they were employed under the herring guarantee scheme to carry out the barrels of salted herrings for sale abroad. Under that head the gross expenditure was £83,000 and the receipts £88,000, giving a small profit of £5,000. Here, again, we have to take into account the cost of reconditioning which, as I have said, would have had to be done anyhow. We have to put into the account about £5,000 for Admiralty stores, and one ship was lost.
As the Committee know, the Government never insure in a business of this sort. It is generally understood, and has always been practised by the Government, that, if they did, their business is so big that the Government would pay insurance premiums certainly a good deal more than their usual losses are likely to be. The £25,000 on the fishing scheme bring up the net loss on the schemes to £55,000. There are thus, receipts £190,000, and a total expenditure of £245,000, giving a net loss of £55,000; nearly all of which will be found from savings or by the Appropriation-in-Aid, of which by far the biggest item is £190,000 fishery receipts. As, of course, it means the utilising of money for the purposes for which the money was not originally voted, I have to ask the sanction of the House of Commons. I therefore put forward this Supplementary Vote, and hope that the Committee will pass it.
§ Mr. ACLAND
The Minister of Agriculture has made a very clear statement for which the Committee must be grateful. I only want to traverse and to criticise really one point, and that is with regard to the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. The main argument of my right hon. Friend as regards foot-and-mouth disease was—and I agree—that the policy of slaughter was really essential and could be rightly applied in a country of this kind. The average amount over a large number of years had been £9,000; it 154 had, said the right hon. Gentleman, cost us that, so therefore there was really no question of the abandonment of the policy of slaughter. One therefore listened very carefully to discover that more recently in certain cases, at any rate, as I gather, because of the growing expense under this Subhead the policy of slaughter has been modified—in these cases where it is not practical to abandon it.
Out of a total of 1,029, 51 cases have-been dealt with. My point is: Is it worth it? These cases included those of pedigree stock which had a high value, no doubt, and which retain their value for breeding purposes after they had recovered—at least I hope so. I do not challenge the matter there; but there have also been cases where the isolation policy has been adopted where it is not a question of breeding pedigree stock at all, but fat stock. I referred a case of that kind to my right hon. Friend the other day in a district somewhere between Ripon and— Northallerton. He said—and of course quite frankly, as he would do—that the thing was becoming so expensive now that where isolation was possible, apart from the question of breeding stock altogether, isolation was to be adopted. I do not think the agricultural community really realises that at all; that on account of the growth of expense the policy of isolation is now being resorted to in cases which are supposed to be suitable, whether it is the case of important and expensive and valuable breeding stock or not.
We are coming to a difficult time of the year. In regard to the question of the infection of foot-and-mouth disease nobody knows how it is spread; nobody can say for certain. I think everybody will agree that it is possible that the infection is borne by birds. Personally I think it more likely that the recent outbreak in the North-east of England was caused by one of these flocks of migratory pigeons, which came over from the other side about that time than by any other way. At all events, that is a suggestion. Nobody knows, and the people who go into it, from the point of view of the Ministry so admirably, would not deny the possibility, about this time of the year when little migratory birds will be moving up through England quite-steadily, day by day and week by week, visiting every farm, every hedgerow, and every field, that the little weavers, the chitchaffs, and so on, may be responsible. 155 Having regard to the fact that the infection can be carried on the claws or the feathers of the birds, I am very doubtful to what extent it is really worth expecting that there can be absolute isolation in closed buildings, and to what extent it is really worth going in for a policy of isolation at all. I should like to know from the Minister in how many cases in these 48 there is really complete isolation in enclosed buildings, and to what extent, as in the case of most fat stock, there is access from the sheds in which the stock are confined and to the outer air, and, therefore, the possibility of periodical infection being picked up from the claws of migratory birds? I should like to know how the residuary half million—I agree the cost will be £1,000,000—will fall upon the rates. Will it be deducted from the general amount from the Central Exchequer in relief of rates; will it all become payable in this next financial year;, and what proportion is it estimated to be in comparison with the total amount in relief of rates annually coming from the central Exchequer?
Surely there has been enough time since the 23rd January, when the Minister became aware of this outbreak, to decide whether proceedings should be taken against the farmer who was guilty of not notifying this disease. After all, the evidence is difficult to collect unless action is taken immediately, and I hope my right hon. Friend is not going to wait, if he has good evidence for a prosecution, until a special Select Committee has sat and reported. Nothing would produce a better effect in showing and convincing farmers of their paramount duty in notifying this disease quickly than a prosecution taken by the Ministry against those persons who are believed to have been guilty of not notifying this disease at the earliest possible date.
There is another point which my right hon. Friend might have touched upon. Can he tell us in regard to this grave and serious matter whether there are any prospects of this question being cleared up by the researches which his officers have been making? I must have heard IS months ago that a ship had been procured on which researches were to take place, so isolated that no infection could spread. I know he cannot hurry the people engaged in research work, but I 156 want to know if there is any anticipation of being any nearer some useful results in this matter than we have attained during the last 30 or 40 years.
My right hon. Friend has made his general estimate £1,000,000, but can he give us any estimate with regard to the dates of the re-opening of our markets for the exportation of stocks to the Argentine? This is a matter of extraordinary importance to a very considerable section of the agricultural community, and it is from that point of view I was very much perturbed at the pursuit of the policy of attempted isolation instead of immediate slaughter. Considering that the right hon. Gentleman is pursuing a policy of isolation, which must mean that freedom from infection cannot be reported for months and months before all the animals have recovered and are certified as being free from disease, at what date, if there is a continuance and a progressive decline of new outbreaks, does he look forward to be able to certify that the flocks and herds of this country are free again from disease? That date must be considerably delayed by the resort to a policy of isolation instead of slaughter, and the Committee, I am sure, would like to have some idea of the postponed date and as to when we may be able to export our breeding stock to the Argentine.
With regard to trawlers, how in the world is it that expenditure which has been going on in 1919, 1920 and 1921 only comes before Parliament to be regularised in March, 1922? My memory may be at fault, and the matter may have been put before us from year to year, but it is unusual in our Parliamentary method of dealing with expenditure to have a bill running over three years presented in the fourth year, and we should all like to know how that has happened. We always like to square up things year by year. It may be that this is the first year in which the bill has come in and the expenditure may have been greater than the receipts. We should like to know this because the House of Commons is jealous of any restriction on its power of having things explained year by year. I thank my right hon. Friend for having brought the matter so clearly to our notice, and I hope he may be able to deal with some of the smaller points which I have raised.
§ Mr. CAUTLEY
To my mind the most important statement made by the Minister of Agriculture is that this disease, in the case of the last outbreak, gained so much on the Ministry that for a time the Minister was in doubt as to whether he would be able to cope with it by the ordinary method of slaughter. One can quite see, with the difficulty of finance at the particular moment, how he arrived at that decision, but I think agriculturists have a right to know what steps are being taken to decide what line of action is to be adopted when a disease does make the progress it has done in this particular case. I should like to ask the Minister of Agriculture whether the Departmental Committee that is being set up will have any power to consider the advantages between a policy of slaughter and isolation, or as to when the limit is to be reached when the slaughter ceases to be operative and isolation is to be adopted, whether it is to be left solely to the Minister if such a point arises, or what power the Committee is to have in dealing with these particular questions?
I am old enough to remember the time when no farmer ever bought cattle without assuming foot-and-mouth disease existed among the animals he bought. The cattle he obtained were, if it were in the summer, turned into a field and kept there for the disease to work itself out, or, if it were in the winter, put into a yard. They were treated in both cases with salt and water, and a very small percentage died. But so far as the whole country was concerned the loss thereby incurred was very large indeed. More serious loss is now incurred by this disease. If you take the case of cattle in milk when they are infected the loss is still more serious, and if the disease became epidemic there is not the slightest doubt the milk supply of the country would in a very short time be seriously curtailed. The time has gone by when the isolation policy can safely be adopted in this country. I hope that steps will be taken to carry out, as far as possible in the future, the policy of slaughter and to make proper financial provision for the same. I believe it is the only way to cure this evil, and the results of some 30 years experience have proved that it does not entail a very serious expenditure. I am not often a very friendly 158 critic of the Board of Agriculture, but I do think that it has tackled this outbreak with commendable promptitude and success.
I have one further matter to which I desire to call attention. It affects my own county. I do not understand the principle on which leave has been given to move cattle from an infected area into an unaffected area. It seems to me what ever the rules are, they need tightening up. Permission was given to remove a certain number of fat cattle from King's Lynn Market to Brighton. The County of Sussex is absolutely free from disease, and I cannot understand on what principle it is permissible to bring cattle from an infected area into an area totally free from disease. Fortunately the one or two infected animals that were sent were discovered in time, and were taken to the abattoir at Brighton. They were slaughtered, and sufficient time has now passed to make it pretty certain that no bad results are likely to follow. But knowing how easily the disease is spread, it does seem to me a very wrong system that allows such a transaction to occur because farmers sending their stock from the surrounding parts of Sussex to the abattoir at Brighton run great risks of the germs of the disease being brought back by the men and horses engaged in the operation. I hope the right hon. Gentleman therefore will consider the question of tightening up the regulations. How long are the Government going to continue the restrictions in areas reported free from disease? I do not think it can have been brought sufficiently to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman that very serious loss is inflicted upon people in this way. For instance, in the County of Sussex, where most of the markets are small, the owners often find themselves at the mercy of a butchers' ring and a drop of 50 per cent. in the value is the result. This is a matter of urgency so far as their interests are concerned. I think the time has arrived when my own County of Sussex should be declared free.
§ Mr. JAMES GARDINER
I join with other hon. Members in congratulating the Minister of Agriculture on the clear and explicit statement he has made on the question of foot-and-mouth disease tonight. As far as it is possible for me to judge he made no attempt to cover any- 159 thing, but gave clear and definite information as to the Board's attitude towards this dire disease. The first thing that suggests itself to me is whether we have taken full advantage of animal research. It is all very well to go back to the year 1883, and say that certain things happened then. Since that time great progress must have been made. Suggestions certainly have come from the Continent that there are cures and preventatives of foot-and-mouth disease. I do not suggest that the policy of destruction may not be the more effective policy, but some of us would like to know whether any attempt has been made in this country to test the remedies that have been suggested as cures and the articles that have been suggested as preventing the disease altogether. The policy that exempt pure-bred stock from slaughter is, in my judgment, a correct policy. It would be a fatal thing if our best bred animals, which may be but slightly affected, were subjected to slaughter, and the breeding stock thus lost to the country. I assume that the Ministry is fully alive to the necessity for continuing animal research in every possible direction, and, therefore, I hope that the sum earmarked for this purpose will be so used. In Scotland last week, I was told, rightly or wrongly, that United States cattle were being landed at Glasgow and other ports. The Minister this evening suggested that the States had killed a large number of animals, and so stamped out the disease. I do not think he will go so far as to suggest that there is no such thing as foot-and-mouth disease in the United States of America. As to Canada, that may be another question, and it is one to which I think I had better not refer to-night. So far, however, as the States are concerned, I think it is an admitted fact that there is disease there. The cattle are landed at certain ports, and the men who kill them and handle them are in constant contact with home-bred animals, and there is, to say the least of it, the possibility that disease will be carried from the States cattle to the home cattle. In my judgment this requires supervision, and possibly we may get some explanation from it.
An hon. Member told me that, when he was in an English market the other day, he was hailed by an old farmer, who said to him, "If you want to know 160 the cause of this foot-and-mouth disease, I can explain it quite easily. The moment you begin to speak about bringing in Canadian cattle, that very moment the disease comes." He had evidently satisfied himself that the reason why the disease came was the discussion of the Canadian cattle question. Another case came to my notice in Scotland, in which a local veterinary surgeon diagnosed foot - and - mouth disease, but the inspector came along and denied the fact. In a few days, however, one or two of the cattle died, and it was found that the whole herd was affected. The Minister made allowance for that. He said that some of his officials had not done their duty as well as they ought to have, but I think that this at least was one gross case in which the inspector had not the information and the knowledge that he ought to possess. My right hon. Friend the Member for Camborne (Mr. Acland) drew the Minister's attention to the present position as regards pure bred breeding stock as between this country, the Colonies and the Argentine. It is a very serious-position, and I am sure we need only appeal to the Minister to do his very best to allow these herds to be exported. The Argentine is badly in need of our stock, and so are our Colonies. The people at home are very short of food for the animals, and they are deteriorating in value. I am sure that the Minister of Agriculture will help us as much as he possibly can to get the ports open at the earliest possible moment. I would ask the Minister in his reply to inform us if there is any alternative in his mind to the killing out process, or if he thinks that any benefit is to be derived from isolation under proper conditions. I again thank him for the information he has given us to-night.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. ROYCE
I am not in a position to criticise the action of the Minister with regard to the slaughter of cattle incidental to this outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, but I do think it was hardly necessary, in an important Department such as that of agriculture, that a great calamity like this should fall upon the agricultural community of this country and find us so totally unprepared in the matter of scientific research that it is necessary to appoint, a Departmental 161 Committee just in the middle of our troubles. I do not attribute any blame to the Minister of Agriculture in that connection, but it certainly does seem to me to imply that Ministers in the past have not been sufficiently alive to the interests of the country, and that we ought, at any rate, to be prepared with the very best scientific information as to whether the policy of slaughter or the policy of isolation and cure is the best in the circumstances. I should like to ask the Minister whether at the present time store cattle are not being imported into this country from Ireland, and, if that is the case, can he not consider the great disability which areas suffer that are free from any taint of foot-and-mouth disease, and whether he could not, under proper precautions, open the markets for store cattle? At this time of year it is a most important matter. In the county of Holland, for instance, we have not had a single outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, and I would ask the Minister to consider whether, under proper precautions, by licence and otherwise, he could not permit store cattle to come into the markets. There is a very considerable demand for them. Farmers want to purchase store cattle, and the present method, although there are plenty within the area, does not give an opportunity of getting them into the markets and supplying the needs of the farmers.
In connection with the administration of the various Orders, I should like to draw the attention of the Minister to two complaints which I have received. One is from the Pendleton Co-operative Society, and they say that eight beasts, slaughtered in their abattoirs, under 96 hours' licence, were condemned for foot-and-mouth disease after slaughter. Compensation was refused by both the Minister of Agriculture and the local authority. On the other hand, all carcases condemned for the same reason at the Manchester abattoirs were the subject of compensation. They want to know the reason for this inequality of treatment. The other complaint is from Long Eaton, also from a Co-operative Society. They say that of 33 valuable milking cows, one suspect was notified to the Ministry, and the inspector ordered isolation, or slaughter by the Society if they desired it. Twenty-two other beasts were affected later, and isolation was ordered, involving 162 great expense and heavy loss by reason of the waste of milk. Two subsequently died. The premises were selected for isolation because they were modern, large sums having been spent upon them. No compensation was allowed. Other farmers were ordered to slaughter, and full compensation was paid on farms in the neighbourhood where there was no provision made for isolation. What it really means is that those progressive farmers, co-operative and other, who have made adequate provision for the isolation of cattle are being penalised in consequence and that those who are more backward, and have no facilities for isolation, receive full compensation for the cattle which it is necessary in these circumstances to slaughter. I should like the Minister to be good enough to take these two cases into consideration. I have one or two other matters which I should like to bring to the notice of the Minister. One is with regard to the grant for small holdings. I think I shall be in order in doing that.
The hon. Member is not entitled to go into that matter on this Vote. The only questions before us now are these two items for Foot-and-Mouth-Disease and Trawlers.
§ Mr. ROYCE
I shall have to save it for the right hon. Gentleman in that case. All that I have to say further in connection with the subject of foot-and-mouth disease is that I should like to join with other hon. Members in commending the Minister for his prompt action, in the absence of any other methods, but I should like him to remember that his Ministry have had many offers made to them. I know of one myself in particular, where people are prepared to pay the whole expense of testing the question of remedies for foot-and-mouth disease, and the Ministry would not, or could not, entertain the subject. Where there is so much doubt in the matter how this disease is carried it is very difficult for a layman to be very didactic on the subject, but now the trouble has assailed us the duty of the Ministry is to lose no time in 163 obtaining the very best scientific advice, and I hope the wholesale slaughter of doubtful or infected cattle will cease.
§ Mr. EDMUND TURTON
I should like, as one whose constituency has been grievously affected by the disease, to say one or two words on the subject. I desire to agree with other hon. Members in congratulating the Minister on the statements he has made, and I am certain I can join with others in saying his Department have taken every possible step to cope with this very unprecedented attack of foot-and-mouth disease. I also wish to thank him for having acceded at once to the request I made to him for a departmental inquiry into the origin and the circumstances connected with this disease, and whether in the opinion of that Committee any further powers were necessary for the Minister. I think the announcement he has made to my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman), the Chairman of the Committee, will, in itself, be a sufficient testimonial that the inquiry will be very thorough and that every single matter connected with the disease will be thoroughly brought out. It would be very unwise for us to attempt to discuss whether the disease came through flocks of birds, or whether, as some suggest, it same from Ireland, because unquestionably that is one of the matters which will have to be inquired into. With regard to the very difficult question of slaughter as against isolation, I think we are, to a certain extent, entitled to give our opinion. I was very strongly of opinion, up to a short time ago, that the only possible policy was that of ruthless and remorseless slaughter. It may be suggested that because I have a brood of shorthorns I am somewhat interested in the question, but one is almost inclined to doubt whether the policy of slaughter has not been carried somewhat too far, in view of what has taken place during the past 10 days. "We understood the reason why certain animals were allowed to be isolated was that there was no money in the chest and no more proceeds were forthcoming for the purpose of paying compensation. The right hon. Member for Camborne (Mr. Acland) has alluded to a case in Yorkshire which we both have in our minds. Those two animals, which were isolated and were kept, of course, under cover, properly tied up, the whole time, 164 are now beginning to put on flesh, and are undoubtedly far better animals than they were before they were attacked by the disease. We are continually being told in Yorkshire, by the older farmers, that time after time in their day, and in the days before them, animals which suffered from foot-and-mouth disease, and were allowed by a policy of isolation to get better, recovered the same as most of us recover from an attack of influenza. Therefore I suggest that if this, unfortunately, should go on very much longer, in certain parts where animals are affected the Minister will take counsel with some of us whether it is necessary to spend money in the slaughter of animals, and whether people whose premises are infected cannot be allowed to adopt the policy of isolation under strict supervision.
I think it will also be admitted by the Minister himself that probably he ought to be strengthened and be allowed to have further regulations. I understand he is unable to deal with the question of dogs which stray about in these affected areas. One of the greatest difficulties we have had in the North Riding of Yorkshire is with the stray dogs that come out of the villages. I went to my right hon. Friend, and he was most courteous as he always is, but he pointed out that so far as he understood what his powers were he could only order a general muzzling order. I pointed out that we were not afraid of being bitten by the dogs. We want a very drastic order from the Ministry that these stray dogs during the daytime are not to be allowed to roam at their own free will. Masters of hounds with that loyalty we should expect of them saw that it might be a source of infection and at once gave orders that all hunting must be suspended. It is a little hard, therefore, that these wandering dogs are going to be allowed to go free. Following up what the right hon. Member for Camborne said with regard to this sum of £400,000, I suppose what is going to be done is that the Exchequer contribution account will be charged with it. I want to join with my right hon. Friend in asking over what period of years will the deduction be made from the Exchequer Contribution Grants which are made to the County Council. In the past, I understand, it has been something like £9,000 a year in regard to the Diseases of Animals Act. It is going to be an 165 extremely important matter for us who have to arrange the finances and the rates of the different county councils if it is going to be done in any very large or wholesale way. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to explain exactly what is going to be the position in regard to these Exchequer Contribution Grants. I would ask him, so far as he possibly can, to recollect that the county council rates are extremely high, to a great extent owing to his agricultural policy which we have been ordered to carry out, and to let us down as easily as he possibly can. In fact I cannot help thinking it would be a very graceful act on the part of the Ministry if, instead of putting this £400,000 to the Exchequer Contribution Grants, he would come boldly to the House and ask for the full £1,000,000 to be paid out of the Imperial Exchequer and no part of it fall on the unfortunate ratepayers.
Lieut.-Colonel A. MURRAY
I think the Minister is entitled to congratulate himself on the Debate to-night, but the speech we have just heard shows the difficulties which surround this subject of foot-and-mouth. The hon. Member admitted that up to about 10 days ago he was in favour of ruthless slaughter, but that then for some reason or other he was prepared to admit that there was a good deal to be said for the policy of isolation. Of course, so long as there is foot-and-mouth so long will there be difference of opinion as to which is the best policy. I am inclined to think the right hon. Gentleman has adopted the right policy in the past in the policy of slaughter, though, of course, it is necessary that isolation should be resorted to in certain instances. In that connection I was particularly struck by what fell from the right hon. Member for Camborne (Mr. Acland) when he asked that the Minister should review the whole policy of isolation in view of the difficulty which might exist, particularly at this season of the year, from the infection carried by migratory birds. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take that point into consideration and review, the policy of isolation from that particular stand point. Then, again, reference has been made to the importance of knowing when it will be possible to send stock again to the Dominions and the Argentine and other ports. I hope the right hon Gentleman will give that matter his con- 166 sideration in order that he may inform the stock-breeding community at the earliest possible date what is to be his policy in that connection. There have been certain criticisms of the administration under the Diseases of Animals Act with reference to the foot-and-mouth disease by the officials of the Ministry of Agriculture. I should have wished, so far as Scotland is concerned, that the administration of the Diseases of Animals Act was in the hands of the Board of Agriculture for Scotland. It would be out of order to refer to that at any length to-night, but I hope to live to see the day when the English Ministry of Agriculture will have handed over to the Scottish Board the administration of the Diseases of Animals Act. I feel certain that that would meet the views of the majority of Scottish agriculturists.
It would certainly lead to better, more efficient and more economical administration of the Act.
I will not pursue that subject further. The Minister of Agriculture has drawn attention to the Committee which he is setting up under the very able Chairmanship of the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman). We welcome that Committee because we believe that prevention is better than cure. It is in that connection that I would urge the right hon. Gentleman to do all that lies in his power to further every effort that may be made on the part of private agricultural organisations to give more attention to the subject of research in animal diseases generally. There awaits a solution not only in this particular connection but in connection with the intricate question of diseases of the land, the problem of polluted pastures, and other problems of that nature. I urge the right hon. Gentleman to support any and every effort in this direction, and to give every assistance to investigators who undertake to examine these particular problems. I note with particular interest in 167 this connection the Report of the Advisory Committee on Research into Diseases of Animals, appointed by the Development Commission. That Report was issued quite recently, and it has particular reference to the subject which we are discussing to-night. The Report says:Having regard to the position held by the United Kingdom in the stock-breeding world, the facilities for research existing at the five veterinary colleges constitute a national disgrace. It is essential that a cadre of research workers should be gradually created with varying assistance from State funds.The Report goes on to draw attention to the creation in Scotland of the Scottish Animal Diseases Research Association, and the assistance already recommended by the Development Commissioner is welcomed by this Advisory Committee. They say:Whatever the fate of this particular scheme, permanent facilities on an adequate scale should be provided in Scotland.I feel sure that every English Member will agree with me that if it is advisable that assistance should be given for a research scheme such as that in Scotland, some assistance ought to be given to a similar scheme should the agricultural community in England embark upon it. The right hon. Gentleman alluded to the effect of the money spent in the United States in the slaughter of cattle infected with foot-and-mouth disease, and I feel sure he will agree with me that any money spent in assisting investigation into animal diseases of all kinds will be money well spent, and money as economically spent as any that can be devoted to the purposes of the State. I therefore hope that the right hon. Gentleman, bearing in mind the association which has been started in Scotland, will be prepared to recommend to the Development Commissioners that they should definitely state the sums that they are prepared to devote towards its assistance, and that he will give every assistance that lies in his power to any scheme of this nature that may be submitted to him in future. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his full and adequate statement, and I feel sure that those of us who are interested in this particular question will continue to give him the support necessary to carry his schemes to fruition. At the same time, 168 I hope he will review, in the light of the Debate to-night, the isolation policy to which he has alluded.
§ Mr. HINDS
I regret that it is not possible to review many of the grievances from which agriculturists are suffering at the present time, but it has been ruled that we must confine ourselves to these two questions. I note with a great amount of pleasure that it is the intention of the Minister to appoint a Select Committee to go into the question of foot-and-mouth disease. I sat on a Committee which considered this question, and at that time we had many expert witnesses and spent many weeks in finding out the sources of infection. The right hon. Member for Camborne (Mr. Acland) brought forward the theory to-night that this disease is caused by migratory birds. Looking at the evidence that was given before the Select Committee to which I have referred, I came away from that Select Committee with the feeling that the disease was caused by packing straws that came from the Continent. We found instances where packing straws had been sent in packing crates from factories to the farms and these packing cases had come from Holland and other places where the disease was rife. We traced the disease to that source. If the disease is carried by birds, it is a very singular thing that the Isle of Wight has been immune all these years. We have never heard of this disease in the Isle of Wight. I do not say that the birds may not carry the disease.
With regard to the terms of reference, I think the question of isolation rather than slaughter ought to be included. When I was a lad at home on the farm this disease affected a whole herd of cattle. Isolation was the method adopted at that time, and I do not think that we lost one single head of cattle from the disease. The policy of the Ministry in the recent outbreak has, however, been very successful, so that there is a good deal to be said for slaughter. I want to say a word with regard to notification. It is a very difficult question in Wales. One of the things we are suffering from to-day is that many large farms are far away from the towns, and the farmer does not know what the animal is suffering from for a long time. We know how this disease can float along in the air for miles and miles, then drop into a stream, and give infection to a herd of cattle 169 many miles away. The Board of Agriculture ought to do something with regard to transport in order to bring these areas into contact with the towns. They are so far away, and they suffer a great deal in this respect. I should like to add a word with regard to what has been said concerning restrictions in areas which have been immune. We have suffered a great deal this spring in connection with closed markets, and, although I know the right hon. Gentleman has done all ho can to reopen these markets, so many breeders are suffering that I would urge him to see that markets are reopened as quickly as possible so that these men do not suffer as they have suffered in the past.
§ Captain ERNEST EVANS
I should like to join in the congratulations which have been offered to the right hon. Gentleman (Sir A. Boscawen) on the way in which the Ministry have coped with this series of outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease. At the same time, I would emphasise what has already been said, that this outbreak and its whole history does show that the Ministry in the past has really not made the best of its opportunities, or, if it has, that it should have asked for further opportunities. I would like to press very much on the right hon. Gentleman the very extreme importance of his using all his influence in order to get such research as is possible on these and similar questions. Another thing I should like to impress upon him is that he should give publicity, either in connection with this Committee or in some other way, to the results of the researches his Department have already carried out with regard to the causes of the disease, the best way of preventing it, and any suggestions for curing it. It is very important that any information the Ministry have should be distributed as widely as possible in order that practical agriculturalists throughout the country who are very closely and intimately concerned in this question should, firstly, have an opportunity of knowing what the result of reasearch is, and, secondly—because here they may be able to help the right hon. Gentleman—of assisting the Ministry with other suggestions which may lead to more productive results I have risen more especially to deal with another question which, although it may seem somewhat small to this House, 170 has great importance to remote agricultural districts. My hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hinds) has already referred to one aspect of this matter. I want to ask my right hon Friend to take all possible steps to see that the various Orders and 'Regulations which he issues with regard to foot-and-mouth disease reach the remote agricultural districts. I can assure him that there are districts which at the present time they are not reaching, and this causes very great hardship. There are districts of the country which have not the blessing of newspapers, and there fore they cannot learn of these Regulations in that way—
§ Captain EVANS
Yes, even in Wales, although the people make up for that by their natural abilities. My right hon. Friend knows perfectly well that there were very many cases of this nature in connection with the claims under the Corn Production Act. Usually where there is money about the news spreads, not perhaps so much in Wales as in Scotland, but it does spread. In that case, however, despite the fact that there was money in it, the farmers either did not know what they were entitled to or did not fill up their forms in time. I acknowledge with thankfulness the many cases which my right hon. Friend dealt with when I brought them before him. He met them all with courtesy, and some with considerable satisfaction to the farmers. In some remote districts of Wales, however, it is a very serious matter. These various Orders and Regulations do not reach them, and I would ask him whether he cannot take further steps to bring his Orders and Regulations to the notice even of farmers in the remotest districts.
§ Captain ELLIOT
With regard to the present outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, I simply wish to assure the Minister that the agricultural world is behind him, and will remain behind him, in the policy of slaughter. We are determined to get the country clear as we did in the past, and we know very well, as in 1883 when it ran up to 18,000 outbreaks and the loss was enormous, that the thing can be got rid of by slaughter. We are ready to stand by him, even if the loss falls on us to a certain extent, because 171 we know this is the only method that will clear the country of the disease. We are enormously indebted, and so is the whole agricultural community of Scotland, to the right hon. Gentleman for keeping the administration of these Measures under one authority. No one with any intelligence believes that the combating of this disease is helped by divided control in the matter.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is not entitled to speak for the whole of the agricultural community in Scotland.
§ Captain ELLIOT
I admit I am not entitled to speak for the whole of the agricultural community in Scotland, but I say that in regard to the great county of Lanark I have here a resolution from the authority representing the majority of the population of any single county which simply says:The necessity for one central authority in connection with such a matter as diseases of animals is so apparent that any argument in its favour is superfluous.
§ Captain ELLIOT
That, at any rate, is the opinion of the County Council of the great county of Lanark, and the opinion of practical men in Scotland is solidly in favour of one single authority for dealing with infectious diseases.
§ Captain ELLIOT
I am entitled to my opinion, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman is entitled to his, but all I can say is that if this foolish and ridiculous nationalism that is spreading over the whole world now is to be carried into such ridiculous and trivial matters as the question whether we should have Scot land administered from Edinburgh because it suits people with fantastic and silly ideas about Scottish Home Rule— —
§ Captain ELLIOT
I am entitled to my opinion in the matter. We have seen enough of the evils that nationalism creates throughout the world. Everybody knows that this is a sop to the ridiculous ideas of nationalism.
§ Captain ELLIOT
This is perfectly in order, and I am entitled to assume that a certain section of agricultural opinion in Scotland, to put it no higher, is extremely grateful to the Minister for protecting them from the attacks of meddlers who would take the campaign against infectious disease out of the hands of the central authority and split it up into sub-boards and sub-sub-boards because it would flatter the vanity of certain nationalists. I am not disposed to agree to any such policy as that, and I am sure nobody speaking for science would do so. The microbe is international, and the means for combatting it must be international. To try to introduce boundaries in Great Britain is one of the most retrograde steps that could be taken. I am not speaking in ignorance in this matter, because the study of disease—as well as animal disease-—is a question to which I have given a certain amount of my time. With regard to the report which is now in the Minister's hands of the Diseases of Animals Commission of the Development Commission, on which I had the honour to serve for over a year, I do hope he will give it his close attention, and that he will continue, as he has done, to consider that research into disease in this country is of the highest possible value in a country which is such a great centre for stock-breeding. I hope that he will be able to continue to administer the Development Commission and the fund, not in any narrow nationalistic sense, but as he is doing now, and to spend money in Aberdeen on research into the diseases of stock animals in Great Britain, not simply for the benefit of Scotch stock breeders, but so that money spent in one part of Great Britain will, be for the benefit of stock breeders in all parts of the country.
Considering the amount of money spent on feeding animals in this country the research that has been done into the scientific fundamentals which underlie the feeding of animals, and the diseases of animals that are being fattened for slaughter, has been practically negligible so far. We have but made a beginning. So far the Geddes axe has not cut it down, and I beg the Minister to use his utmost endeavours to see that the research that 173 has been started both at Cambridge and Aberdeen shall not be starved or cut down by any false ideas of economy. I am not speaking entirely in ignorance on this matter, because I spent some years of work in the institute at Aberdeen, and we believe that the work that has been done there is paying for itself already and will go on paying for itself over and over again. There is the whole question, for instance, of the disposal of the great surplus fish catches of Aberdeen. The utilisation of fish meal in the feeding of stock in this country is, in itself and by itself, a research which would repay all the money which could be spent in connection with that one institute. This huge surplus catch used to be disposed of in the German market which we have lost since the War, and unless we find some means of dealing with it now it has to be thrown into the sea. We have worked the system in Aberdeen and in other parts of the country by which an enormously valuable catch of fish can be used in the feeding of stock. That alone would repay all the money which the Minister is spending on research into the diseases of animals.
In that and a hundred other ways scientists believe that we can show value for every 1d. that is put into research. We have delivered the goods in the past, and we can continue to deliver them again in the future. That work of research into the diseases of animals has only just commenced. I am not so much referring to mere bug hunting and bacteriology, of which too much of the research into animal diseases in the past has consisted, but to researches such as those referred to by hon. Members opposite, for instance, research into diseased land which, in Scotland alone, is a subject of vast importance. There are whole countrysides which are almost unusable in Scotland because of these diseases, which we believe can be rooted out scientifically. I suppose that it would be out of order for me to refer to the amount of money that a country like South Africa is spending on research into animal disease. A single country, where there are fewer than 1,000,000 white people, is spending on one disease alone—the tsetse—over £10,000 and, owing to their success in discovering the cause, the price of land in Bechuanaland is mounting every day, the stock is being saved 174 from the disease, and the people are able to bring under cultivation whole country-sides of grass land which previously they had been unable to use.
There are countrysides in Scotland which we believe, by research, we can bring under cultivation or, at least, make stock bearing, as has been done with these countrysides in South Africa. A great many of our ideas as to reconstructions have had to be slopped, but let us continue to depend on the value of knowledge We have lost our wealth in this country All we have left is our brains and our science. If we use these we will get back all we have lost and more. I hope that the Minister so far from being discouraged by the great expenditure that he has had to undergo in connection with animal diseases will realise that this is a case not for less expenditure, but for more expenditure, and that it would be better to have preventive expenditure of £100,000 instead of the curative expenditure which we have now of over £1,000,000. The farmers of the country are coming more and more to the realisation of the enormous and immediate importance of research, and are willing to back up the Ministry almost to any length to which it is willing to go in promoting scientific knowledge of the development of agriculture in this country.
I do not wish to intervene in this new phase of the old struggle between the highlands and lowlands of Scotland. I wish to ask a question about a Committee which is being set up. Before doing so I desire to congratulate the Minister and his Department on the way in which they have coped with this outbreak. I had not the good fortune to hear the whole of the speech of the Minister, and I am in some little doubt as to the kind of Committee which is being set up. I have heard it referred to as a Select Committee of the House, and as a Departmental Committee.
I understand that the Chairman is the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman). Part of the duty of the Committee will be to inquire into the causes of the recent outbreak. Will the inquiry include an 175 inquiry into the action of the local authorities, because some grave reflections have been made in respect to the local authority in Newcastle-on-Tyne? The Minister is probably aware that at the meeting of the Kent County Council Cattle Diseases Committee there was a quotation read from a letter which stated that had there been the slightest skilled inspection at Newcastle market, for example, the whole of this widespread outbreak might have been checked at the outset. The letter was written by a very prominent official in the Department.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
Perhaps the hon. Member will remember that I stated in this House that the quotation was from a private letter, which was never intended for publication. The whole circumstances will be inquired into.
I am not imputing to the Minister any responsibility. It is regrettable that this letter should have been published as it did acquire great publicity. People in Newcastle are sensitive about the imputation cast on their sanitary arrangements, and they are very anxious to get a very full and fair inquiry into this matter. In view of the fact that the question is really one between the Department and the local authorities, I was not sure that a Departmental Committee was the best way of getting at the truth, but since I have learned who the Chairman is to be, I think that fact is a guarantee that the local authority will get the fullest opportunity of removing this imputation from their administration and that the fullest and fairest inquiry will be made. I am glad to have had that assurance from the Minister.
§ Mrs. WINTRINGHAM
I regret I was not present when the Minister made his statement in the early part of the evening, so perhaps the question I ask is of no purpose. I will, however, ask it. Will the right hon. Gentleman explain the item N. under Appropriations-in-Aid, "Experiments in fruit preserving, and other items"? I know that during the War facilities were given to encourage the drying and preserving and bottling of fruit in the villages. There was much criticism at the time. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to explain how this money is forthcoming. I know what great advantage was gained from the scheme.
§ Lieut-Commander KENWORTHY
I wish to ask a question or two about the trawler scheme. Before doing so, I would make a protest against the way the Supplementary Estimate is presented. I do not know that the Minister is responsible. It looks to me as if this form of presenting Supplementary Estimates is an attempt to hide the fact that whether for good or ill purposes a very large sum of money, about £750,000, is being expended. We are asked to vote only £10 because of "anticipated savings under other Subheads." These are anticipated savings which will appear in next year's financial Estimates, and will thus appear twice over, and although the trawler scheme has led to a loss of £250,000, an attempt is being made to cover that up, and to pretend that we are asking for only £10. It is another example of the loose financial methods to which we are accustomed. If there is any other explanation, perhaps we could have it.
I wish to ask a question or two about the employment of trawlers. I feel very acutely in this matter. A tremendous lot of fishermen returned from mine-sweeping and convoy work to find their places taken and no employment for them after the War. The Government started a scheme for using the surrendered German trawlers and the converted British mine-sweeping trawlers and drifters used for submarine hunting and so on, and letting them out to fishermen on suitable terms. These men were to run the trawlers and drifters in England on the same lines as Scottish fishermen have for generations run their fishing vessels in the North of Scotland, on a sort of family co-operative scheme—quite a sound scheme, in which each man owns a share of the boat. The Minister approached various Members in this House, including myself, and asked us to push the scheme in our constituencies. I am always ready to help the Government, especially in anything good, and I went down to my constituency and addressed some meetings on this very point. I found the fishermen rather sticky. They were afraid. They did not like risking their War gratuities in the scheme. They were afraid of too much control by the Government, and were particularly afraid of Admiralty control. They thought they would be compulsorily enrolled in the Reserve and that sort of thing. We did our best in Hull to get the men to invest their savings in 177 these trawlers, and we hoped the scheme would become self-supporting. Now the whole thing seems to have fallen through. What has happened? We are asked here for £245,000, being the losses, apparently, and there is an Appropriation-in-Aid which is mixed up with fruit preserving and other items, and we do not know what the Appropriation-in-Aid will be for trawlers. The fact is that the scheme has gone to pieces.
There were certain wise heads in the fishing trade who always said it would go to pieces, and there were other people, rather jealous of the idea, who thought the men would get specially favourable terms and that a sort of subsidised fishing industry would be started to compete with private enterprise. The fact remains that this scheme has not succeeded. Is this the last commitment that we shall be- called upon to face? Has the scheme definitely failed or are we carrying on with it? What are the main causes of the failure? Of course, the industry has gone through a bad time for months. There has been a glut of fish. Reference has been made to the loss of the German market. Owing to the restriction of the export of fish during the War the Latin countries are now taking salt fish from other sources. This scheme, therefore, was started at a bad time. In addition to that it is stated by some of the men who went into the scheme and risked everything, and now find themselves in a rotten concern, that they could not get ice and coal, especially ice, and the owners say that they have their capital in the ice-making concerns, that there is not enough ice to go round, and that they are entitled to the first call on the plant. The Government ought to have looked into that in the first instance instead of, as it were, going off at the deep end, partly, I believe, with the idea of giving employment to a number of extra bureaucrats. I do not pretend to know the why and the wherefore of this scheme failing, and I ask for such explanation as can be given. I think the scheme was thoroughly sound at its inception, but that the administration or the lack of foresight, or lack of support from the men themselves, has led to failure. This is not the first payment that we have been asked to make.
§ Mr. TOWNLEY
I do not propose to follow the last speaker on the subject of 178 trawling, beyond expressing the hope that if he catches fish so successfully, and it can be utilised for cattle food, that will be a very welcome addition to the food supplies of cattle farmers throughout the country. This Debate has gone chiefly on whether slaughter or isolation is the better method of dealing with foot-and-mouth disease. An hon. Member alluded to the fact that it was supposed to be beneficial to cattle to have foot-and-mouth disease, and that they did so much better afterwards than before. That will hardly cause much fear in the breasts of cake merchants and others. It takes so long for cattle to recover status after an attack that we can rule that out. At the same time, it is a dangerous side track which may attract the attention of the unwary. I would remind the Minister that a short time ago he did me the honour, as Chairman of the Central Chamber of Agriculture, to call a meeting in order that he might put his policy before it. The meeting consisted of the Central Chamber, of representatives of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, of members of the Central Landowners' Association, of other bodies, and of a considerable number of Members of this House who are interested in agriculture. They were extremely pleased with the Minister for coming to that meeting and addressing them, and they impressed upon him how cordially they supported him in the policy of slaughter. We say it is the one policy which will stamp out this disease, although we fully recognise that the financial state of the country, at some time, may be such as will prevent that policy being carried out in its entirety.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
May I ask my right hon. Friend before he replies if he can give us some information as to the Appropriations-in-Aid which appear at the end of the Paper? It is stated that additional receipts are expected from the employment of trawlers, from experimental fruit preserving, and from other items amounting to £199,990. Can he inform the Committee how much he is to get from the fruit preserving experiments?
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
I will answer that question at once. Of the Appropriations-in-Aid, amounting to £199,000 odd, £190,000 is in respect of receipts from trawlers, with which I dealt when I introduced the Estimate. The greater part of 179 the balance is in respect of the fruit preserving experimental stations. That really answers the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut. Commander Ken-worthy), who, after charging us with loose finance, proceeded to say that we had lost £245,000 on running trawlers. That was a very loose statement, because as a matter of fact we only lost £55,000, which is rather different from £240,000. As regards this particular Admiralty scheme for the ex-service men, I did not wish to interrupt the hon. and gallant Member, but as a matter of fact it has absolutely nothing to do with this particular vote. It is an Admiralty scheme quite part from the Ministry of Agriculture, and I have nothing whatever to do with it As far as I can make out from the hon. and gallant Member's own statement, it was a thoroughly sound scheme to begin with. He advocated it in Hull, and after that it came to grief.
§ 10.0 P.M.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
You must ask the Admiralty about it, I cannot tell you. Regarding the Debate generally, I am much indebted to the Committee for the exceedingly kind manner in which they have received this demand for a large additional sum, especially for dealing with foot-and-mouth disease and for the general support which the policy of the Ministry has received. My hon. Friend the Member for East Grinstead (Mr. Cautley) asked on what principle did we decide upon the policy we were going to pursue. I confess this was a totally unprecedented state of affairs. For years past Ministers of Agriculture adopted a policy of slaughter, which was the established policy to deal with isolated cases. An outbreak would occur, a circle was drawn around that place, movement was stopped within that area, slaughter took place, and, as I have said, the average cost was £9,000 a year. I found myself suddenly confronted by a situation without precedent. No Board and no Minister had ever been faced with such a situation before. I felt the only thing I could do was to carry out the policy of protecting the flocks and herds of the country in the best way I could. As the hon. Member for Mid Bedford (Mr. Townley) has said, I did the best I could to 180 obtain agricultural advice. I consulted the Central Chamber, I summoned two special meetings of the Advisory Committee of the Ministry of Agriculture and I gathered that the general consensus of opinion was that we must carry out the slaughter policy and stamp out this disease at almost any cost. I am glad to say, when I conveyed that advice to my colleagues in the Government, they were prepared to support me in the policy. At the same time I recognise there were certain limits beyond which we could not go. For example, had the disease become absolutely epidemic, if it were spreading from farm to farm and going through the country like a wave of influenza, obviously the slaughter policy would fail. If, on the other hand, we pretty well traced the outbreak to common sources or common origins, then we were justified in going on with the slaughter policy. There was a further limitation. I recognised from the first that we must not destroy our splendid pedigree flocks and herds, if it were possible to save them by isolation. There were two reasons for this. First we did not want to destroy the pedigree herds which have made this country practically the stud farm of the world, and secondly the cost in compensation in the case of pedigree herds would be extraordinarily large. Then, after advice, I agreed that the policy of isolation might be extended in other cases where we could do it with safety. One test which I always put and which my officers have carried out is this: Can we isolate on this farm or in these buildings, even in the case of non-pedigree animals, in such a manner that there is no practical fear of the spread of disease?
My right hon. Friend the Member for Camborne (Mr. Acland) asked whether in those cases the animals are all confined to buildings? The answer is that in nearly every case they are. There have been one or two cases where, for example, sheep have been isolated outside, and some cattle have been isolated in fields of a limited area right away from other animals and from country roads. I realise that you are running the risk of birds or dogs carrying the infection. Whatever you do, you must run some risk, and we have tried to minimise that risk to the utmost of our ability. My right hon. Friend also asked, in this connection, whether isolation will not, to some extent, lengthen the period 181 during which the restriction's will remain in force? That is true, but that would have been the case even if I had confined isolation to the case of pedigree herds.
As regards the restrictions generally, may I tell the Committee the principle upon which we have acted? When the disease was at its height, as a precaution we felt it necessary to schedule the whole country, and to refuse to allow any movement whatever. We imposed what is called a standstill order all over the country. The result of that was that we were able to confine the disease within certain more or less limited areas, and great parts of the country, for example, practically the whole of Wales, the whole South and West of England, and the whole of North-East Scotland has been kept entirely free of the disease. We have liberated from control all those areas, and as the area of infection gradually contracts—as I am glad to say it has been doing—we intend by degrees to reduce in size these areas, and to free as quickly as possible the areas now subject to restriction. If I am asked how long it will take to remove the restrictions altogether, it is impossible to answer. We have two different classes of areas First, those which we call infected, where the disease is worst. Practically no movement is allowed there, and even such things as dispersal sales are forbidden in those areas. We have other areas where the restrictions are of a minor character and are easier to get over, where, indeed, movement is permitted by means of licence from the local authority. My hon. Friend the Member for East Grinstead asked a question as to the conditions under which these licences for movement were granted. They are granted in all cases by the local authority which receives the animals. Of course, it would be quite impossible for any central body to control movement all over the country. It must depend on the local authority, and the local authority responsible is the authority which is willing or unwilling to receive the animal. In the case of the outbreak at Brighton, I am aware that animals were allowed to go there.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
Yes, but it was the Brighton authority that gave the permission to move. Fortunately, there has been no extension there, and we were 182 able to deal with the question at once, but that is one of the very questions that should be gone into by the new Committee—the relations between the central authority and the local authorities, how far the local authorities have been able adequately to do their duty on the present occasion, and if further powers ought to be granted to the local authorities. In that connection I am glad to assure my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Newcastle (Major Barnes) that the question of what occurred in Newcastle will be thoroughly investigated by the Committee without any prejudice, and the fact that a private letter expressing the opinion of one of my officers was published was a regrettable incident for which neither he nor I was responsible. My right hon. Friend the Member for Camborne asked me two other questions. He asked how that money is going to be dealt with. Well, we propose to pay into the Local Taxation Account in this financial year this additional sum of £400,000, and we propose that for this year £250,000 shall be taken out of the Local Taxation Account, and in the coming year up to £250,000, that is to say that whatever is the correct figure representing half the cost of the outbreak will be taken out of the Local Taxation Account.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
If it cost more than £1,000,000, I should have to reconsider the position, and perhaps come to the House for a further Vote, but I cannot speak definitely about that at the present moment. If £250,000 is taken out of the Local Taxation Account this year and a similar sum next year, that will mean that the Account will be reduced by about one thirty-second of its total amount, and the resulting charge on the rates will be about a farthing in the pound. I do not think, having regard to the magnitude of the danger, that that is a very serious charge to place upon the rates of this country. My right hon. friend asked me also about prosecutions and actions taken at law with regard to people who did not notify having the disease on their premises, and who really contributed to its spread by not informing the Ministry. We do not intend 183 that there should be any undue delay in dealing with these cases. One case already has been dealt with and a fine imposed, and wherever we have found that there has been serious carelessness of that sort we shall deal drastically with the matter. My right hon. Friend and many other hon. Members, including the hon. and gallant Member for Lanark (Captain Elliot) and the hon. Member for Cardigan (Captain Evans), have spoken about research and the necessity of obtaining all possible knowledge of the disease. The position with regard to research is this. My right hon. Friend the late Minister of Agriculture appointed a Committee of scientific experts to investigate this matter about a year and a half ago. They embarked upon investigations, they had a ship in the North Sea with cases of infection on board, they tried in every way to ascertain the cause of the disease and how it was spread, and they tried to discover the bacillus, but apparently it is a very small animal and a very elusive thing, and it appears to have got through any sieve they could provide, and their investigations came to nought. In fact, they wrote and informed me, some months ago now, that they had made no progress, and they proposed therefore that the investigation should come to an end, as they could make no headway whatever.
Under those circumstances. I felt that I could not require them to continue their investigations, but, in view of what has happened since, it is perfectly clear that we cannot leave the matter there, and I think the better plan would be not to have an investigation confined to this country only, but to try and do something on international lines. After all, we do not know much about the disease here. One of my hon. Friends from Wales said that most of the farmers did not know the disease when they saw it. That at all events is a great tribute to the success attending our efforts in stamping it out in the past, but we do not know very much about it here, and on the Continent they always have it. The plan that I am suggesting now—and I am taking steps to get it carried through the Foreign Office-is that we should undertake some kind of international inquiry, with people in France, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, and other countries, where they may have 184 better opportunities of studying the disease.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
One hon. Member objected that the Ministry of Agriculture had been unwilling to make tests of various serums and "cures" which have been suggested to us in the last few weeks. I have had hundreds of remedies suggested, and I have been asked by all kinds of people to carry out tests, but what would carrying out tests mean in this country? It would mean that we should have to keep the disease going in order that the various remedies might be tried, and, in view of the difficulties we have had in stamping it out on this and other occasions, I am not prepared to do that. I much prefer that these experiments should be carried out in countries abroad where they always have the disease; but I can assure the Committee that I feel very strongly that more science is wanted, that we must, if we can, carry out this international inquiry, and I go further. I think in the whole matter of animal diseases there is a great deal more to be learned, and I hope that part of the money voted for education and research, and a substantial part, at the time of the repeal of the Corn Production Acts may be devoted to carrying out some big scheme of animal pathology, which I think is badly needed in this country. I will not go into the acrimonious discussion between various Scottish Members as to whether there should be one or two authorities, except to say this: while I yield to nobody in my respect for Scottish institutions, I regard foot-and-mouth disease as one front, and you must have unity of command, and I think a division of command would mean failure. As a matter of fact, at the very outset of this outbreak, I put myself into close touch with the Scottish Office. On the Advisory Committee of the Ministry, which has been advising me, there are two Scottish representatives, and there will be two Scottish members on the new Departmental Committee. Therefore, we have endeavoured to take Scottish opinion along with us. Speaking generally, I feel that, under very difficult circumstances, we have endeavoured to stamp out this disease, and our efforts have not been unsuccessful. In the light of our present 185 knowledge, we must continue this policy of stamping out, and keeping the country clear, if we can. If we can only discover how the disease originates, and how it spreads, we may be able to resort to better methods in the future, but, for the time being, I hope the Committee will give me this Vote.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
I beg pardon; I thought I had. There is a place we started during the War for experimentation with fruit preserving in Gloucestershire. It has been, on the whole, very successful, and the receipts have been above what we budgetted for at the beginning of the year.
§ Captain ELLIOT
May I express a hope that research on international lines will not be limited to a narrow front, but will keep in mind the extraordinary value of the flank attack in science, as in war, as, for instance, Dr. Eagle Clark, on the migration of birds, and to remember that often by disconnected avenues you do eventually find the path? Bacteriological investigations merely on pathological lines are very often unfruitful, whereas by wider research, say in Heligoland, you find a key to the whole problem which baffles the scientist. It is in little things that the key may be lying hid. It is well not to take too narrow a view, but to take a wide view of research in a subject which has been so puzzling and baffling as this foot-and-mouth disease.
I rather gathered from the Minister that this international inquiry was to be confined to foot-and-mouth disease; or was it to include the subject of animal diseases generally?
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
So far as the international inquiry goes, I propose to make it specifically on foot-and-mouth disease. Apart from that altogether, I hope we may start some institution of research into animal diseases in this country, which I think very desirable.
I hope in that connection the Minister will bear in mind the value of private effort—
—as that brings the agricultural community directly into taking a real interest in the whole subject.
§ Mr. A. HERBERT
If the right hon. Gentleman is going to have an inquiry into agricultural affairs and the diseases of animals, I wonder if he will possibly extend the scope of that inquiry into the question of prices and combines?
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
I really think we had better take one thing at a time. The specific thing is foot-and-mouth disease. That is the great trouble with which we have had to deal in the last few weeks.
§ Mr. LYLE-SAMUEL
Foot-and-mouth disease at the moment is an acute problem, but the question of tuberculosis in cattle—