§ Order for Second Reading read.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Bill be now read a Second time."—[Sir Arthur Boscawen.]
The MINISTER of AGRICULTURE (Sir A. Boscawen)
May I appeal to the House to let me have this Bill? It raises purely a technical point. The House has already passed a Supplementary Vote to enable us, by an additional £400,000, to stamp out foot-and-mouth disease. By the Diseases of Animals Act, 1894, we are only allowed to spend in one year £140,000. In order, therefore, that this Vote, which has already been considered by the House, and passed on two occasions, may be put technically in a right position, we put the matter forward. We cannot do all that is necessary with only £140,000. The Bill only applies to this particular financial year, and as it raises no material point that we have not already settled, I hope the House will allow me to get it.
§ Mr. ACLAND
Is it possible, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to debate this matter after Eleven o'clock, even if no objection be taken, or must it be passed without debate.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)
If no objection be taken, it may be proceeded with by consent of the House, and remarks may be allowed.
§ Sir R. COOPER
I am very sorry my right hon. Friend has taken up the attitude he has just expressed to the House. As he has done so, it leaves me no alternative, in order to put myself quite in order, to move the Motion standing in my name for the rejection of the Bill.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
I understand, by your ruling Sir, that by consent of the House, remarks can be made on the Bill. I shall be only too glad to answer any questions that hon. Members may desire 1491 to put, but I hope there will be no insistence upon us not getting the Bill.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
Is there any reason why this Bill should not be put oft till to-morrow, or the next day? The Government seem to be getting into the habit of bringing in these Bills after Eleven o'clock, and asking hon. Members not to object to them.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
I appeal to my hon. and learned Friend. Had we not already debated this question, our contention would be unreasonable. This Bill merely removes the technical objection, because, unless the Bill is passed to-night, the money Vote cannot be effective.
§ Sir A. COOPER
My whole desire is to help the right hon. Gentleman and the Government to get this Bill. I shall confine myself briefly to two points. The first has reference to the appointment by the right hon. Gentleman of a Departmental Committee to inquire why this foot-and-mouth disease came and spread over the country. I want to suggest, particularly having read the speech of the right hon. Gentleman of Monday week, that there might be some wisdom if he somewhat extended the terms of reference, so as to enable this Committee, which, so far as I can judge, is composed of particularly capable men, whilst they are at their work, to have the opportunity of advising the Government and the Ministry of Agriculture on the other problem of scientific research, with which the right hon. Gentleman dealt at length on Monday week. I understand that at present this Committee is confined very closely to the particular object of ascertaining why this spread of the disease came about, and of making recommendations. It would be an advantage if they could go a little bit further. My other point has reference to something that has happened since the Debate of last Monday week, and that is the issuing of the Order dated the 23rd March. I quite understand that there has been a suggestion made that the importation of Irish cattle for grazing in this country would shortly be permitted, and this Order puts that suggestion into actual force. I want to express my own misgivings at the action which the right hon. Gentleman has taken. The right hon. Gentleman has been very firm in 1492 sticking to the one and the only policy that could save this country from an enormous loss with regard to the livestock industry, and now that he has the disease under control so well to allow the practically free importation of Irish cattle for grazing in this country is a very dangerous and risky step which I do not think the Government is justified in taking. We have everything to gain by encouraging the breeding of stock in Ireland and its export to this country, because we want it for our supplies, but that result will not be brought about if the cattle are only sent to slaughter and not allowed to be spread all over the country. I think it is a bad precedent to put in this proviso of local option, allowing those local authorities administering the Diseases of Animals Act to have the option of forbidding the entry of these cattle in their areas—
I understand that my hon. Friend is moving his Motion. I would like to know, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if it is not a fact that he is simply speaking by the consent of the House?
§ Sir R. COOPER
That is so. I am trying to help the Government, and I ask the hon. Member to allow me to finish. My last point is that I do think this action is likely to raise a very undesirable and confusing situation if certain local authorities pass a regulation forbidding Irish cattle being moved into their area whilst they may be moved into the other areas around. The right hon. Gentleman ought to consider carefully as to whether that permission is wise, and whether it is not really his duty to make up his mind—he has scientific and technical advisers to inform his what is right—and act, and either allow young cattle to come in or not allow any local authorities to have the option of contracting out.
§ Mr. ACLAND
I hope the House will let the right hon. Gentleman get this stage of the Bill to-night. I feel very strongly about one matter. I am intensely anxious about the partial aban- 1493 donment by the Government of the policy of slaughter in favour of the policy of isolation. Isolation, not in a building but in open fields, must be dangerous, particularly at this time of the year, when high winds prevail, as saliva from diseased animals may be diffused by migratory birds and animals. After all, the only absolutely safe policy is the old and tried policy of slaughter.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall (Sir R. Cooper) has asked about the Departmental Committee. This is not an expert or technical inquiry; it is an inquiry into the question of the origin of the outbreak and the methods employed to cope with it; also to make suggestions for any necessary change in the law. I have put on that Committee a number of practical men. As to the scientific side of the question, I think it would be better for that to be dealt with by an inquiry on international limes, and I am prepared to have such an inquiry if desired as well as the departmental investigation. In regard to the Order about Irish store cattle, we have had no evidence whatever that disease exists in Ireland: on the contrary, the evidence is all the other way. A lot of Irish animals have been brought over to this country and after being kept at the ports for some days have been slaughtered, and in no single case has disease been discovered. If there had been disease in Ireland it must have been disclosed in some of these animals. There might be great danger if Irish animals coming here were driven from market to market in the ordinary course of trade, therefore, in order that we may get the stores for our pasturages, for which the farmers are calling, I have agreed that Irish store cattle may come here. But they must be sold at the port of debarkation and then licensed direct from the port to the farmer and be kept for 28 days on the farm. Therefore, while allowing these animals to come in from a country in which it is believed no disease exists, I have eliminated any possible danger of the beasts spreading disease in this country by being driven from market to market.
I hope, therefore, in the very difficult problem with which I have had to deal and in the attempt to meet the demands of the farmers for store cattle, I have 1494 adopted reasonable precautions to prevent any danger of the spread of disease. On the question of the local authorities having the right to admit or refuse admission into their areas of store cattle, there is nothing new in that. They have always had this power. If a particular town says, "We do not want the store cattle here; we are suspicious of the Irish stores," it is not for the Board of Agriculture to deprive them of the power to refuse them, which they now have. If, on the other hand, there is a demand for stores in a county and the local authorities think it safe to have the animals, then they can be imported subject to the conditions I have mentioned. With regard to what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambourne (Mr. Acland), slaughter has been carried out in this country merely for the purpose of stopping the spread of disease. Whether we slaughter or not is optional on the part of the Ministry, but in order to save expense and to avoid slaughtering an undue number of animals in this country I have laid it down that where they can be safely isolated, isolation shall be adopted in preference to slaughter. It has been done in about 50 cases. I have always told my officials that in a matter of this sort their motto must be "Safety first," and I have never agreed to any single ease of isolation unless my technical advisers have informed me it can be safely done. I am quite willing to go further into the matter with my technical advisers on the point mentioned by my right hon. Friend. Where there are cases of isolation in open fields there may be additional danger. I would certainly discuss that with my advisers to-morrow, but in that matter, as I do not pretend to be a technical expert myself, I must be guided—as long as I lay down the principle, which is Safety first—by my technical advisers in whom I have the greatest confidence.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON rose—
§ Sir R. COOPER
May I ask whether by allowing me to speak the House has not agreed to the Bill being taken?—[HON MEMBERS: "No!"]
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The House allowed the hon. Baronet to speak, but it was in the power of any hon. Member at any time to bring the remarks to an end.
§ It being after Eleven of the Clock, and objection being taken to further Proceeding, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.1496
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
§ It being after Half-past Eleven of the Cloak, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.
§ Adjourned at Seven Minutes before Twelve o'Clock.