HL Deb 22 February 1866 vol 181 cc888-91

, pursuant to notice, asked Her Majesty's Government, Whether the Local Authorities established under the Orders in Council still exist and will continue until the new local authorities, under the Cattle Diseases Act, are constituted? His Question meant, in other words, whether the Act which received the Royal Assent on Tuesday last abrogated the powers of the local authorities created under the Orders in Council issued by virtue of the Act of 1848. The agricultural world was in a state of the greatest uncertainty on these points. In Scotland considerable time must elapse before the new authorities could be constituted. First, ten days' notice was required; and then, after the Commissioners of Supply met, they had to nominate a number of their body, and the names thus nominated must be sent to the lord-lieutenant, wherever he may happen to be, for approval. The lord-lieutenant then had to find out in the best way he could who were the tenant-farmers to be nominated by him to join this irresponsible body—irresponsible they were, because when once appointed they could not be removed. After the lord-lieutenant had nominated the tenant - farmers not one could be removed, however inefficient and incapable he might be found. Nor was there any power given in the Act to fill up vacancies that might occur from time to time. Never was there a public body so constituted, nor an Act of Parliament so loosely drawn. He had also to ask, whether the Act of 1848, 11 & 12 Vict. c. 105, has been repealed by the Act passed this Session, or whether it was only in abeyance; and, if so, what portions of the same Act could be put in force? There was the greatest confusion on this subject both in England and Scotland.


would first remind his noble Friend opposite that, although bound to support the Government measure, he had been quite willing to accept the Amendment of his noble Friend, retaining the local authorities as originally constituted. He apprehended that the old local authority, established under the Orders in Council, was by no means extinguished until the new body actually came into existence; and with regard to the interval of time which must elapse, he pointed to the words in the first line of Clause 5 "as soon as conveniently may be after the passing of this Act." With regard to the continued validity of the orders of the old local authority, the 32nd clause of the Act provides that they Shall, so far as consistent with this Act, remain in full force until they are revoked or have expired by lapse of time. The 11 & 12 Vict. certainly was not repealed by the late Act, and only three days ago an Order in Council had been issued under its provision with regard to the outbreak of smallpox among sheep. In one respect, however, there would be a serious interregnum under the recent Act if measures were not taken by the Government before the 1st of March. The Act passed the other day gave full powers as to slaughtering and disinfection, but contained no provisions in reference to matters such as excluding town manure from districts previously healthy. The Bill as originally drawn by the Government contained provisions on all those points; but it was cut in two in the other House, and the first half had been passed by their Lordships without alteration. If the second portion should be sent up to that House in time to be passed before the 1st of March, no difficulty need arise, as the Government, of course, could introduce clauses upon the point. If not, it would be necessary to renew the Order in Council; and he believed public opinion was fast tending towards the conclusion that it was by these after all that the difficulty could best be met.


said, only a week now intervened before the 1st of March, the period to which reference had been made by the noble Duke. He thought it most important that some intimation should be given at once by the Government to traders and farmers, as to whether the markets would probably be open at the time named in the first instance, or whether they were to look forward to the renewal of restrictions for a limited time. He hoped the measure which it was stated was about to be submitted to them would be in a shape intelligible to all, and not form such a specimen of crude legislation as that which they had recently been led to adopt, and which must give rise to extreme difficulties all over the country. Thinking, then, that those interested in the disposition of cattle should be relieved at once from the uncertainty in which they were at present placed with regard to the course they had to pursue during the next few days, he strongly urged Her Majesty's Government to take the subject of his remarks into their early and serious consideration.


concurred with the noble Duke as to the importance of the subject he had introduced to their Lordships' notice, and hoped the Government would consider whether the Orders in Council should not be renewed.


remarked that it would not do to continue the Orders in Council for too long a period, or the new Acts of Parliament would only be in force for a few days. Even if the Cattle Plague Bill passed the House of Commons tonight, and their Lordships sat on Saturday, it would be inexpedient, in his opinion, with so little notice, to consider so important a measure until Monday. Then, as Amendments would doubtless be made by their Lordships, it would have to be sent back to the Commons, and thus it could not receive the Royal Assent before Wednesday. But the sittings of the quarter sessions were fixed for Monday, and many of their Lordships would think it their duty to attend them. In that case it would be inconvenient for them to attend to consider the Bill on Monday; and he therefore thought they would come better prepared if the Government were to fix Tuesday for the Cattle Plague Bill, and continue the Orders in Council in operation for four or five days.


also counselled delay. It was impossible fairly to consider the Bill in so short a time as he feared the Government would propose. It was imperatively necessary that the whole subject should be dealt with calmly and deliberately, even if it lessened the period of its duration by some days. It certainly should not be introduced before Tuesday, as their Lordships would not otherwise have time to go over it in as careful a manner as it deserved.


thought the Bill demanded their best attention, so that when it became law it should not be found to contain the inconsistencies which he was sure the Cattle Diseases Bill would. At the same time, he was sorry to see the matter postponed.


said, it was of the utmost importance that the provisions of the next Bill should be dis- cussed quietly and calmly, and he trusted that the House would he afforded the opportunity of fully considering them.


hoped it would be distinctly stated whether the Orders in Council would be renewed.


said, that the most serious attention of the Government was being given to the whole subject, and every care would be taken against any difficulty arising between the period for the expiration of the old Orders in Council and that for the new ones coming into operation.


remarked that if the Bill were delayed beyond the 1st of March it would be necessary that some measure should be adopted by the Government to bridge over the intervening period.