HL Deb 21 May 1867 vol 187 cc864-73

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, it had been brought in for the purpose of continuing the Act relating to contagious diseases in animals, which would expire during the present year, and also for the purpose of introducing some further provisions into that Act which experience showed to be requisite and desirable. In asking their Lordships' consent to the second reading of the Bill, he must remind them of the legislation which had already taken place upon this subject. Parliament had had to cope with a mysterious and fatal disease, which, during last year and the year preceding, had made most fearful ravages among the cattle in this country; and early last Session their Lordships had been called upon to consider the state of the law as regarded the powers which were in the hands of the Government for arresting and for employing remedies for that disease. Their Lordships would also recollect how great were the difficulties they had experienced in introducing efficient remedies for coping with that which was a great national calamity. It was first of all thought that a large measure might be proposed to receive the sanction of both Houses, and that in that measure might be introduced such provisions as would enable Parliament to meet the emergencies as they arose. But it was found on experiment that though very excellent provisions might be framed, yet in their application there would be so much difficulty, affecting as they did such varied interests in the country, that it would be impossible to legislate by Act of Parliament for emergencies as they arose, and that it would be more desirable on all accounts to give powers to the Privy Council to frame orders and regulations as they might be necessary to meet emergencies. It might not be without interest to know that the course forced on them by the necessity of circumstances was the same as that adopted by Parliament above 100 years ago. He found that in 1745, when cattle plague broke out in this country, and continued it ravages for eleven or twelve years, Parliament being met together and called on to consider the measures that should be adopted, various Resolutions were passed and a Bill was brought in founded upon them. Powers were given to magistrates to order the slaughter of diseased cattle, and clauses were added in Committee to empower justices in quarter sessions to grant licences for collections for the immediate relief of "poor sufferers" by the distemper, and to enable the King to lay a penalty on the importers of raw hides. Considerable discussion then took place as to a clause which was proposed to prevent driving infected cattle from one county into another. A division was taken upon the adjournment, which was carried by 57 to 44. This seems to have decided the fate of the Bill; for on the same day a second Bill was introduced— To enable His Majesty to make rules, orders, and regulations more effectually to prevent the spreading of the distemper which now rages among horned cattle in this kingdom. This Bill was passed with the utmost expedition through both Houses, and received the Royal Assent on the 13th of February. It was rather a remarkable circumstance that about 120 years after that event the very same course should have been taken by Parliament. Finding the impossibility of introducing a satisfactory measure, the attempt was abandoned, and power was given to the Privy Council to deal with cases as they arose. He need not remind their Lordships of the Act passed last year. Its principal feature was to order the slaughter of all diseased animals; following that Act various Orders in Council had been passed from time to time, so that they now numbered upwards of 140. All of these related to contagious diseases; 132 related to cattle plague; and of these fifty-eight Orders, or parts of Orders, were still in force. That was the state of the case at present as regarded Orders in Council. These Orders in Council, in conjunction with the enactment ordering the slaughtering of diseased animals, had produced a most favourable and beneficial effect. As regards slaughtering of animals, the results had been most re- markable. The Cattle Plague Commissioners stated in their third Report— The Act authorizing slaughter came into force on the 20th of February, and, as will be seen, the diminution in the number of attacks in successive weeks was not only coincident with the action of the new restrictive measures, but runs a course closely parallel to the operation of the most important of those measures—slaughter. Taking Yorkshire as a fair indication of the success of these measures, it was found that on the 6th of January, 1866, there were 2,023 fresh attacks; that number continued varying to the 18th of February, when it was 1,836; but after the Act the number fell, on the 3rd of March, to 1,193, and on the 7th of April there were only 330 attacks. He could not omit the opportunity of doing justice to the wisdom of the Commissioners who were appointed to investigate this subject as to their recommendations for the slaughtering of animals—particularly as on one occasion he had taken a contrary view. He must confess that the view he then took had been proved by the event to be erroneous, and no measure, under Providence, could have been more successful in stopping the progress of the disease than slaughtering the cattle. Having referred to what had been done in former times with regard to the outbreaks of cattle plague, it was curious to find that in 1771 the practice of slaughtering had been employed with marked success. The cattle plague broke out in 1745; in 1771 there was a fresh attack, and by adopting the strong measure of slaughtering the cattle attacked, it was put a stop to. He held in his hand a letter written by Dr. Layard to M. Gamier, Charge d'Affaires in France, from which he would read, with their Lordships' permission, a somewhat long extract— Inasmuch as at the end of the year 1769 and in the spring of 1770 this disease appeared in the county of Southampton in England, and in the county of Banff in Scotland, where it had spread through the medium of infected skins and ballots of straw for packing purposes also infected, the English Government ordered that wherever this disease evinced itself the magistrates, called the justices of the peace, should assemble and immediately cause all the cattle on the premises to be valued, the healthy as well as the diseased, and to be killed without any bloodshedding, and to be buried about six feet deep, without slashing their skins, as was the former practice; taking care, by means of stakes driven into the ground by the side of the carcass in such a manner that the dead animal should be fastened in the pit so that it could not be removed; then, having completely covered it with the earth, and having stamped the earth down with the rammer, to have sentinels posted there to watch for several days, in order that the peasants or others may not in any way disinter the carcasses for the purpose of obtaining the skins. The reason why they no longer slash the skins is from fear of the purulent matter of the abscesses flowing from the incisions, the vapour of which abscesses infects the air and the clothes of the assistants; and, through the medium of dogs and certain substances, equally communicates the disease to neighbouring cattle. Care is taken at a certain distance from the contagion to separate the healthy beasts, and to place them in remote pastures, forbidding them to be restored without permission to do so. It has also been forbidden to convey them there from an infected place, and if it is discovered that they have passed by such a place in spite of the order they are pursued, as actually happened in the county of Surrey, and, without awaiting the slightest symptom or the permission of the owner, they are all killed on the very spot where they have been caught. By such means the English Government have put an end to that cruel disease which threw the whole nation in the greatest confusion, and incited the King and his Government as much as the subjects to neglect nothing in freeing themselves from it. Providence permitted that at a small expense, below £2,000, a disease which had cost the English nation between 1774 and 1756 £212,400 odd should be seen to disappear entirely. The other Orders in Council related to the movement of cattle; and it was, perhaps, hardly known to what extent the benefit derived from them had gone. The regulations connected with the movement of cattle were intended to affect merely cases of cattle plague; but the incidental benefit which arose from them had been very great indeed, not only with reference to the cattle plague but to other diseases most fatal in former years, which had now almost disappeared. It had been supposed that cattle plague was the most destructive disease that could visit the country; but pleuro-pneumonia was still more so. In the Appendix to the fifth Report of the Medical Officer of the Privy Council it was stated that in 1845 the "Agricultural Cattle Insurance Company" was formed, which was joined by five other companies afterwards. Insurances were effected at the rate of £300,000 weekly for a length of time. In three years there were £10,000,000 worth of stock insured. In their Report of 1848 they state that nearly three-fourths of their losses were due to pleuro-pneumonia. This Company was compelled to wind up its affairs in 1861. Mortality among cattle appears to have increased year by year, as the insurance Companies commenced by assuming that 31/7 per cent would cover all possible losses, but were eventually obliged to increase their premium to more than double this amount, and yet came to ruin. Professor Gamgee, the writer of the Report, estimated that in the year 1860 there died of disease in the United Kingdom 374,048 horned cattle, and that more than half this loss was from pleuro-pneumonia. The average loss for the six years ending 1860, is estimated at upwards of 166,000 head from pleuro-pneumonia alone. Bearing these facts in mind, it was gratifying to know that the effect of the Orders in Council passed in reference to the cattle plague had not only stopped it, but pleuro-pneumonia as well. There was a Report on the subject from Professors Simonds and Brown, dated the 6th of March, 1867, who, referring to the answers to a circular which had been forwarded to the veterinary surgeons of England, Scotland, and Wales, remark that— It appears from the statements of those veterinary surgeons who have replied that pleuro-pneumonia and foot and mouth disease prevail only to a slight extent, which they very generally attribute to the effect of the restrictions which have been imposed upon the movements of cattle. The regulations affecting animals sent to the Metropolitan Market have had a powerful influence in preventing the extension of infectious diseases; and although instances of pleuro-pneumonia and mouth and foot disease are much less frequent in the market then they formerly were, little doubt can be entertained that these affections would again be carried to different parts of the country by infected beasts, were the regulations at present in force to be withdrawn. From all we have observed in our inspections, and from the evidence obtained from veterinary surgeons and agriculturists, we see no reason to doubt that the continuance of certain restrictions upon the movement of stock, with the view to prevent the exposure in fairs and markets of animals affected with contagious diseases, would be attended with the best results. Various Reports had come in from different counties, all expressing a similar opinion. Another remarkable circumstance, as regards the social comfort of the people of this country in connection with the restrictions imposed on the movement of cattle, was well worthy of mention. It was gratifying to find that the restrictions necessary to prevent the spread of this disease had not had any injurious effect in raising the price of meat, as shown by the quotations of the metropolitan markets. The average price of beef from the 1st of January, 1866, to the 24th March, was 6⅜d. per lb., and from the 27th of April to the 26th of May, 1866, when the disease was raging at its height, and the restrictive Orders were in full force, the price was exactly the same, namely, 6⅜d. per lb. Various Orders had been passed prohibiting the importation of sheep from Belgium, and cattle from other parts of the Continent; nevertheless, the price of meat had not been materially affected by those Orders. It was therefore gratifying to know that the Orders which had had the effect of diminishing and almost annihilating the cattle plague, and which had also been incidentally beneficial in greatly neutralizing other complaints of a serious character, had not materially interfered with the supply of the necessaries of life to the community. There was one point on which great interest centred. A serious outbreak of the cattle plague had broken out in the metropolis, where it was difficult to carry out the regulations with respect to the movement of animals. The recent outbreak of cattle plague in the metropolis had, he feared, been aggravated by one great omission in the Orders of Council—the absence of a provision prohibiting the movement of cattle in the metropolis without a police licence. In consequence of that omission great infringements of the law had taken place, and animals had been moved about that ought not to have been permitted. He believed that there existed a general opinion that the increase of the cattle plague in the metropolis within the last month was attributable mainly to the omission he had referred to. The other day the Privy Council issued an Order prohibiting the removal of cattle to or from market in the metropolis without a police licence, and its operation, he believed, had given great satisfaction. A great deal of fear, however, was entertained in reference to importations, and it was thought that all animals ought to be slaughtered at the ports of entry. The endeavour of the Privy Council had been to take every possible precaution with respect to the importation of animals. At the same time, the supply of food to the people was a matter that should not be overlooked, and it was deemed not possible in every case to slaughter animals at the port of entry, without seriously affecting the price of meat. The object should be to apply at the ports of entry regulations which would insure the cattle being brought under inspection, so as to prevent any diseased cattle from being sent up to London. By such an arrangement a great advantage would be secured, and he did not believe that any danger of infection would be incurred. The object of this Bill, the second reading of which he now proposed, was to continue the existing Act; but in consequence of the experience derived in the application of the Orders of Council with respect to the removal of cattle, it had been thought desirable to introduce some other regulations into the measure. It was proposed to continue the existing Acts for three years, during which period the experiment would be made of those statutory provisions with respect to the removal of cattle. One very important provision of the Bill was that which gave to the Privy Council power, for the purposes of the Act, to declare any disease which made its appearance among cattle or other animals, contagious or infectious. It was possible that other diseases besides the cattle plague might, from the facilities of communication now existing, reach this country from abroad. NO doubt there were cattle diseases in Russia the nature of which were not yet known in this country; and therefore it was thought highly desirable not to limit the provisions of the Bill to the cattle plague alone. There was another important point he wished to advert to. The existing Acts made it obligatory on the several counties, during the existence of cattle plague, to maintain an efficient system of inspection; but when the plague ceased they had no power to appoint permanent inspectors. Now, as it was known by experience that the cattle plague might at any moment make its appearance, it was thought desirable that this Bill should contain an enactment requiring the local authorities to keep a competent inspector, who would have power to enter premises wherever he suspected that the cattle plague existed, and who would be required to make a Report immediately to the Privy Council. Another important change was made by the Bill in the present law. Under the present Act a place was not considered an infected place until it was declared so by the local authority; but the Bill enacted that when an inspector found that the cattle plague existed in a place, that place should be deemed ipso facto to be an infected place; and it was not left for the local authority to declare the place infected. In some cases, the local authorities had been unwilling to declare a place infected, in consequence of the inconvenience resulting from such a declaration, in respect to the movement of cattle. At the same time, the Privy Council would have the power to vary the limits assigned to infected places, and to declare places to have ceased to be infected. Another important point was that the Bill authorized places to be declared infected in which the cattle plague had existed within the previous seven or eight days. The present law only required the declaration to be made in respect to places where the cattle plague existed at the time. The effect of this had been that when the cattle plague manifested itself the infected animal or animals had been killed, and then the disease could no longer be said to exist there. He now needed only to mention one or two points connected with the duties thrown on the police by the Bill. It would be their duty to apprehend persons by whom its provisions were infringed very much as the existing law enabled them to do. Stringent regulations were also laid down to prevent false declarations from being made in respect to certificates. At present the greatest difficulty was experienced in following up those declarations when fabricated; so that many of the certificates for the removal of cattle were rendered practically useless to prevent the spread of disease—in fact, the grossest infringements of the law constantly took place, and with irripunity—for the law gave no power to punish fraud of this kind. He had now stated the general provisions of the Bill, and he hoped it would meet the approval of the House. It was impossible to review the course of events with regard to the great national calamity to which it related without bearing testimony to the willingness of the people, in all parts of the country, to put their shoulders to the wheel in the endeavour to assist the Government in carrying out the law for the general good. It was to that co-operation that the success which had attended their efforts was mainly to be attributed, and he trusted that by continuing the course of legislation which had hitherto been adopted the further spread of this calamitous disease would be effectually prevented.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a"—(The Lord President.)


said, he did not think it necessary to trouble the House by entering into a discussion of the details of the measure, especially as he understood it would be referred to a Select Committee, where those details could be more conveniently dealt with. There could be no doubt, he might say, that the restrictive legislation of last year had been productive of great good in checking the spread of the cattle plague. He was glad to hear that the Bill contained provisions in reference to other diseases, such as pleuro-pneumonia and other lung complaints. As regarded the slaughtering of cattle there could be no doubt that where the plague existed there was no other way of stop- ping it; and if, in 1865, the Government had possessed that information which had since been obtained the plague might by the slaughtering of cattle have been stopped at an earlier period. The questions of the importation and non-removal of cattle were surrounded with difficulty, and he must confess that he looked upon it as a matter of impossibility that a system of absolute non-removal could be carried into effect. These, and other points, however, might be very well considered by the Select Committee.


supported the second reading of the Bill, observing that he thought it would give great satisfaction to the farmers throughout the country, inasmuch as it furnished evidence that the Government were quite alive to the dangers by which they were beset. He would draw the attention of the Government to the necessity of very stringent regulations being laid down with respect to the importation of cattle; for it was now well known and understood that it was from imported cattle that the plague had been originated and renewed in this country. He thought also that most stringent measures must be taken by the Privy Council with regard to the movement of cattle within the metropolis. The largest butchers at the West End had no difficulty in transporting their meat in the best condition to the metropolis from places at a considerable distance where it had been slaughtered.


hoped the noble Duke would exercise considerable caution before he conferred larger powers on the Inspectors. Great difficulty was experienced in his part of the country in procuring officers of that class who were fit for the performance of their duty.

After a few words from Lord EGERTON of TATTON, which were not heard,

In reply to The Earl of KIMBERLET,


stated, that the Government had not taken into their consideration the expediency of so extending the provisions of the Bill as to include Ireland. The law, as it stood, was, he believed, adequate to meet any emergency so far as that country was concerned. As to the Inspectors, if it should be represented to the Privy Council that any Inspector was incompetent, they could remove him on that ground. As the Bill was to be referred to a Select Committee all these objections might be considered and remedied.

Motion agreed to: Bill read 2a accordingly, and referred to a Select Committee.

And, on May 23, the Lords following were named of the Select Committee:—

Ld. President L. Boyle
Ld. Privy Seal L. Walsingham
K. Doncaster L. Delamere
E. Spencer L. Feversham
E. Romney L. Portman
E. Granville L. Stanley of Alderley
V. Eversley L. Egerton.