HL Deb 19 June 1874 vol 220 cc131-6

asked the Lord President, Whether it is the intention of the Government to take steps to carry into effect the recommendations of the Select Committee of the House of Commons of last Session, that the regulations in Great Britain and Ireland with regard to contagious diseases of animals should be similar? He said, that last Session a Committee of the other House of Parliament was appointed to inquire into the operation of the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts. That Committee made some very important recommendations; among them, they recommended that cattle should be slaughtered at the place of importation. In pursuance of those recommendations the compulsory slaughter at the landing place of animals imported from foreign countries, affected with pleuro-pneumonia had been rigorously enforced, and the order issued by the Privy Council last year in respect of the foot-and-mouth disease had been withdrawn; but no steps had been taken to enforce such compulsory slaughter in Ireland, nor had the Irish Government taken steps to prevent the shipment of diseased or infected cattle for England. He believed one of the reasons for that was the difficulty arising from the want of proper machinery, such as existed in England and Scotland; and another was a defect in the Act providing for the payment of compensation in the case of animals slaughtered under the compulsory order. But he wished to point out that great inconvenience and danger resulted from having one set of regulations in this country, and another and a different set in Ireland. To allow animals to come into this country from Ireland, when the compulsory slaughter of diseased animals was not carried out in that country, while it was enforced here, was like letting water run out at one end of a cask, while it was poured in at the other. He did not mean to say that the number of diseased animals was proportionately greater in Ireland than in this country, but there must be disease among the cattle there, and he knew that thousands of Irish beasts came over to Norfolk every year. Now, as long as this importation was allowed from Ireland, it was impossible that the disease should be stamped out in England. There was great difference of opinion as to whether compulsory slaughter was likely to stamp out the disease, but there was a concurrence of opinion that to be of any use, the regulation must be stringent and universal in its application. The experience of other countries showed that partial measures were of no use. As regarded the foot-and-mouth disease, the Committee of last year was of opinion that we had no means of stamping it out without the adoption of more stringent regulations than could well be put in force in the case of such a disease. His noble Friend the President of the Council had recently made an Order for certain regulations in respect of this disease; but he concurred with the Committee in thinking that such regulations would be of no use. He admitted the subject to be one of great practical difficulty, but he thought that something might be done to correct this anomaly at least. He begged to ask the Lord President whether it was the intention of the Government to take steps to carry into effect the recommendation of the Select Committee of the House of Commons of last Session, that the regulations in Great Britain and Ireland with regard to contagious diseases of animals should be similar?


said, he would remind the noble Earl who had just spoken that the circumstances of the two countries were different. Ireland was an exporting and not an importing country in respect of cattle; so that the same set of regulations were not applicable to both. He admitted that it was very desirable to adopt all possible measures to prevent the cattle disease from being brought into England, but the noble Earl pointed, he thought, to the wrong remedy. He had heard a noble Lord (Viscount Portman) who was a good authority on such matters say, that a number of cattle which had left Ireland in a healthy state were found to be diseased when they arrived in Dorsetshire. This was attributed to the treatment they had sustained on the journey. Sufficient attention was not paid to the cleansing of cattle trucks and the supplying of the animals with food and water while on their journey. Whatever regulations they made, they could never secure themselves against infecting sound animals, unless proper measures were taken with respect to the mode of conveyance. He believed that cattle never were exported from Ireland in a diseased condition.


was of opinion that a great deal might be effected by stringent regulations in the case of pleuro-pneumonia. But in the case of foot-and mouth disease, it was very important not to insist on any rigid rule, for there could be little doubt that disease was propagated by animals being put on board vessels and into railway trucks which had not been properly cleansed after they had been occupied by other animals which had perhaps left diseased saliva. Animals on their journey ought to have food and water; but frequently they were left without either. They were hurried into hot and tainted ships without water or food, taken into the markets already infected, often had no food, but were sent by rail in tainted trucks, and by the time they arrived at a farm were in a state of fever, which threw itself out in the shape of foot-and-mouth disease. Then it was necessary to manage them very carefully, and if the farmer was left to his discretion he could generally restore the health of the animals. It was right to prohibit the moving of diseased animals on any road The cattle plague had almost disappeared from those districts in which the system of stamping out and compensation had been adopted; but the farmers in his part of the country would have preferred being lot alone rather than that the recent regulations as to the foot-and-mouth disease should have been sent down to their part of the country.


said, he must differ from the noble Viscount. He believed the farmers in Wilts and Somerset would not have preferred to be left without these regulations. They desired to see the most stringent measures adopted. They wanted to be protected against persons who brought diseased cattle into the country.


expressed himself strongly in favour of the most stringent regulations in this case of the importation of Irish cattle, and in proof of the necessity said, he was informed that at this moment pleuro-pneumonia was raging among the cattle in the Phoenix Park, Dublin. He (the Earl of Airlie) had been told by the hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. Barclay), who was a Member of the Committee appointed last year, that the restrictions as proposed were quite as much in the interest of the Irish as in that of the English agriculturist. His hon. Friend mentioned that it was not an uncommon thing for the purchaser of cattle from Ireland to give a conditional premium of £1 a-head if, within six months of landing, the cattle turned out to be free from disease. He was very glad that his noble Friend (the Earl of Kimberley) had called the attention of the House to the want of uniformity between the regulations in England and Ireland. It was especially desirable that uniformity should exist in the interest of Scotland.


was of opinion that in some districts of this country there had not been sufficiently stringent action on the part of the local authorities. Stringency was not enough—uniformity of action was indispensable.


said, he quite agreed with his noble Friend in one thing—namely, that this was a most difficult subject to touch. The opinions just expressed by noble Lords on both sides were as much at variance as any opinions could be on any subject. Then what had happened at the Privy Council Office since he came into office? The variety of opinions in their Lordships' House was a reflex of public opinion out-of-doors; for since he had been in office he had received one deputation who requested him to do away with all restrictions, and based the request on the ground that the country would not stand such interference with the supply of food to the people. The policy recommended by that deputation was that the disease should be allowed to take its course and the animals to take their chance. But no sooner had he civilly bowed out those gentlemen than another deputation presented itself, and the gentlemen composing it urged that it was the duty of the Privy Council to issue the most stringent regulations, as the supply of animal food to the large masses of the people depended on the stamping out of the disease, which could be effected only by such regulations. There had also been contrary utterances from different Societies, and at a meeting of a Society which ought to be an authority on such subjects—the Royal Agricultural Society of England—a motion for a deputation to him with the view of urging the reimposition of a regulation which had been relaxed was carried by only the casting vote of the Chairman. With regard to Ireland, the power of issuing an order for compulsory slaughter was vested in the Lord-Lieutenant in Council; but one difficulty arose from the fact that in Ireland there was no "local authority," and it devolved upon the constabulary to carry out the Orders of the Irish Privy Council. The constabulary were obliged to employ Inspectors, who were not as numerous in Ireland as in this country. Again, up to almost the present time there was a difficulty in regard of compensation, which difficulty arose from a doubt as to the wording of the Act. He had this Session brought in a Bill which had passed through both Houses to enable the Irish Government to overcome that difficulty, and providing funds out of the National Exchequer for that purpose. He believed, therefore, that there was no necessity for further legislation to enable the Irish Government to make an order for compulsory slaughter and to compensate the owners of the animals. A deputation appointed by the Quarter Sessions of the West Riding of Yorkshire waited upon him yesterday to complain that compulsory slaughter put that Riding to a great deal of unnecessary expense. He could not say that he agreed with the views put forward by that deputation. On one point there might be a great improvement in Ireland. There should be a better inspection of cattle there; and in order to effect that object he had been in communication with his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose concurrence in the appointment of additional Inspectors it was necessary for him to obtain. As to what his noble Friend (Viscount Portman) had said respecting the regulations in his part of the country, he must pair him with his noble Friend the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Bath) who had followed him in the debate. He had done what appeared to him to be best under the circumstances. He regretted to say there had been an outbreak of the foot and mouth disease in parts of Scotland, and an Order was issued re-imposing the former Order in Council which gave the local authorities power, where they thought fit, to deal with that disease. The Order did not impose compulsory regulations on every county, but it enabled the local authorities to deal with it when there was a considerable outbreak of the disease. It was true the Committee of last Session came to the conclusion that unless measures of a very stringent character, such as this country would not like to agree to, were adopted, it was better to have no regulations with respect to the foot and mouth disease. He had very generally followed that recommendation and had done as little as possible unless in cases in which he thought some action was absolutely necessary, and therefore in the case of Scotland he had lost no time in putting restrictive measures in operation. He was aware that there were two parties to be considered—the consumer and the producer—and he had no desire whatever to harass the latter.

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