HL Deb 07 July 1879 vol 247 cc1704-8

asked the Lord President, Why directions have not been given to the Royal Irish Constabulary to assist the local authorities in carrying out the provisions of the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act as to isolation and slaughter? He addressed those inquiries to the noble Duke in consequence of some complaints that had been made in Ireland with reference to the working of the Act. The efficient working of the Act depended in a great degree on the action of the police—the noble Duke had himself admitted that, on a former occasion, a code of rules had been drawn up for Ireland identical with those that were in force in England, and therefore, it was supposed, would have worked with the same efficiency. But it had, unfortunately, been forgotten that the police in Ireland were not on the same footing with regard to authority as the police in England. In England they were under local authorities; but in Ireland they were controlled by the Central Government in this country; and in Scotland isolation and slaughter of diseased animals was carried out under the direction of the police, and a large number of the Inspectors under the Act were policemen. In his opinion, the Act could not be carried out in any other way except by the police. When, some six months ago, disease broke out in the County of Limerick, the police were not allowed to interfere directly or indirectly. Upon that, he communicated with the Irish Government, and was informed that the police in Ireland had been relieved of the duty of providing for the isolation and slaughter of cattle. The reason, he believed, was to save expense. He protested that this course was not the proper course that should have been adopted. The Act had been passed and should be carried out, and that by the right authority, and he asserted that that authority was the police. It was the duty of the Irish police, under the Act of Parliament, as in England, to perform the duty which that Act imposed upon them. It must be the desire of the noble Duke, and everyone who lived in any part of the United Kingdom, to stamp out the disease altogether; the noble Duke, therefore, must be anxious that his own Act should be operative in every part, and, therefore, he felt sure, see the necessity of putting a stop to a system which would render it useless in Ireland.


said, the noble Lord had only done him justice in saying that he, in common with all their Lordships, desired to see that this Act was carried out in the most efficient and thorough manner possible. There was no doubt that the whole principle of the Act proceeded upon the point that cattle disease was to be dealt with by isolation; and there could be no doubt that if isolation in affected districts were not strictly enforced there was very little hope that the spread of the disease could be prevented. It was scarcely necessary to refer to the difference between the police force in Ireland and in England. The Irish Constabulary were paid and equipped by the Government, and were under their control; whereas the police force in England were local police, and confined to the several counties in which they were formed; and they were also under the jurisdiction of the magistrates of the respective counties—of course, subject to certain arrangements made by the Secretary of State for the Home Department. The duties of the police in both countries were, however, identical; and if the noble Lord would refer to the 50th section of the Act which was passed last year, he would find that it was a provision of the Act that the police of each police district or area, county, borough, town, and place, should execute and enforce the Act and every Order of Council. That was the law. The 85th section of the same Act provided that its enactments should apply to the members of the Royal Irish Constabulary Force and the Metropolitan Police Force. Therefore, it was by Act of Parliament, that the police of Ireland were required to perform the same duty as the police of England. The noble Lord, however, stated that the police had been relieved from the performance of that duty in certain districts in order to save ex- pense. Upon that matter he thought there must be some mistake, because there was no power that could relieve the police of the duty while the Act was in force. He thought the statement which the noble Lord had made was in consequence of this—that, under the Order of 1876, the police were enjoined to carry out the duty of seeing that diseased animals were slaughtered; but when the Act of 1878 passed the duty of seeing those orders carried out was imposed upon the local authorities; and he understood that it was not thought advisable to give special instructions to the police to do that which they were required to do by the Act, because it was supposed that the doing so would interfere with the action and duty of the local authority. Since the noble Lord had been good enough to communicate to him some of the points he was about to bring before their Lordships, he (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) had been in communication with the Irish Government upon the subject; and he was bound to say that in these communications the Irish Government showed that they had, since the passage of the Act, exhibited every desire and wish to assist the Government on this side of the Channel to carry out the Act of Parliament in the most perfect manner, believing, as they did, that it was necessary to put an end to the disease; and where Boards of Guardians applied for the special assistance of police to enable them to carry out the Act, the Government, when it had not interfered with the more important duties of the police, had allowed the assistance to be given.


said, he was surprised at the concluding remarks of the noble Duke. It was by Act of Parliament the duty of the police to carry the provisions of the Act into effect; but the noble Duke said they had been directed, when they had the time from other duties, so to do. That was nothing more or less than what his noble Friend (Lord Emly) referred to—namely, that the police had been relieved from the duty. Of course, the police could not be in two places at once; but there was the Act of Parliament, which stated that the police in Ireland were to carry out the Act. The police were the servants of the Act of Parliament, and they were absolutely bound to see that the Act was carried into effect. The police in Ireland were under the control, not of the local authorities, but of the Central Government. Therefore, it was the absolute duty of the Government to give the police in Ireland the necessary authority for doing that which the Act required them to do. This country was deeply concerned in an efficient enforcement of the Act; and he hoped the noble Duke would see that this beneficial Act was carried into effect by the Constabulary in Ireland, as well as by the police of this country.


said, he also would urge upon the noble Duke the Lord President to take care to see that the provisions of the Act were thoroughly carried out. He hoped that if the local authorities in Ireland showed any laxity in carrying the Act into effect, the noble Duke would use all the influence of the Government to bring a pressure on them.


wished to make a few observations on the subject, in which he had always evinced great interest. Ho could not help confessing his great surprise at remarks which had been made as to the duties of the Royal Irish Constabulary. In England they were utterly unable to carry out the provisions of the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act without the assistance of the police; for cases for which this Act provided would not be known were the police not to take action. He had always thought that in Ireland there was the great advantage in dealing with these matters that the police wore under the Central Government. It appeared from the observations of the noble Duke that, in certain cases, the local authorities had not called upon the police to do their duty under the Act. That made him think the Act had not been strictly carried out. When he was in Ireland he had continually to deal with cases of pleuropneumonia. He never found the police unwilling to perform any duty which they were called upon to perform; but he knew that their chiefs rather rebelled against their men having to perform small duties, which they thought would make them unpopular in the country; and, for the same reason, they were probably unwilling to assist the authorities in carrying out the provisions of this important Act. He sincerely trusted the noble Duke would put pressure on the Irish Government, in order that the police might do their duty under the Act, and so to assist in its working efficiently.


said, he could assure his noble Friend opposite (Earl Spencer) that it was his desire, as it was the desire of all the Members of the Government, to carry out the provisions of this Act in the most effectual manner. He feared that certain of his remarks had been misconstrued; but he had no doubt that in the future the Act would work well. If there was any doubt, however, on the subject, he would undertake to communicate with the authorities in Ireland, and call their attention to the facts which had been brought before the House, and impress upon them the necessity of seeing that the Act was carried out in the most efficient manner.