HL Deb 21 June 1883 vol 280 cc1118-21

, in rising to call the attention of the House to the Orders of the Privy Council under the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act; and to ask, Whether these Orders can be published from time to time in a consolidated form? said, he had taken it upon himself to place this Notice on the Paper, as he had had some little experience as Chairman of the Executive Committee under this Act in the county in which he lived for several years past; and he had had special means of knowing how the Act worked, as they had had more than ono severe outbreak of disease during the last few years. The other day the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) called attention to the importation of disease. He did not intend to enter into that question; but he mentioned it, as he thought, while fresh regulations were desired, that they should not neglect to use the powers they already had with the greatest effect possible. Two or three years ago he noticed that it was not so difficult as it had been this last year to make all concerned understand what the law was; but there were now such a mass of Orders put forth that it was difficult for anyone who carefully followed the action of the Privy Council to keep pace with these constant changes; and, for those who were determined not to understand, it was very easy to make excuses and to puzzle others. The great difficulty they had had was to make dealers in cattle conform to the regulations; and in the last two outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease they had kept the disease alive when the district would have been free long before it was so. These dealers, during the last outbreak, actually got up a correspondence in the newspapers, declared the regulations wore impossible to understand, and, of course, placed great difficulties in the way of the local authority. Of course, this was overcome; and, after a time, every regulation was in good working order. Hardly, however, was this the case, when down came a fresh Order, and undid all the good effect of what had been done. He would only quote two instances to show what ho meant. An Order was passed some time ago —still, he was glad to say, in force—which allowed local authorities to close their district against other authorities. This was a most useful Order while all markets were closed, and dealt effectually with the dealers. This last year they had put this Order in full force in Suffolk, and the county had been rapidly cleared of disease—so much so that, if these restrictions could have been kept in force about a fortnight longer than they were, it was the opinion of the most practical men in the district that the disease would have been stamped out. However, the markets were opened by the Privy Council, and it was of no further use to continue the restrictions of the local authority. The disease broke out afresh, of course, and although, happily, not to a large extent, was still in the district. It might be said that the Order in Council now in force gave local authorities power to deal with markets. So it did; but the Order was not in existence at the time he had mentioned; and he did not think it would be so effectual, where there were several local authorities in one county, as the action of the Privy Council. Be that as it might, these constant changes did not do good, and tended to puzzle all concerned, and to defeat the action of the local authorities. He would give another case. An Order was put forth a short time ago to allow local authorities to grant licences for markets in their districts where disease existed within their district. Hardly had this been placed in working order when it was cancelled by a fresh one, altering the terms of the power of the local authority. Probably the Privy Council were right in their last Orders; but why should such constant changes be made? It handicapped the local authorities, on whose action, in carrying out the Orders strictly, so much depended, and really gave an excuse to those who wished to evade the law. Of course, he was quite aware that it was desirable that the Government should have powers, and so use them as to deal with special emergencies; but in order to support the local authorities throughout the country, and, in fact, to carry out the law properly, it was most important that the Orders should be changed as seldom as possible, and that some Code of Regulations should be published—say twice a year—of all the Orders in force, so that no one might have a shadow of a foundation for saying he could not understand the regulations in force.


said, he knew very few Members of that House better entitled from experience to give an opinion on this subject than the noble Lord. He quite agreed with the substance and the object of the remarks they had just heard. But he was not prepared to admit that the multiplicity of Orders which the noble Lord had described could have been avoided, under the circumstances of this country. It had been caused by the variety of the circumstances with which they had to deal, and partly by the increase of experience as time went on. But he was bound to say that he sympathized with the noble Lord in his struggles with the Orders as they now stood; and he was able to tell him that the Privy Council felt that the time had come when an effort ought to be made to simplify and consolidate them. Ho was glad to say that from the much more self-acting character of the Orders as they now steed, in consequence of some recent changes, the Privy Council hoped that the Orders in future would be more easily carried out. They were of opinion that the time had come when the process desired by the noble Lord should take place, and they were now at work upon a consolidation of the Orders. That was a work which had to be done with great care and accuracy, and it would take a little time; but it was going on as fast as possible. The Orders would be consolidated into two sets, one containing the regulations with regard to home animals, and the other the regulations relating to foreign animals. He hoped when those consolidated Orders appeared they would fully meet the views of the noble Lord.


wished to suggest whether it would not be possible at some of the ports that some- thing in the nature of a quarantine should be established. He was perfectly certain that the future of the agricultural interest in this country depended very much upon the safeguards taken with respect to the foreign cattle which came here. It was greatly to be deprecated that foreign cattle should be allowed to enter wholesale. The subject was beset with so many difficulties that his suggestion might prove unworkable, but he gave it for what it was worth; and hoped the authorities would remember how greatly the prosperity of British agriculture depended on the exclusion of diseased cattle.

House adjourned at a quarter before Seven o'clock, till To-morrow, a quarter past Ten o'clock.