§ LORD CARLINGFORD (LORD PRESIDENT of the COUNCIL)
, in rising to introduce a Bill to amend the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act, 1878, said: My Lords, although this Bill is not a long or a complicated one, I think it may be convenient, in the circumstances of the case, that I should give some statement of its purpose upon bringing it in. With a very slight exception this is a foot-and-mouth Bill. To put it shortly, the Bill is intended to increase the responsibilities of the Agricultural Department of the Privy Council for the purpose of protecting the country against the importation of foot-and-mouth disease from abroad. To any one not familiar with the history of this subject, it might seem somewhat strange that this particular disease, among those which are enumerated in the Act of 1878, should be chosen for legislative treatment now, because, as is well known, it 838 is one of the mildest, in its immediate effects, of all those diseases. But the reasons for this course are not difficult to explain. The stock-owner, speaking of the inroads of foot-and-mouth disease, might use the words of the old line—"My wound is great because it is so small," because the fact is, that foot-and-mouth disease not being of the formidable nature of cattle plague or pleuro-pneumonia, it has been found impossible to treat it by the capital and extreme measures which have been applied to those fatal diseases. It has been found to be impossible hitherto to treat it either by way of absolute exclusion of animals from foreign countries or by way of slaughter at home. I may say, in passing, that I am not at all satisfied that the system of slaughter at home might not, in certain circumstances, be applied even to foot-and-mouth disease, supposing that the happy day had arrived when this country was again quite free, or nearly free, from the disease, and when it was necessary to prevent its revival. But it is curious to look back for a few years and to see the change which has occurred in the public mind, especially in the agricultural mind, with respect to this disease. It is only 20 years, I think, since foot-and-mouth disease was struck out of a Cattle Diseases Bill, as not a thing worth dealing with, upon the Motion of Sir William Miles, representing the agricultural interest in the House of Commons. It was not until the year 1869 that foot-and-mouth disease was admitted into the list of diseases for the purpose of legislative treatment, upon the proposal of Mr. Forster. Well, my Lords, after 1869, and before 1878, before the Committee of the other House in 1877 was appointed, and before the Act of the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) passed in 1878, was introduced, foot-and-mouth disease had raged over and over again throughout the country, and spread to an even larger extent than it has lately—although the recent extent of the disease is undoubtedly large—and had had the same ups and downs which it has recently, in 1882–3, experienced. But, in spite of that experience, I find that neither those who framed and proposed nor those who discussed and debated at immense length the Bill of 1878 in both Houses—which is the Act now administered by the Privy Council 839 —ever thought for a moment that the system of exclusion, the rule of prohibition as against foreign countries, was to be applied to this disease. I cannot find the slightest trace of such an idea ever entering into their minds. It was described at the time by a high authority, Mr. Henry Chaplin, as a Bill for the purpose of stamping out foot-and-mouth disease by the two methods of restriction at home and the slaughter of animals at the port of landing. And the prohibitory discretion which the Bill contained, and which was only repeating what the former Acts had contained, was mainly directed, not against foot-and-mouth disease, but against cattle plague. Well, my Lords, since the passing of the Act of 1878, I venture to say that the Privy Council has endeavoured by its able permanent staff to administer the Act faithfully and in its spirit. I believe they have done so, and I believe also that great care has been taken by some of the local authorities in the country, I cannot say by all, because their administration of the Act has varied very much, and in many cases, I am bound to say, there has been great want of carefulness and energy. Nevertheless, there have been restrictions enough imposed both by local authorities and the Privy Council; the system of slaughter at the ports has been carefully administered; and yet, in spite of all this, the disease has not been got rid of. Not that the precautions taken both at home and in regard to foreign cattle have been without effect. I am convinced that by the system that has been pursued—however annoying and harassing it has undoubtedly been—very good effects have been produced, and the mischief of the disease has been reduced both in point of time and extent compared with what would otherwise have been the case. Still, my Lords, we all know that foot-and-mouth disease continues to retain its hold on the country. It still returns from time to time, and breaks out from year to year. For reasons which it is not easy to trace, it is more severe one year than another. It dies out for a year or two, and then revives. This is the state of circumstances with which we have now to deal. In the face of this recurrence of a most annoying and mischievous disease, I fully recognize the fact that all parties concerned in the matter have grown more and more weary of it, 840 and agree that more effective means should be taken to restrict it. That feeling, indeed, is shared by the Privy Council itself. The evil must be met, in order to put an end to this state of things. Before I go further I must say this—that the impatience—the natural impatience—of the farmers, the local authorities, and all concerned, especially during the last year, and, above all, during the last six months, has been immensely aggravated by the notion that the increased outbreak of 1883 has been caused and fomented by the introduction of fresh infection from abroad into this country. To those who have looked carefully into the facts, the amount of misapprehension and of exaggeration which has taken place upon this subject is something extraordinary. I could give 50 instances of it, for they are only too familiar to us at the Privy Council. The other day, for example, when I received an important deputation, I greatly surprised one of the speakers by telling him that foreign animals admitted for immediate slaughter did not arrive at, and were not kept in, the same wharves and lairs with the animals from free countries that were about to be distributed throughout the interior. Then, the Privy Council has been deluged with memorials and resolutions from all parts of the country, especially, I think, from Lincolnshire, demanding the immediate exclusion of foreign animals, in the apparent belief that not a week nor a day passed without the disease being kept up by these constant arrivals. My Lords, I confess I am not surprised that these ideas should take hold of the minds of men loss informed when I read some of the utterances of those to whom they may naturally look up as their guides. For instance, I saw it asserted the other day in "another place" by a right hon. Gentleman, that Her Majesty's Government had, by not keeping out foot-and-mouth disease, been allowing it to rage throughout the length and breadth of the land. Now, what are the facts in regard to 1883? I am not referring to the origin of the disease, or even to its last introduction, but to the circumstances of 1883; and I undertake to say that the increase of foot-and-mouth disease during the last half of the year 1883 had no connection whatever with the 841 arrival of any fresh foreign infection. There is no trace of any such connection to be found. The facts are these. In the first three months of last year 68 cargoes, containing more or less foot-and-mouth disease among them, arrived in the ports of this country. In former years, and with our former notions upon the subject of foot-and-mouth disease, this would have been treated as an ordinary case. It is a number which has often been largely exceeded; but the cargoes came one after another, especially from French ports. Accordingly, the Privy Council prohibited the importation from France in March, and has maintained that prohibition since. This is the first time that the power of prohibition has been thus used under the Act of 1878 in the case of foot-and-mouth disease. Germany and Holland had been infected also, and we communicated, through the Foreign Office, with the Governments of those countries, and cautioned them that if they continued to send foot-and-mouth disease among their animals it would be necessary for us to prohibit their imports also. The figures as to the rest of the year are very different, indeed, from those of the first three months. Since the 1st of June, 1883, only five foreign cargoes have contained any animals affected with foot-and-mouth disease. Since the 8th of July there have been only two such cargoes; and for more than three months past there has been no sign of foot-and-mouth disease in any foreign cargo. No connection can be traced between the facts I have stated and the facts relating to the unfortunate outbreak of the disease at home. For instance, the number of outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease in the first week of July was 60, and no aggravation took place until the month of August. In one week in September the maximum reached 1,505 outbreaks, and since that week they have steadily declined. In the week before Christmas the number was 387. An Order was then issued stopping markets and fairs in all counties except those which were perfectly free from foot-and-mouth disease. Since that Order came into force the outbreaks have been reduced from 387 to 53 in the last week; and I have great hopes that that process of reduction will continue. Well, my Lords, I say that there is no connection to 842 be traced between the disease at home and the facts I have before stated as to the cargoes which came with foot-and-mouth disease in the earlier part of the year into our ports. It is known to those who have studied this subject that that is also the general conclusion to be drawn from former experience. Mr. Forster, in the debate on the second reading of the Bill of 1878 in the other House, challenged anyone to show that, under the former Act of 1869, there was any relation between the arrival of foot-and-mouth disease in foreign cargoes and its prevalence in the country; and then the system was far more imperfect than that which was established by the noble Duke's Act, inasmuch as there was no positive and general rule for slaughter at the port. I am convinced that it has been a very great misfortune to the agricultural interest that they have, during the past year, persuaded themselves, or allowed themselves to be persuaded, that their great and immediate danger was from abroad, instead of being, as it was, in fact, at home. Instead of fixing their attention on the vital matter of stamping out the disease at any cost in their own districts, they have been haunted by this fiction of a constant influx of fresh foreign infection, which, if it had been true, would have made all their efforts futile. For instance, let me ask you to consider the importance of the arrival at Grimsby last autumn of a single vessel with some pigs on board which were infected with foot-and-mouth disease. At that moment there were about 5,000 infected places in Great Britain, and this was simply an additional infected place. And let me point out that of all the infected places in the country this was the one which was beyond all comparison the safest, and the one where there was the least danger of any infection escaping. It was subject to the same rule as that which applies to rinderpest, and all the animals were slaughtered at once. There is not a pretence for supposing that any infection from that cargo escaped from the foreign animals' wharf at Grimsby, and added anything to the foot-and-mouth disease in Lincolnshire. I should like for one moment to point out the vital importance of stamping out disease at first in the particular place, upon the particular farm, where it shows itself. That is an idea which seems not to 843 have taken possession of the minds of all who are interested in getting rid of this disease, and yet it certainly filled the minds of the authors of the Act of 1878. The essential principle of that Act was to give power to local authorities to stamp out the disease wherever it appeared in the country. If that object could be attained, of course all local restrictions with their attendant inconveniences would become unnecessary. That this can be done, I think, is amply proved by the experience of the last few years. The disease has often been effectually isolated and stamped out in Wales, Gloucestershire, Somersetshire, and in several other counties in England, and in Somersetshire especially, where, although it has broken out several times, it has been stamped out through the energy and excellent arrangements of the local authorities, and in. no instance has it been allowed to spread beyond the infected place. When it broke out in any place in that county, therefore, it may be safely asserted that it was imported from beyond its boundaries. The same thing may be said with regard to Scotland, where I am bound to say the provisions of the Act have been admirably administered. In the three or four Northern counties of England the measures adopted by the local authorities have been attended with the greatest success. Thus the Chief Veterinary Inspector of Durham states in his Report—Foot-and-mouth disease in this county has invariably died out on the spot where it appeared, showing how well the local Inspectors attend to their duties, and also how willingly the owners of stock assist in carrying out the regulations. In the Infected Circles Order, if properly carried out, you have a sufficient safeguard without placing the whole country under restrictions.Mr. Dunne, the Chief Constable of Cumberland and Westmoreland, one of the highest authorities on this subject, also reports that in 1877 the disease broke out on 9,000 farms in those two counties, attacking 240,000 animals, and that since the Act of 1878 there have been only five or six fresh outbreaks, which have never been allowed to extend beyond the place originally infected. Such an energetic and enlightened administration of the law relating to this subject is evidently of vital importance at the present moment, and it will become of yet greater im- 844 portance when we succeed in reducing the disease within a very narrow compass. Then the mode of dealing with every fresh outbreak will become a very serious matter indeed, because the question whether the infected place shall be isolated and the disease stamped out, or whether it shall be neglected and permitted to spread, will be a matter not only of local or county interest, but of national interest. Whatever steps we may take, however, we may be assured that we can never expect that the country can be hermetically sealed against foot-and-mouth disease. We must do all we can to exclude it, and to limit the area of the outbreaks of it when they do occur. But we know that it made its way into this country in 1840, when the importation of all foreign cattle was absolutely prohibited. Then, only the other day, it made its way into Ireland, into which there is, practically, no importation of cattle; and it seems to have been carried there, not by any animal imported, but by Irish drovers who had come over to this country, and been in contact with diseased animals here. I believe, therefore, that no restrictive system that we can devise will afford us complete security against the introduction of this disease into this country. My own belief, indeed, is that infection has very rarely escaped from the foreign animals' wharf. There is, however, the case of the French cattle in 1880, which has evidently made a deep impression upon the mind of the country. There is, undoubtedly, a great probability, though no proof, that the disease was re-imported into this country after it had become almost extinct, and that it came from a French source. This fact has naturally alarmed the country, and if it has happened once I cannot deny that it may happen again, and the feeling that it might happen again naturally affects the public mind, and especially that of the agricultural classes. In these circumstances, we cannot expect to obtain the hearty co-operation of the farmers and of the local authorities, which is so essential to success in carrying out measures for stamping out the disease, unless we are able to give them satisfactory assurance that they will be protected from fresh infection from abroad. This assurance we desire to give them by the Bill which I am about to introduce. We are fully prepared, 845 in case of danger, to use our present powers to the utmost; but we recognize the great advantage of giving to the minds of those interested in the matter—of those whose co-operation is absolutely essential to success—the assurance that can be given by more stringent legislation upon the subject. We are willing to assume a much heavier responsibility than we have at present in this matter, although our responsibility with reference to it is weighty already. For that purpose, and with the view of protecting the country against the introduction of foot-and-mouth infection from abroad, the Bill, while defining in the most ample manner all the discretionary powers of the Privy Council, and applying them to foot-and-mouth disease expressly, will also impose upon them an obligation to exclude foreign cattle from the country under circumstances which are thus described—They shall prohibit such landing whenever they are satisfied with respect to any foreign country that, having regard to the sanitary condition of the animals therein or imported therefrom, to the laws made by such country for the regulation of the importation and exportation of animals and for the prevention of the introduction or spreading of disease, and to other circumstances, a reasonable security does not exist against the importation from such country of animals affected with foot-and-mouth disease.It will, of course, become the duty of the Privy Council to inform themselves as to the state of things in foreign countries in this respect. I am unwilling to say much about the Bill of the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon), because he has not yet had an opportunity of stating its provisions; but I must say that Her Majesty's Government find themselves unable to accept that Bill, and for this, among other reasons, that it would require the Privy Council to act like a machine on information reaching them that a single case of foot-and-mouth disease had occurred in any foreign country. That, we think, would be going beyond the necessities of the case. We cannot adopt a measure which would lay down so hard-and-fast a line. We cannot make this country depend for its supply on such a fact, apart from all other circumstances. It is evident that the noble Duke intends by his Bill to abolish absolutely the 846 system of slaughter at the ports in the case of foot-and-mouth disease; and he is so thoroughly aware of the revolution which he proposes, that he very considerately postpones the date when his Bill is to come into operation until October 1. We do not think that it would be wise to abolish the alternative system of slaughter at the ports. Between the cases in which in future there must be prohibition, and the cases in which there must be free admission, as from Canada and Scandinavia, it will be advantageous that we should retain the middle course of slaughter at the ports. The safety may not be enough to do without it; the danger may not be enough to justify absolute prohibition; therefore, we think it most desirable to retain the alternative. There are two minor clauses of the Bill of which I have charge to which it may be convenient that I should refer—the one gives power to make special exceptions of animals intended for exhibition, or in other exceptional cases, the same as is now possessed in regard to countries whose animals are admitted for slaughter; the other will enable the Privy Council to exercise the power of admission without slaughter in relation to any part of a foreign country which they can at present exercise with reference to the whole of a foreign country. That will enable us, for example, on sufficient ground shown, to admit store cattle from certain States of the American Union, when we might not be justified in admitting them from the country as a whole. That is, if it can be done with safety. I am not prepared to say that it can be done at present, although I know it is very much desired by many important interests. At present the Privy Council have no power to do it; and by this clause we take the power. Then it is thought advisable that the compulsory part of the Bill should be open to review by Parliament at no distant time; and, therefore, it is proposed that this part of the Bill should be temporary, and only last for two years. If your Lordships accept this Bill, as I hope you will—and we are anxious to lose no time, and shall take the second reading as soon as possible—the Government will do all in their power to carry it without delay through the other House, and the Privy Council will do all in their power to carry it into effect.
THE DUKE OF RICHMOND AND GORDON
said, he had listened with very considerable attention to the statement of the noble Lord who had just sat down. The noble Lord devoted the greater part of his remaks to the progress of foot-and-mouth disease for many years back, characterizing it as one of the mildest diseases known amongst animals, and proceeded to show that all the provisions which had been put into operation by the Privy Council, and all the arrangements which had been made under it, had reduced this disease down to such a small and infinitesimal extent, that it was beginning to die out. If the argument of the noble Lord were carried to its logical conclusion, it would show that there was no need for this measure, which the Government had, nevertheless, thought right to introduce. In some criticisms on the Bill which he (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) intended to ask their Lordships to approve next week, the noble Lord had raised an objection to the date fixed in that Bill as the date when it should come into operation. The noble Lord's reference to that Bill seemed to him most irregular, seeing that it was not immediately be-fore their Lordships; but he begged to assure their Lordships that he had mentioned October 1 as the date, because he had no hope of the Bill passing through the House of Commons until a very late period in the Session. He would very gladly alter the date, and say that the measure should come into operation from the date when it should become law. He would not, however, go into a criticism of the Bill on that occasion, but would prefer to give his opinions upon it on the second reading, after he had seen it in print. The noble Lord said that farmers in this country were mistaken in thinking that foot-and-mouth disease was of foreign origin.
§ LORD CARLINGFORD (LORD PRESIDENT of the COUNCIL)
I beg pardon. What I said was, that farmers were mistaken in thinking during last year that the disease was constantly fomented by fresh arrivals from abroad.
THE DUKE OF RICHMOND AND GORDON
said, he had evidently mistaken the noble Lord's meaning. That 848 they were suffering now from disease which had been imported from abroad, he thought there was no ground for disputing; but he would go into that question fully when he had an opportunity of moving the second reading of his own Bill. Whether the Bill just introduced by the Government was a good Bill or a bad Bill, it seemed to owe its birth to the suggestion of the late President of the Council, and to the action of Mr. Chaplin in "another place." In the Speech from the Throne it was noteworthy that no reference was made to the suffering agricultural interests of the United Kingdom, and he thought they might fairly assume, without any exaggeration, that as late as 6 o'clock on the opening day of the Session the Government had not the smallest intention of introducing a measure dealing with foot-and-mouth disease. His own Bill might not have had the effect of drawing this Bill from the Government; but he suspected that what led to its introduction was the Notice of Amendment to the Address by the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire, in which he proposed practically to censure the Government for not having carried out the Resolution carried in the House of Commons in July last. Probably those Gentlemen who had the management of the Business of the House of Commons informed the Government on the Wednesday following, that unless something was done Mr. Chaplin would probably carry his Amendment, and then, on Wednesday afternoon, the House was informed by the Prime Minister of the intention of the Government to introduce a Bill. If, however, the Government measure passed into law, and if it was found to be a good measure, the farmers would have to thank the Opposition, and not the Government, for its introduction. His noble Friends on that side would give full consideration to the Bill of the Government, with that spirit of fairness which characterized them.
THE EARL OF JERSEY
said, that what the country wanted was a clear measure. That under discussion depended upon the responsibility of the Government; but if the carrying out of the measure was to be governed by certain Members of the Ministry, like Mr. Mundella and Mr. Chamberlain, he feared the Bill would be of no use whatever. He, for one, refused to 849 place much reliance upon the responsibility of such Ministers. He hoped the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) would insist upon his measure, because it seemed likely that the responsibility which the Government might assume would be only of a temporary kind.
§ Bill read 1a. (No. 14.)
§ LORD CARLINGFORD (LORD PRESIDENT of the COUNCIL)
said, that at present he would name Tuesday for the second reading.