HL Deb 19 February 1884 vol 284 cc1291-300

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


, in rising to move that the Bill be now read a second time, said, he did not propose to go into matters of ancient history, as the noble Lord the I Lord President did the other night when he discussed, with reference to this subject, the provisions of a Bill which was proposed, but did not become law, about 20 years ago; but he should confine himself to the Act of 1878. That Act, which he proposed to amend, was based mainly on the Report of a Committee of the other House, which went into the subject very fully, and gave their opinions as to the state of different diseases affecting animals in this country. These opinions with regard to foot-and-mouth disease were very much stronger and more decided than those which apparently were entertained by the Lord President. In that Report occurred these passages— But cattle plague is not the only question. It was abundantly proved in evidence that the ravages of cattle plague since the Act of 18G9, and the diminution of the breeding herds of the Kingdom from the fear of breaking out of cattle plague, are as nothing compared with the losses inflicted and the enterprize checked by pleuro-pneumonia and foot-and-mouth complaint. In addition to the losses to the community of animals actually destroyed by either of those diseases, or slaughtered to prevent the spread of pleuro-pneumonia, the agricultural and other witnesses laid great stress on the fact that, whatever loss fell upon the farmer from the deterioration of his stock through foot-and-mouth complaint, re-acted injuriously on the consumer, by the diminution in the number of fat stock which the farmer was able to place on the market in a given time. The opinions so expressed in the Report were well worth consideration. In 1878, when he introduced a Bill dealing with cattle disease, he shared with many persons the belief that slaughter at the port of landing would be sufficient to prevent the spread of foot-and-mouth disease through the country, and he hoped that that expedient would be as effective in the case of foot-and-mouth disease as it had been in the case of pleuro-pneumonia. When he left Office in 1880 there was no case of foot-and-mouth disease in the country. There had been a severe outbreak in 1879, and it was stamped out, and effectually put an end to, by means of the Act of 1878, which was then put into operation. In the autumn of 1880, there was another outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the country, and he was certain he would have the Lord President with him on this point, that the outbreak which appeared in October, 1880, was due to a cargo of cattle from France landed at Deptford. The foreign origin of the outbreak was pointed out in the Report of the Veterinary Department of the Privy Council Office for the year 1880. Very great precautions were always taken at the Foreign Animals Wharf at Deptford, but the disease was so insidious that no amount of care at that wharf could prevent it from spreading through the country. In the course of business, as many as 1,000 persons sometimes passed through the Foreign Animals Wharf in a day. It was, therefore, easy to understand that there must always be great difficulty in preventing the extension of the disease beyond the wharf. He had always held that the loss caused by the prevalence of foot-and-mouth disease was a question of as much interest for the consumer as for the producer. In the Report of the Royal Commission over which he had presided this view was also taken. The Commissioners said— These diseases (pleuro-pneumonia and foot-and-mouth), which are both of foreign origin, are Drought into the Foreign Animals Wharf from time to time. Although every precaution is taken, there can be no doubt that foot-and-mouth disease has been introduced into this country from abroad by these means. This has led to the demand for the exclusion of live stock from infected countries which has been urged by so many of the witnesses, to whose evidence upon the subject we have already referred. The evidence as to the discouragement which was given to the breeding of cattle and sheep in Great Britain, and the diminution in the supply of meat which arose from extensive disease in the country, appears to us to be conclusive. Looking to the great importance to the home supply of meat, as compared with the supply of live animals from abroad, and to the facility with which dead meat can be imported in the place of animals that are alive, we recommend that the landing of foreign live animals should not be permitted in future from any countries as to which the Privy Council are not satisfied that they are perfectly free from contagious disease. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Carling-ford) had rather minimized the quantity of disease brought into this country. In 1881, there were 4,833 outbreaks, the number of animals attacked being 183,046. In 1882, the outbreaks were 1,970, and the animals attacked 37,950; but in 1883 the outbreaks were no fewer than 18,732, and the animals attacked 461,145. It was a remarkable fact that, concurrent with the increase of the disease in this country, and of the number of outbreaks, was the increase in the number of cargoes imported from abroad. He found that, in 1883, the foreign cargoes landed in which foot-and-mouth disease was discovered were 90, and the animals affected 1,172. There were probably many other animals which had contracted the disease from the others because they might be 14 days at the wharf before being slaughtered, and they had the whole of those 14 days to develop the disease which had been brought here by the 90 cargoes. In point of fact, it affected thousands of animals. Professor Brown said— The disease thus introduced into the Deptford Cattle Market continued to spread among the animals landed there, and as the lairs at that time were overcrowded with animals from America as well as Europe, no opportunity was afforded for the effectual disinfection of the places where disease had existed, and, consequently, animals which were perfectly healthy on landing became infected soon after entering the lairs. Professor Brown also said— It is a well-established fact that foot-and-mouth disease is one of the infectious maladies which can be transmitted to healthy animals without contact with others affected with the disorder. The mode of communication is technically known as 'mediate contagion,' and it includes all possible means of conveyance of the infective matter short of the direct intervention of a diseased animal. In fact, it was impossible to overrate the enormous risk we ran of having foot-and-mouth disease propagated throughout the country by means of the animals which came from abroad. The remedy was very simple, and it was contained in the Bill—namely, that no animal should come from a country in which this disease existed. He confined the Bill to foot-and-mouth disease. The Lord President and himself viewed this matter from a totally different standpoint. The noble Lord's desire was to deal with the matter by very severe restrictions at home in order to stamp out the disease. The object which he had himself in view was to prevent the disease from coming into the country. The Lord President, when he talked of carrying out the restrictions, must have forgotten that there were between 300 and 400 local authorities throughout the country; and anyone who was brought into contact with the local authorities and was acquainted with the manner in which they conducted their business, and the different views they entertained in different parts of the country, must be satisfied that it was not reasonable to assume that a uniform system would be carried out by those 400 local authorities. He was quite ready to admit that the Privy Council, under the direction of the Lord President, I had carried out the restrictions during the past three years with a vigour and determination which reflected credit on the noble Lord. But the Lord President must know that those restrictions were not only very onerous, and hampered the farmer very much in the manner of conducting his business, but very seriously interfered with his income, and with the prices which he got for his stock. He would give their Lordships an instance. In a part of the country in which foot-and-mouth disease prevailed, and the Privy Council by their powers had stopped fairs and markets, by licence of the local authority an auction sale was allowed, the animals sold to be slaughtered within six days. A gentleman sent his sheep to the sale, but the butchers had it entirely their own way, and did not give anything like the value of the sheep, which were sold at 10s. a-head less than what they ought to fetch. It might be said that the gentleman knew very well when he sent in his sheep that he would be obliged to take what he could get, as he could not bring them back again. But he was obliged to send them, because he had no keep, and if he were to try to feed them at home he would have lost more money than he did by the sale. That was nothing more than what was going on in all parts of the country which were subject to the disease. Therefore their Lordships were bound to see what they could do for an interest which had suffered far too much and far too long. That was one reason why he had brought in this Bill when he found that the Government had no thought of dealing with the matter, at least so far as could be gathered from the Speech delivered by command of Her Majesty. He believed they would not have heard of the Government measure at all had it not been for the strong and serious reminder of the condition of things given by the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (MR. Chaplin), who gave Notice of an Amendment to the Address censuring the Government for not having given effect to the Resolution on the subject which had been carried in the House of Commons last Session. There was one other point upon which he should like to touch, and that was the opinion of the Prime Minister upon this subject. The right hon. Gentleman was a great authority upon all subjects, and not very long ago, at a meeting of his tenantry, he was bound to admit—as all were bound to admit—that great distress had afflicted the agricultural interests of this country. The Prime Minister sympathized with his tenants, and suggested that they should grow more fruit and make jam. That was a branch of agriculture of which he (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) was totally ignorant, and he must decline to enter upon the subject. He would, however, wait and see what would be the result of the experiments that were to be made by the Prime Minister and his tenants in the manufacture of jam, and how far those experiments would alleviate the existing agricultural distress. But, in the second place, the right hon. Gentleman offered a more practical suggestion, and advised his tenants to turn their attention, where it was possible, to dairy-farming. That was a very good piece of advice; but if there was one branch of agriculture which required immunity and protection from disease more than another branch it was dairy-farming. If, therefore, it was right that dairy-farming should be developed, it was necessary that there should be immunity from disease so far as it could be obtained. He thought he had said enough to justify the course he had on that occasion adopted. He had shown their Lordships that the country was free from disease in 1880, that disease was re-introduced by a foreign cargo in the beginning of 1881, and continued to exist up to the present time, inflicting serious losses upon a class which had already suffered from a series of calamitous seasons; and he thought their Lordships would endeavour to prevent a similar disaster in the future by passing the Bill which he had the honour to ask them to read a second time.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Duke of Richmond and Gordon.)


said, that the noble Duke had not, from the beginning to the end of his speech, made the smallest reference to the provisions of the Bill.


I explained that it was a Bill to prevent animals coming from a country where disease existed. That is the whole Bill.


said, he had heard no explanation of the provisions of the Bill. The noble Duke had stated that, in the course of his speech upon this subject the other evening, he minimized the amount and evils of foot and-mouth disease in the country. He could assure their Lordships that he never intended to convey any idea of that kind. What he minimized was, not the amount of disease, but the amount of foreign infection which was believed to be introduced into this country from the foreign animals' wharves. While he admitted that foreign infection might have originally made its way into the country through those channels, there was no proof nor indication that it had been introduced from the wharves since the year 1880; and there was no reason to believe, from a comparison of facts and figures, that foreign infection continued to be introduced at the present time, or that the recent prevalence of foot-and-mouth disease depended in any way upon it. Certainly, during the year 1883 there could be no connection traced between the prevalence of foot-and-mouth disease in a greater or less degree and the introduction of foreign infection such as the noble Duke imagined. As to the Government Bill not being mentioned in the Queen's Speech, he would say frankly that no fresh legislation upon the subject was announced, because the Government did not think it essential. They knew the misconceptions and exaggerations which had prevailed throughout the Recess; they knew the panic which had been created in the minds of the farmers by an elaborate system of agitation; but they hoped that when the real facts of the case were brought out in Parliamentary discussion those alarms would be removed. The Government also hoped that their action in 1883, in using for the first time against foot-and-mouth disease the powers of prohibition contained in the Act of 1878, and the assurances they were prepared to give in the same direction, would have had the effect of re-assuring the mind of the country. They found, however, that that was not to be the case.' They found that nothing short of fresh legislation would suffice to restore confidence to the agricultural classes; and, knowing that the Act could not be efficiently administered unless that confidence was restored, they felt that it would be better to make it quite clear to all the world, not only that they had the power, but that they also had the will, and that they were under an obligation to protect the country from the importation of foot-and-mouth disease from abroad. The noble Duke said there was a complete difference between himself and the Privy Council as to the treatment of foot-and-mouth disease, and he quite agreed that the noble Duke thought of nothing in connection with this matter except exclusion. So entirety had he abandoned his own Act of 1878 that prohibition and exclusion seemed to have taken entire possession of his mind. On the other hand, he could not admit what the noble Duke had said—namely, that he and his Colleagues thought of nothing but internal restriction at home. So long as they succeeded, as they were now succeeding, in keeping out fresh infection from abroad, it was evident that the stamping out of the disease depended upon what was done at home. He was not able to accept the noble Duke's recipe in that Bill, because it would reduce the Privy Council to a mere piece of machinery in the matter; no rational discretion would be left to them; they would not be able to consider circumstances as they arose; but, on the discovery of a single case of disease happening in a foreign country, no matter how strict were the rules and careful the precautions observed in such foreign country, the Privy Council would be mechanically compelled to prohibit importation from it, although it might not have sent us a single diseased animal for any length of time. On the other hand, though he could not approve the noble Duke's proposal, he fully admitted that, in certain circumstances, the system of prohibition must be applied to foot-and-mouth disease. It was, indeed, the Government's intention to use the powers given by the existing Act for that purpose, and they would feel themselves under a positive obligation to do so. But he could not be a consenting party to the noble Duke's Bill, and should say "No!" to it without troubling the House with a Division.


said, he did not think the statement of the noble Lord the Lord President of the Council would be considered satisfactory by the country. He could not agree with the noble Lord that there was no connection between the landing of animals from abroad and the prevalence of the disease at home. There was undoubtedly such a connection, and it was unquestionable that the disease had first been introduced from abroad; and it was not too much to say that unless some strong measure was taken by the Government, it would be impossible, in the event of another outbreak, to carry out the restrictions that were already in use. The farmers had patiently borne with these most vexatious restrictions. The noble Lord's Bill would simply throw the responsibility on the Privy Council, and they had had enough of that. What was wanted was a clearly-defined rule, which all could understand, to oblige the Privy Council to put the law in motion; and he hoped the noble Duke would press his measure to a Division.


said, there could be no doubt of the enormous loss, not only to the farmer, but to the consumer also, which was caused by the prevalence of this disease. The Lord President had told them that in the first three months of 1883, 58 diseased cargoes were landed. The risk of loss implied in that statement was enormous. He had found by reference to the Veterinary Reports of the Privy Council that there was a pretty close correspondence between the importation of animals from countries in which the disease was prevalent and the number of diseased animals in this country. That correspondence clearly appeared in the Returns for each year from 1879 to 1882. It was high time, and the idea generally prevailed, that something should be done to stamp out foot-and-mouth disease, which had caused such terrible havoc since its importation from France in 1880 among valuable herds of cattle. He regretted the internal restrictions had not been enforced with uniformity; still, no one could say that they had not been severe in their operations. Early last spring, when markets and fairs were stopped, there was a considerable fall in the value of cattle and sheep, and particularly of sheep. If such restrictions were enforced at home, why could we not regulate the importation of cattle from abroad as all other countries and all our Colonies had done? But the method proposed by the noble Duke was hard and inelastic. It was that if it could be shown that foot-and-mouth disease existed in any country, whether by Consular Report, Letter, or otherwise, the Privy Council were to have the power of prohibiting importations. On the whole, he preferred the Bill of the Lord President, with the modifications that might be made in it. As long as we had a Privy Council, we must entrust it with certain discretions; but we ought to use every means we could to prevent the importation of foot-and-mouth disease. We ought also to make it clear that the object was not to raise the price of cattle in this country, but simply to extend reasonable protection to our own animals in the interests alike of farmers and consumers.

Motion agreed to; Bill road 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Thursday next.