HL Deb 21 February 1884 vol 284 cc1528-39

House in Committee (according to order).

Clause 1 (Privy Council to prohibit the landing of foreign animals affected with foot and mouth disease).


in moving to leave out— 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, and to insert, as an Amendment— Whenever they are not satisfied with respect to any foreign country that the laws thereof relating to the importation and exportation of animals, and to the prevention of the introduction or spreading of disease, and the general sanitary condition of animals therein, are such as to afford reasonable security against the importation therefrom of animals afflicted with foot and mouth disease, said, the object of his Amendment was exactly the converse of the proposition contained in the Bill of the noble Lord (the Lord President). As it stood at present, that Bill gave very little further power to the Privy Council than the law gave at present. The clause contained the word "shall"—that was, "shall prohibit such landing;" but it did not say how the Privy Council were to be bound by it, nor did he see how the law would be made better. By altering the clause as he (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) proposed, it would strengthen the hands of the Privy Council to a greater degree than would be done by the clause if unamended. It would also make the Bill more satisfactory and stronger. What, he asked, could the "other circumstances" be which were mentioned in the clause? He was quite ready to admit that the Bill which had just passed through Committee was much stronger and much more stringent than the present Bill; and if he had the power to carry it, he would prefer his own Bill to that of the noble Lord opposite (the Lord President). But he must look to the probabilities of things. His great object was to get some legislation on this subject during the present Session. That, he thought, was essential, as the country had suffered quite long enough from foot-and mouth disease introduced from abroad; and what they wanted was legislation to put an end to it. He, therefore, should not oppose the measure of the Government, especially as he recognized the fact that, even if their Lordships passed the Bill he had introduced, there was little chance of it becoming law, as it would be opposed by the Government in "another place;" and, considering the majority they possessed, that would be fatal to its progress. Therefore, he looked to see what would be the next best mode of getting legislation; and he thought the Government Bill gave them an opportunity of amending the law, and his great hope was that it would be amended in the manner he proposed. His Amendment was precisely the same as the Resolution passed by the House of Commons last July, on the Motion of Mr. Chaplin, and he asked their Lordships to put it in this Bill. It had been said by the Government, since the Resolution was passed, that their powers exercised under the Privy Council were not strong enough to put it in force, and that legislation was required to give effect to it; consequently, he now gave the Government an opportunity to carry that out; and he trusted that they would not disagree to his proposal, particularly as the Resolution was supported by both political Parties, and if the Government had really the interest of the farmers at heart they would accede to it.

Amendment moved, In page 1, line 12, leave out from ("whenever") to end of clause and insert ("they are not satisfied with respect to any foreign country that the laws thereof relating to the importation and exportation of animals, and to the prevention of the introduction or spreading of disease, and the general sanitary condition of animals therein, are such as to afford reasonable security against the importation therefrom of animals afflicted with foot and mouth disease.")—(The Duke of Richmond and Gordon.)


said, he was not aware that anyone had, on behalf of the Government, said that the Resolution of Mr. Chaplin was the right mode of legislating upon this subject; but what had been said on behalf of the Privy Council, when they received addresses and resolutions asking that the Resolution should be carried into effect, was that they had not the power to do so. By giving effect to it, the Government would have been legislating instead of administering. As to the Resolution itself, they expressed no opinion upon it. As to the noble Duke's Amendment, he (Lord Carlingford) gathered from his speech that his reason for the change which he proposed to make was to make this Bill agree with the Resolution; but, to his mind, that was not a conclusive argument in its favour, and he much preferred the words of the Bill, which had been adopted after very careful consideration. He would give an illustration of the use of the words "other circumstances." The Privy Council, when considering the question of foot-and-mouth disease, was bound to have regard to the state of the law of a country before deciding what action should be taken with reference to that country. But the law of the country might be very good, and yet it might be very badly administered, and that would be a circumstance which it would be important to consider before arriving at a decision. The noble Duke thought the words of the clause not strict enough; but, in his (Lord Carlingford's) opinion, they met the case fairly, and threw a heavy responsibility upon the Privy Council, and would compel them to do everything necessary to be done to put a stop to the importation of foot-and-mouth disease from abroad. The view of those who framed the clause was, that the Privy Council ought to take into consideration all circumstances; and he felt sure that, under the clause, the Privy Council could do, and would be bound to do, all that was required. The effect of the noble Duke's Amendment was that, unless the Privy Council were satisfied that all the conditions prescribed were fulfilled, they would be bound at once to prohibit the importation of animals from that country. But there might be many cases and circumstances in which it could not be proved, to the satisfaction of the Privy Council, that such conditions did exist, and yet it might be most inconvenient and prejudicial to important interests to enforce at once absolute prohibition. Therefore, the Privy Council should be allowed to exercise an alternative, and allow cattle to come to be slaughtered at the port of debarkation. As he had said, he preferred the Bill as it stood, because he thought it was more reasonable, and would be more workable, while it was sufficient to effect what was desired. Under those circumstances, he must oppose the Amendment.


said, he was very sorry the Government were not able to accept the very moderate and temperate proposal of his noble Friend (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon). Whatever objection he (the Marquess of Salisbury) had to the Bill in its present shape was not diminished, but increased, by what had fallen from the noble Lord opposite (Lord Carling-ford), if, as it appeared, he contemplated that, under the Bill as it stood, the importation of diseased cattle from a country must be a condition precedent to the prohibition of further importation of cattle from that country. The noble Lord must first be sure that disease was there, by the disease coming to our shores, before he would shut it out altogether. Was that not absurd? The very ground of legislation was that they were dealing with one of the subtlest and one of the most mobile forms of contagion with which science was acquainted. Slaughtering animals at the port of landing was no security, as the farmers had found by the terrible experience of 1880 and 1883, when they had to pay an enormous fine for the mistakes of the Privy Council. Do what they would against it, disease was carried in some way or other by drovers and other persons from the ports of slaughter into the country, for they had tried the dangerous experiment of slaughtering animals at the port of landing; and if the disease broke out in the same manner again, it would be no consolation to find that the Privy Council had at last acquired a conviction that there was a dangerous disease in the country from which the animals were imported. By the clause of the Government, if the Privy Council had full and perfect knowledge of all that was going on in the foreign country to which their attention was directed, no doubt they might, under the clause, immediately prohibit importation; but in all cases where their knowledge was imperfect, or where they were in doubt, diseased animals might be admitted; whereas, by his noble Friend's Amendment, the Privy Council would have to shut out the disease altogether from the first, and not be obliged to wait for evidence of its existence by an outbreak in this country. He thought that, where there was any doubt, importations should be stopped. They all knew that the foreign supply of live animals formed but a fractional part of the meat supply in this country, the home supply was still terribly diminished by the importation of disease, and they knew, too, that unless this disease was shut out of the country, farmers and others would not invest their capital in stock, and, consequently, the supply of meat would be lessened. And yet, for the sake of saving the small foreign supply, the Government were willing to palter and tamper with a dangerous enemy, and refuse to take the precautions which agriculturists had found to be necessary. That they should not do, but give the Privy Council full power to keep it out of the country.


said, the two speeches just delivered convinced him that the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) and the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) did not understand what the Amendment proposed to do; and it was, in his opinion, the reverse of temperate. The present law was that, if the Privy Council were satisfied that the state of the law of a foreign country and its sanitary condition were such that they formed a reasonable security against the importation of disease from it, they must admit arrivals from that foreign country, not merely for slaughter, but absolutely free for all purposes; but this Amendment said that the Privy Council must be first satisfied or animals must be prohibited; consequently, the alternative, so far as related to foot-and-mouth disease, would be reduced to one of absolute admission or absolute prohibi- tion—there would be no middle course. The Amendment went far beyond the noble Duke's own Bill. It was total prohibition or free admission; it took away all discretion from the Privy Council, and was an entire reversal of the present law.


said, he should support the Amendment. Before the discussion, he had had some difficulty in ascertaining the difference between the clause and the Amendment, except that it appeared to him that the words of the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) were more clear than those of the noble Lord the Lord President, because they imposed on the Privy Council the obligation of inquiry, and if they were not satisfied with the result, then they were bound to prohibit importation. Nothing could be more reasonable than the proposition of the noble Duke, and he should therefore vote for the Amendment. Farmers had a perfect right to expect that the Privy Council should make every reasonable inquiry; and if they found that in a particular country there was no security against the exportation of foot-and-mouth disease, there was nothing unreasonable in prohibiting the importation of animals from that country.

On Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause?"

Their Lordships divided:—Contents 45; Not-Contents 75: Majority 30.

Selborne, E. (L. Chancellor.) Calthorpe, L.
Carlingford, L.
Carrington, L.
Grafton, D. Churchill, L.
Westminster, D. Clifford of Chudleigh, L.
Derby, E. Emly, L.
Granville, E. FitzGerald, L.
Kimberley, E. Granard, L. (E. Granard.)
Morley, E.
Northbrook, E. Hammond, L.
Sydney, E. Houghton, L. Kenmare, L. (E. Kenmare.)
Eversley, V.
Gordon, V. (E. Aberdeen.) Kinnaird, L.
Methuen, L.
Monson, L. [Teller.]
Acton, L. Monteagle of Brandon, L.
Alcester, L.
Auckland, L. Ramsay, L. (E. Dalhousie.)
Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.) [Teller.] Reay, L.
Bramwell, L. Romilly, L.
Breadalbane, L. (E. Breadalane.) Sandhurst, L.
Saye and Sele, L.
Skene, L. (E. Fife.) Thurlow, L.
Strafford, L. (V. Enfield.) Truro, L.
Tweeddale, L. (M. Tweeddale.)
Stratheden and Campbell, L.
Wrottesley, L.
Sudeley, L.
Beaufort, D. Borthwick, L.
Bedford, D. Boston, L.
Buckingham and Chandos, D. Brabourne, L.
Braybrooke, L.
Leeds, D. Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)
Richmond, D.
Camoys, L.
Abergavenny, M. Chelmsford, L.
Exeter, M. Clements, L. (E. Leitrim.)
Hertford, M.
Salisbury, M. Colchester, L.
Colville of Culross, L.
Bathurst, E. De L Isle and Dudley, L.
Beauchamp, E.
Bradford, E. Ellenborough, L.
Cadogan, E. Forester, L.
Cairns, E. Foxford, L. (E. Limerick.)
Caledon, E.
Camperdown, E. Gage, L. (V. Gage.)
Cawdor, E. Headley, L.
Coventry, E. Hopetoun, L. (E. Hopetoun.) [Teller.]
Dartmouth, E.
Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queens-berry.) Hothfield, L.
Hylton, L.
Kenry, L. (E. Dunraven and Mount-Earl.)
Feversham, E.
Fortescue, E. Ker, L. (M. Lothian.)
Hardwicke, E. Lovat, L.
Howe, E. Lovel and Holland, L.
Leven and Melville, E. (E. Egmont.)
Lucan, E. Lyveden, L.
Onslow, E. Norton, L.
Redesdale, E. Penrhyn, L.
Stanhope, E. Rossmore, L.
Suffolk and Berkshire, E. Rowton, L.
Shute, L. (V. Barrington.)
Wharncliffe, E.
Stanley of Alderley, L.
Bolingbroke and St. John, V.
Stewart of Garlies, L.
Cranbrook, V. (E. Galloway.)
Hawarden, V. [Teller.] Tollemache, L.
Hood, V. Tyrone, L. (M. Waterford.)
Melville, V.
Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)
Abinger, L.
Ashford, L. (V. Bury) Wimborne, L.
Blantyre, L. Windsor, L.

Amendment agreed to. Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 2 (Extension of provisions relating to quarantine).


said, he would explain, with reference to the clause, that the Act of 1878, which provided for the general system of slaughter at the ports, gave the Privy Council power to admit animals into the country, in certain exceptional cases, without requiring that they should be slaughtered. For instance, they were empowered to admit animals which were intended for exhibitioner animals which had been sent from this country for exhibition abroad, subject, of course, to quarantine for any length of time. That power had been found to be extremely convenient; but at present it only applied to those countries the animals of which were admitted for slaughter, and it had no reference to prohibited countries. He might mention that, last year, the Privy Council were asked to allow a certain performing bull to be brought over from France to this country, for the purpose of being exhibited. At that time they were able to exercise the power they possessed, and the animal was admitted without being slaughtered. But France had now become a prohibited country; and, should a similar case arise, the Privy Council could not make an exception, and thus inconvenience and hardship might result. He thought it was only reasonable that the Department should have the power to admit animals from prohibited countries in exceptional cases, and he therefore asked their Lordships to agree to the clause.


said, that he had no objection to the clause, which he thought was a perfectly reasonable one.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 3 (Amendment of Part Four of Schedule V. of the principal Act).


said, that the object of the clause was to allow cattle to come from parts of a prohibited country, if the Privy Council was satisfied that such parts were absolutely free from infection.


said, he thought the clause would involve risk as regarded the boundaries to be assigned in countries where cattle disease existed. It would also give too wide a discretionary power to the Privy Council, and thus render the Bill valueless. Importation of pneumonia from the United States and Canada might again arise, and be most prejudicial to this country. The Cattle Diseases Committee—a Committee consisting of loading Gentlemen of both Parties, largely interested in agriculture—were strongly opposed to this clause, and intended to press its rejection in "another place." Under these circumstances, he begged to move the omission of the clause.


said, it was true the clause conferred on the Privy Council a discretionary power, the use of which would incur a very heavy responsibility; but it was desirable that they should possess it in certain circumstances. There were large interests desirous that the Privy Council should possess the powers given in the clause. Other interests objected, but in some cases it was certainly desirable that the Privy Council should be able to admit cattle from an uninfected part of a country that might be elsewhere infected—for instance, it might be found unnecessary to enforce prohibition or slaughter against every part of a great country like the United States, and particular States might be excepted, if the laws and regulations of the country were satisfactory.


said, with regard to the objection of his noble Friend (Earl Stanhope), the boundaries of countries were purely political. There was no reason for insisting that in all cases the limit of presumed infection should coincide with them. He could see no objection to the clause.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 4 (Orders to belaid before Parliament) agreed to.

Clause 5 (Construction of Act and short title).


said, he would suggest that the same powers might be given to Courts of Quarter Sessions by this Bill as they possessed under the Police Acts. The necessity for some such provision was evidenced by the inconvenience that might be otherwise occasioned in peculiarly-situated counties like Worcester.


said, he could not entertain the suggestion of the noble Earl, as it would be inexpedient that the Bill should apply to anything but foreign importation.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 6 (Part of Act to be temporary).


said, he would move that the clause should be left out, as it limited the operation of the Act to two years. If it were necessary now to exclude foreign disease from this country, it might be just as necessary in two years' time. He would ask anyone acquainted with the subject, would they get any person to put capital into a business which might be turned upside down in two years? If the clause were retained, the Bill would be perfectly useless. He would therefore ask their Lordships, in the strongest terms, to strike out the clause, and give the public the benefit of the Bill. He said if it were passed with this limitation it would not create the confidence which was necessary to induce agriculturists to put capital into the business.

Amendment moved, "To strike out Clause 6."—[The Duke of Richmond and Gordon.)


said, he thought the proposal in the clause a perfectly reasonable one; and he was not convinced to the contrary by what had fallen from his noble Friend (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon). The subject was a very difficult one, and circumstances might alter so much during the next two years as to make it by no means certain that the method their Lordships were adopting in dealing with it was the right one. He, therefore, thought it very desirable that Parliament should, in two years, be under the necessity of reconsidering the subject. There was no reason why the Act should be less rigorously enforced because it was temporary. He was unable to accept the Amendment.


said, it was necessary, above all things, that there should be confidence and certainty in the legislation of Parliament; for it was the uncertainty of the law which distressed and interfered with the agricultural interest in this country. Neither of those requisites would be given, if they were to be left under the impression that at the end of two years some further changes might be made in the laws regulating the importation of foreign cattle. If the measure lapsed, and diseas were introduced, they knew at what a loss it would have to be stamped out, in the sacrifice of animals and the depreciation of breeding herds and of dairies. Therefore, what they wished to attack was the cause, in order that they might not be put to the expense of dealing with the effects. He did not believe that anyone who was conversant with the insidious nature of foot-and-mouth disease would assert that it would be stamped out in two years; and, that being so, why limit the operation of the Act to that period? It was not reasonable that they should be asked again to legislate on this subject in two years. If there was a complete disappearance of the disease, it would be no longer incumbent upon the Legislature to impose those restrictions upon the importation of foreign cattle.


said, he most cordially supported the Amendment. The farmers were in earnest upon the subject, and, rightly or wrongly, expected great things from the measure; therefore, why should they not give them a full measure, especially when it was remembered that one of the advantages of the Bill was that it would largely increase breeding operations? He was sorry to be obliged to differ from the noble Lord the Lord President; but he believed that the term of two years was not nearly enough; that it was of no use at all, and made the measure of no avail. There was nothing more unreasonable than the cry of Protection got up against this measure. The more the farmers were encouraged in raising live stock, the greater would be the increase in the number of cattle, which was equivalent to a cheaper supply of food for the people. Increased production would bring about a decrease of prices, and the consumer would not be prejudiced by the omission of the clause.


said, that as a veteran Free Trader, he should support the Amendment. There was no truth in the cry of Protection which had been raised, and the Bill would favour the production both of meat and milk. While the stock of neat cattle in the country was at present much below what it used to be, and the number of sheep also, the value of cereals had much diminished, so that extensive breeding to supply our present deficiency of stock became doubly important. But this required a sense of security on the part of the farmer, and the proposed cessation of the measure in two years would not encourage them to enter largely into cattle breeding. It was the most effectual way to discourage them. The supply of food was in some measure supplemented by the importation from America; but it was most important that there should be an increase in the production of milk, as a plentiful supply of milk was most essential to the health of the whole population, and especially of the young, and except in the costly form of condensed milk it was impossible to import it from abroad. In that shape it was not really available to the people.


said, that after the experience of the last Division, he would not put their Lordships to the trouble of dividing again.

Amendment agreed to; Clause struck out accordingly.

The Report of the Amendments to be received on Monday next; and Bill to be printed as amended. (No. 17.)