HL Deb 19 June 1884 vol 289 cc771-7

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a." —(The Lord Fitzgerald.)


My Lords, my excuse for troubling your Lordships about this Bill is that, as the Cork Butter Market rules the price of butter throughout the South of Ireland, it can hardly be dealt with as an ordinary Private Bill. It excites the interest of the Munster dairy farmers much more than the great measure which next week will probably occupy your Lordships' attention for many days. I must say, at the outset, that I am quite as anxious that this Bill should become law as my noble and learned Friend the Lord Justice of Appeal (Lord Fitzgerald) who has charge of it. My object is to induce your Lordships to agree to an addition to it which will, I feel sure, conduce to its well working, and would satisfy—I think I can show—all the reasonable requirements of the butter producers. The Cork Butter Market is a peculiar one. In it the producer of butter does not deal directly with the exporters, but sends his butter to a broker who sells it for him. The market has been governed by a close Corporation, consisting of brokers and merchants. Irrespective altogether of the quality of the butter, the broker is paid on each cwt. He sells 1s. 3d., and the exporter 1s. 4d., besides certain other perquisites. The butter when received is inspected by officers appointed by the Trustees, and the Inspector who values and classifies it is always accompanied in his inspection by the broker to whom it is consigned. The same price is paid for all the first-class or second-class butter, so that there is no inducement to the producer to make butter of any higher quality than that which will entitle it to the first brand. Some attempt has been made to establish a higher class butter; but its operation has been plight. The result of this system has been disastrous. There certainly is not in the United Kingdom—I doubt whether there is in the world—land capable of producing better butter than Limerick and some of the adjacent counties; yet while the import of Danish butter has in 20 years increased from 300,000 lbs. to 2,000,000 lbs., Irish butter has been almost entirely cut off from the London Market. The Duke of Richmond's Committee had reported— The present arrangements of the Cork Butter Market have evidently tended to reduce the value of the higher classes of butter and to unduly raise the value of the lower classes. It has been well described as the best market for bad butter and the worst for good. Under these circumstances, a deputation of a most influential character, headed by my noble Friend (the Marquess of Waterford), waited on Earl Spencer, and the result of that deputation was the introduction of the present Bill, framed by my noble and learned Friend the Lord Justice of Appeal, by the Corporation of Cork, except in one particular. The Bill seems to be an excellent and admirable one. It creates a new Governing Body. It requires that within six months a new code of bye-laws, to be approved of by not less than two-thirds of the Trustees, be formed; and it gives power to the Privy Council, in case these bye-laws are not framed, to direct the Local Government Board to prepare them. It requires, also, that an open market be established, to which all who wish it may carry their goods. But, my Lords, my experience teaches me that the best laws, if not administered by those who desire to carry them out in the spirit as well as the letter, avail little. I cannot consider the constitution of the Board of Trustees fair to the producers of butter. There are to be six representatives of the brokers, six of the merchants, three of the Corporation, and six appointed by the County Cork Grand Jury, 15 to represent the non-producers, six to represent the producers. I cannot think that this is a settlement, to use Earl Spencer's words, satisfactory to the producers of butter. The only change that I desire to be made in this Bill is to add to the Board of Trustees three dairy farmers, selected by the Grand Jury, having each in their possession for the last year at least 30 cows. That change will, I think, give confidence to the farmers in the fair working of the market.


said, he thought that the Bill was most decidedly a step in the right direction. Although some of their Lordships, by merely reading its title, might imagine it referred to only a small matter, yet it was one of the greatest possible importance to Ireland. The Cork Butter Market, in fact, regulated the price of butter throughout the country, which, as their Lordships were aware, was one of the most important productions which came to this country from Ireland. Last year he attended a deputation to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland on the subject; and he (the Marquess of Water-ford) believed the present Bill was in some respects due to, and was an answer to, that deputation. The state of the Cork Butter Market, in its present form, left much to be desired. It was governed entirely by a close Corporation; in fact, their Lordships would hardly believe that seven exporters and seven brokers possessed the entire control of the market. Butter was often stored away by these buyers for some time, and then it was sent into England branded as Cork "firsts," with the inevitable result that the Irish, butter got a bad name. The Bill under their Lordships' consideration, although it promised an improvement on the present system, was not, he was afraid, altogether satisfactory. There was, however, a distinct improvement on the old Committee of seven brokers and seven buyers. They were to be reduced to six each, and members, to be nominated by the Grand Jury, were to be put on the Committee. For his own part, however, he thought the producers should be represented as well, and this had been recommended by his noble Friend (Lord Emly), who urged that three producers should be nominated to serve on the Committee. He thought the thanks of people in Ireland were due to his noble Friend and the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Fitzgerald) for the trouble they had taken in, the matter. He hoped the noble and learned Lord would accept the very moderate proposition that had been made; and he would further recommend that any decisions arrived at by the Committee in regard to the regulation of the market should be laid on their Lordships' Table.


cordially endorsed the views expressed by the noble Marquess, and expressed a hope that the Bill would not meet with any opposition at their Lordships' hands.


said, there was a very considerable feeling as regarded this Bill. It had a peculiarity as an Irish Bill, and that was that everybody appeared to wish it well. He wished to point out that the Irish landlords joined with the farmers in expressing a desire to increase the number of the Committee of Management of the market by adding three Irish butter producers to it. He hoped that the Bill might become law, but that the Amendment would be introduced into the measure in the interests of the consumer and producer.


said, that he desired to explain his connection with the Bill in a few words. Complaints had been made of abuses alleged to exist in the Cork Butter Market, and a weighty deputation, headed by the noble Marquess, waited on Earl Spencer. The Lord Lieutenant had taken the matter into his consideration, and had stated to that deputation that the matter was one which ought to be dealt with by the Corporation of Cork in conjunction with the butter merchants and exporters. His Excellency suggested that they should come to such an agreement as would remedy the evils complained of, thinking it undesirable that the Government should interfere in a matter of this sort except in the last resort, and then only in the event of its being proved that substantial injustice was being done to a class of persons unable to look after their own interests, or that the existing arrangements were such as materially to retard the development of an important branch of industry. The Corporation, acting on His Excellency's suggestion, promoted a Bill against which many Petitions were presented. He (Lord Fitzgerald), having been requested to act as arbitrator between the parties interested, had at first refused, but finally, at the request of the Lord Lieutenant, consented to act, and having received the statements of witnesses before the Richmond Commission, and a variety of Reports, he proceeded to Dublin, and there held a careful and full inquiry. From the evidence it seemed that the parties were agreed that legislation was expedient, and he decided that it was essential that the market should be established on a firm legal basis, and for that purpose receive the sanction of Parliament, but that it should be left as far as practicable to the guidance of its Governing Body—a body untrammelled by unbending Legislative Rules. The noble and learned Lord then gave, in effect, the terms of his award upon which the present Bill had been founded. If the question had come before a Select Committee of the House, its consideration would have occupied months, and although a great deal of money might have been spent, no result might have been obtained. Such had been the fate of a Water Bill promoted by the Corporation of Newry, upon which £14,000 had been spent. No one up to the present had said a word against his award; the Bill founded on it had passed the House of Commons without opposition, and there had been no Petitions against it. The city and the county of Cork, and the county of Kerry, the two most important counties concerned, were in favour of the measure. The Amendment proposed by his noble Friend (Lord Emly), to add three producers of butter to the Board of Trustees, he could not accept. The old Management of the market consisted of 21 persons, annually elected, seven by the butter merchants and 14 by the export merchants, a Body voluntary and unincorporated. This Body had managed the market, and made it a success, and had dealt with butter amounting to £1,500,000 in value every year. The property in the market was theirs, as were the profits of the management, and Parliament could not interfere with them against their consent without giving them full and fair compensation. Under this Bill there would be a new Governing Body, and one which he considered would be unexceptional. It had been formed under a compromise. Among the principal objects to be obtained were increased production of pure butter, improvement in its manufacture and quality, increased facilities for its sale in the butter market, careful and impartial inspection and classification, prevention of frauds and adulteration, the collection and diffusion of intelligence respecting improvements in the production, manufacture, and sale of butter, and the establishment of a market or markets containing, as far as possible, the advantages of a free market, with such regulations or restrictions only as experience had shown, or might prove, to be necessary or useful. Six of the new Body would represent the exporters, six would represent the merchants, and six would be selected by the Grand Jurors of the county of Cork, and three more would be selected by the Corporation of Cork from the merchants of the highest respectability not connected with the butter trade, making in all 21 members of the Committee to manage the market; and he might remind his noble Friend that those elected by the Grand Jury would represent the butter producers, and so would the exporters or brokers, whose great object, would be that the best butter should be produced and brought to market, and the largest quantity of it sold and exported. Under Clause 34 provision was made to secure competency and skill on the part of the Butter Inspectors. Penalties, would be imposed for counterfeiting brands and the power of issuing search warrants given in cases where fraudulent practices were suspected. Provision was also made for the auditing of the accounts of the Trustees. The Bill had been prepared with great care; it had been improved in the House of Commons and also by the Chairman of Committees; and he had no hesitation in saying that he entertained a hope that if it passed in its present shape it would establish the Butter Market of Cork as the best and the largest in the world. The Bill represented an experiment of importance—-that was, whether local Bills of this and a similar character might not be investigated by a local tribunal, the facts ascertained, the character of the measure agreed on, and then brought before Parliament for its sanction. The expenses of the investigation in Dublin had been nil, and the cost of the promotion of this Bill before Parliament would be represented by a few hundred pounds in place of many thousands.


regretted that the noble and learned Lord who had just spoken was opposed to the proposal that the constitution of the Board should be moderately fortified in the way suggested. He hoped that before the stage at which Amendments could be moved was reached the matter would be reconsidered.


said, that it was important for those who knew the extreme necessity for some reform in the Cork Butter Market to consider that this was a Private Bill; and he had every reason to believe that if their Lordships altered it in the way proposed, the promoters, the Corporation of Cork, would withdraw it, and things would be left as they were before. That would be a great misfortune.

Motion agreed to;Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed.