HL Deb 12 May 1887 vol 314 cc1650-6

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, it was a Bill to amend the law with respect to the weighing of cattle in markets and fairs. It was proposed to apply the Bill to all legal markets and fairs in which tolls were for the time being authorized to be taken by any Company, Corporation, or person, every such Company, Corporation, or person being called "the market authority." In every market or fair to which the Bill applied, the market authority should provide and maintain sufficient and proper buildings or places for weighing cattle brought for sale within the market or fair, and should keep therein machines and weights proper for that purpose, and should appoint proper persons to afford the use of such machines to the public for weighing cattle as might be from time to time required. If the market authority failed to comply with the provisions of this section, it should not be lawful for them to demand, receive, or recover any toll whatever in respect of any cattle brought to the market or fair for sale, so long as such failure continued. The cattle were to be weighed at the option of the seller or buyer, and persons appointed by the market authority to weigh cattle sold in the market or fair refusing to weigh cattle, or to give tickets specifying the true weight of the cattle weighed, should be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £5. It was unnecessary to take up their Lordships' time by going into details in regard to the Bill; but the question of the weighing of cattle had been for some time under the consideration of agriculturists in this country, and it had been satisfactorily adopted in the United States and elsewhere. During the severe agricultural depression, it had been found that, under the present system, farmers were very often unable to sell their cattle to advantage, and it was very desirable that the buyer and seller, if they wished it, should be able to know what exactly was the weight of the animals that were changing hands. This he could do, if he had the option, for a small toll, of weighing his cattle, as was done in America. The Central Chamber of Agriculture had discussed the matter, and passed a Resolution in favour of a measure of the sort; and the Royal Agricultural Society had determined to offer two prizes for the best machines for weighing cattle. He believed the Bill would be found of a very useful character, though it was not at all ambitious in appearance. The noble Earl concluded by moving the second reading.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a" —(The Earl of Camperdown.)


said, he was entirely opposed to the Bill, and hoped that their Lordships would not pass it. It was a proposal to put a duty and burthen on the owners of existing fairs and markets to which they were not liable. It applied to them provisions in the Fairs and Markets Clauses Act which were incorporated in every Bill that passed Parliament for the purpose of establishing a fair or market. When those clauses were so applied, they worked no injustice, because people came to Parliament for powers to establish a fair or market knowing on what terms they could have their market or fair if it was granted, and if they did not like those terms, they could leave the matter alone. But the Bill was to apply to fairs and markets already in existence, and which might have been in existence for 500 years. It would, therefore, impose upon market proprietors a duty to which they were not at present liable. Whether it was to be profitable or not to the person who owned the market or fair, he had to provide, according to this Bill, sufficient and proper buildings for the weighing of cattle, and machines and weights for this purpose. Was it right that their Lordships should impose that duty on the market proprietor? If this Bill passed, the result might be that it might not be worth while for the proprietor to keep open his market or fair. If providing these machines would be compensated for by the tolls for the use of them, they would be provided without an Act of Parliament. On the other hand, if such machines would not pay their expenses, it would be unfair to put the burden of providing them upon the owner of the market. The Bill would apply to all markets—a fish market and a vegetable market, as well as to a cattle market; and he noticed that cattle included horses, asses, and so on, and why horses and asses required weighing he could not understand. The measure, as the noble Earl had said, though not ambitious, was unreasonable, and therefore he moved its rejection.


said, the principle of the Bill was of some importance. The noble and learned Lord (Lord Bramwell) had made some criticisms of great force which were well worthy of attention; but he was sure his noble Friend the Earl of Camperdown did not propose that the measure should apply to fish or butter markets. The Bill might be rather of too far a reaching nature in its present shape; and he hoped that, while supporting the second reading, it would be considerably amended in Committee. It was important that Parliament should not throw cold water on the growing desire which was finding expression among intelligent men connected with agriculture, that farmers should sell their cattle by live weight when they used the market. He (Earl Spencer) was strongly in favour of the principle enabling the farmer to adopt that system; because it eliminated one of the elements of uncertainty in the sale of cattle. He knew that many farmers entirely objected to that method, believing that they could judge of the weight of an animal much better than the butcher. But the fact was that the butcher, from his continual experience, was far better able than the farmer to estimate the weight of a live animal. He, therefore, considered it would be an immense advantage to the farmers of this country, if they fell in with the fashion of weighing their cattle, as was done in America, and by many agriculturists now in this country, who had found how valuable that system was. At the same time, he admitted that that was rather an early day to force such provisions as those contained in the Bill upon the proprietors of every market and fair. At present, the matter was in an experimental stage; but they wished to induce farmers to take it up. He thought it would be rather hard to ask every market, however small, to provide weighing places for cattle. At the same time, when public opinion advanced a little more, it would be found indispensable, he believed, that all large markets, where cattle wore sold, should have the means of weighing the animals. He did not know whether it was possible to modify the Bill in such a manner as to withdraw from it some of the grave difficulties which he could see would be urged against it; but he should be sorry to see the Bill thrown out at the present stage. As far as he was concerned, therefore, while admitting that great difficulties and objections lay in the way, he hoped the Bill would be read a second time, in order that its provisions might be fairly considered by the agricultural world.


said, that, as an instance of the hardship that would ensue upon the carrying out of the measure, he would put before their Lordships the case of a charity school supported by tolls levied on a particular fair. These tolls had fallen in recent years to about £30 a-year. That school would be practically disendowed if, in addition to the small number of cattle sold, the authorities of the fair were obliged to go to the expense of providing weighing machines, or, in default, to lose the tolls of the fair. He did not think the Bill, being merely a tentative measure, ought to touch small fairs at the present time, because great cases of hardship, such as he had shown, might be inflicted.


said, he supported the second reading, and regarded the Bill as a not unreasonable extension of the existing law, which required weighing machines to be provided for all other commodities. It would be quite reasonable that a fee should be imposed for animals weighed. It would be easy in Committee to protect the owners of the smaller markets.


, in reply to the objections urged by the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Bramwell), said, he would point out that the Bill was one which might very well be amended in Committee. He (the Earl of Jersey) was the owner of a market himself, and should not object to have the Bill applied to him. A few years ago the Privy Council compelled the owners of markets to pave their markets, and this was only another step in advance. He agreed with the view, that it would be a very good thing if public opinion could be advanced in this direction.


said, he trusted the Bill would be road a second time. Some time ago he sold a number of bullocks to a certain butcher for £19 each; but eight others, for which he was only offered £18 10s. per head, he retained. Ten days or a fortnight afterwards, he sent those eight bullocks to a Farmers' Supply Association, through whom, curiously enough, they found their way to the same butcher. Those bullocks were sold by live weight, and he realized for each animal £21 19s. 8d.


also supported the second reading of the Bill. He knew of a market where heavy tolls were taken and no accommodation given of any kind; the open street was the market. In that district a farmer had provided himself with a weighing machine. At present, in the absence of weighing machines, farmers were at a great disadvantage with the butchers.


said, he was authorized by the Local Government Board to ask their Lordships to allow the Bill to be read a second time, very much on the grounds mentioned by the noble Earl on the Bench opposite (Earl Spencer). At the same time it must be understood that it is not intended, by reading the Bill a second time, to approve of all the provisions it contained, or to go the whole length that it would go if it were passed exactly as it stood. There was no doubt whatever there were great complaints on the part of farmers and others connected with agriculture that they did not get the full value of their fat stock —for this reason, that those who bought from them had greater experience than they in estimating the weight of the cattle, and were apt to overreach—ho used the word in no bad sense —and sometimes to take advantage of thorn. There was, at the same time, a growing public opinion among those interested in agriculture in favour of buying and selling more by live weight than had been the practice in the past. It would, therefore, be very undesirable if this House by its action were to do anything to prejudice the question or retard the advance of public opinion in that direction. He did not think the House was prepared to go the whole length that the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Bramwell) had gone in his opposition to the Bill; because it would not be reasonable that market proprietors should have the power to say that there should be no change. In asking the House to assent to the second reading, he would, at the same time, ask the noble Earl (the Earl of Camperdown) if he would be good enough to postpone the Committee stage for some time, in order to afford some opportunity for the consideration of its provisions. He would also suggest to him whether, for this year, his purpose would not be served by this discussion, and by the Bill being read a second time. He was informed that there was to be a Commission shortly to consider the whole question of markets and tolls, and, perhaps, it was desirable that the Legislature should allow the question to stand over until the Commission had examined the matter, and reported upon it.


, in reply, said, he hoped the noble and learned Lord (Lord Bramwell) would, upon further consideration, take a more favourable view of his proposals, and not push his opposition so far as to ask their Lordships not to road the Bill a second time. Nothing like confiscation of any rights was contemplated, and the proprietors of fairs and markets would be empowered to charge proper tolls for the accommodation afforded. With regard to what had been said by the noble Lord opposite, he readily admitted that the Bill, as it stood now, applying to all markets and fairs, was too wide; but if were thought desirable, small fairs and markets could be exempted from the provisions of the Bill, and he was perfectly willing, before going into Com- mittee, to introduce words to exclude from its scope certain small fairs, which a charge of even £25 or £30 would probably kill. Such exemptions were, perhaps, specially necessary in regard to small fairs and markets in Ireland; but he understood that, in Dublin, the principle of the Bill was already in operation, and worked satisfactorily. In regard to postponing the Committee stage, he could not see the advantage of waiting until such time as the Commission which was not yet appointed had reported; but he was quite prepared to postpone the Committee stage for some weeks, at all events, in order to give agriculturists throughout the country an opportunity of expressing an opinion in regard to the measure.


said, that, having regard to the general current of the discussion, he should not persevere in his opposition to the second reading; but would content himself in expressing his regret that nobody seemed to think it a matter of any consequence that a burden should be put upon a man whether he liked it or not.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly.