*THE EARL OF LICHFIELD
My Lords, I rise to call attention to correspondence which has recently taken place between the Board of Agriculture and the railway companies; and to ask His Majesty's Government for some further information as to the scope of the reference to the Departmental Committee appointed to inquire as to the existence of preferential railway rates; and to ask what further action the Board have taken to secure freedom of milk from taint of other articles during transit. In February last I drew the attention of the House to the conditions affecting the carriage of milk and other agricultural produce, and in answer to certain Questions I put to him, the noble Earl the President of the Board of Agriculture said he was at that time in correspondence with the railway companies on this subject, and hoped shortly to place that 1186 correspondence on the Table of the House together with other information which he was then collecting. The Blue-book I hold in my hand contains the correspondence. It was published before Whitsuntide, and I now desire to draw attention to some of the points contained in it. The correspondence began on 28th September, 1903, with a circular letter from the Board of Agriculture to the railway companies. An answer was received from the railway companies in January, 1904, and a further letter followed from the Board of Agriculture in April last. The first letter written by the Board of Agriculture commenced as follows—I am directed by the President of the Board of Agriculture to inform you that since his appointment to office he has been giving his attention to the general subject of the existing facilities and charges for the conveyance of agricultural requisites and agricultural produce. The necessity of improvement in these respects has been pressed upon Lord Onslow in many directions, and the question is undoubtedly regarded as being one of great importance to the prosperity of the rural districts at the present time.The letter went on to state that there had been an informal conference of the railway companies, and that—The exchange of views which then took place made it abundantly clear that the companies represented were very ready to consider, in a fair and reasonable spirit, any representations which might be made to them by agriculturists, either directly or through the agency of the Board themselves. At the termination of the conference it was agreed that it would be desirable that the Board should bring under the notice of individual railway companies the various topics which had been discussed in general terms, and in pursuance of this understanding Lord Onslow now desires me to submit the following observations.The letter contained observations under eight heads. I wish, in the first place, to allude to No. 7, "Foreign and Colonial Produce." Under that head the letter proceeded—An impression undoubtedly exists in agricultural circles that foreign and colonial agricultural produce is conveyed from the ports to the great centres of consumption at rates which compare favourably with those charged for the carriage of British produce from inland stations. The evidence which has from time to time been adduced in support of this belief is not of a satisfactory character, and Lord Onslow is of course well aware that if undue preference could be proved a remedy is provided by Statute.1187 The communication went on to say—Lord Onslow would therefore be glad to receive information which might be placed before agriculturists as to the rates and conditions specified for the carriage of the principal items of foreign and colonial agricultural produce from the ports of arrival to the great urban centres, with similar information as to sea freights where the companies are also the owners of lines of steamships. Some indication of the principles which guide the companies in the settlement of these rates and conditions might at the same time be given. By this means greater confidence in their propriety would, in Lord Onslow's opinion, be established, and difficulty and friction avoided.The reply of the railway companies to that portion of the Board of Agriculture's letter was as follows—The railway rates from ports to inland stations are not applicable exclusively to foreign produce, the rates being, on the contrary, applied indiscriminately to home-grown, foreign, or colonial produce so long as the conditions; attaching to them are complied with. The request for information as to rates and conditions is of so general a character that it is felt that any information which the companies would be in a position to furnish would not be of any practical value.In answer to that the Board of Agriculture again wrote, on 16th April—Lord Onslow had hoped that the publication of such information as the companies might have been in a position to supply in response to his inquiries under these heads might have had the effect of removing the existing feeling amongst agriculturists that they are not fairly treated as compared with consignors of agricultural produce from the ports of arrival and the larger urban centres.And then the Board went on to state that Lord Onslow therefore proposed to appoint a Departmental Committee, the reference to which is set out in the Blue-book as follows—To inquire as to the rates charged by railway companies in Great Britain in respect of the carriage of foreign and colonial farm, dairy, and market-garden produce from the port of shipment or of arrival to the principal urban centres, and to report whether there is any evidence to show that preferential treatment is accorded to such produce as compared with home produce, and, if so, what further steps should be taken, either by legislation or otherwise, to secure the better enforcement of the law in the matter.I think, my Lords, the Board of Agriculture are fully justified in the appointment of this Committee. This is a very old grievance and one which is always rankling in the minds, not only of the agricultural community, but also of the trading community, audit is a very fitting 1188 thing that this Committee should inquire once more whether the charges are really well founded or not. That there is great feeling on the subject is certain, and in evidence of that I should like to call attention to the fact that on a Railway Bill being brought forward in the House of Commons this spring an Instruction to the following effect was moved—That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they insert provisions in the Bill requiring the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company, in respect of any through rates for the carriage of merchandise between foreign countries and places in the United Kingdom which the company make or charge, or to which they are party, to set out in their public rate-books at the ports of Goole and Hull, and any ports which may be hereafter established between those places, how much of each such rate is justly and reasonably appropriated by them, or is paid, payable, or agreed to be paid to or by them for (1) land carriage abroad; (2) dock, harbour, and shipping charges abroad; (3) conveyance by sea; (4) dock, harbour, and shipping charges at the British port; (5) and conveyance by railway, either by goods or passenger trains, including any terminal and cartage charges in the United Kingdom.The object of this Instruction was—To enable traders to ascertain how 'through' railway rates from foreign places are made up. At present these 'through' rates often include in one charge the foreign railway rate, all dock, harbour, and shipping charges, carriage by sea, and the home railway rate; but, if divided under the five heads specified in the Instruction, it will be easier to determine whether any preference is given to foreign as against home produce.To show the interest that was taken in this proposal I may say that 79 voted for the Instruction and 103 against. The Government took no official part in the division, and those who voted against the Instruction probably thought it unfair to pick out a particular company in a general question of this kind. There is further evidence that this matter requires very careful attention. If we look back to the Report of the Royal Commission on Agricultural Depression published in 1897. and the result of, I think, two years continuous hard work by a very competent body of men, we find the following statement on railway rates, Chapter 8, paragraph 526—It must not, however, be supposed that we view the existing position with satisfaction. We think that it is open to doubt whether legislation has given clear expression and effect to the intentions of Parliament, especially as regards preferential rates on foreign produce and rates which have been increased since 31st 1189 December, 1892, and that the present state of the law is confused, ineffective, and requires amendment.I contend that on that paragraph alone there is ample justification for the action of the Board of Agriculture in appointing this Committee to inquire into the whole question. I come now to the composition of the Committee. There are upon it my noble friend Lord Jersey, who is Chairman, Sir James Lyle Mackay, and Colonel W. Kenyon-Slaney. These three gentlemen may very well be supposed to represent the public interest in this matter, and they will be well supported by Colonel Sir Herbert Jekyll, an Assistant-Secretary of the Board of Trade, and by Mr. E. Cooper Stoneham, also of the Board of Trade, as secretary. As regards agriculture specially, there are Mr. Ernest G. Haygarth Brown, a superintending inspector of the Board of Agriculture, and Mr. George Lambert, who was on the Royal Commission to inquire into the depression of agriculture, and who is a well known authority on agricultural matters. We then come to the appointment of two gentlemen representing the railway companies—one a railway director, and the other the general manager of one of the great railway companies. I must say it seems to me rather extraordinary to ask these two gentlemen to sit on an inquiry which is going to be held into the conduct of the railway companies, and to consider whether they have infringed the law or not, and, if they have infringed it, what remedies should be provided by legislation. It places them in an invidious position; they cannot be expected to go against their own interests. I quite understand that it was necessary to obtain the co-operation of the railway companies, but I should have thought that could have been managed without actually putting two railway directors on the Committee itself. Perhaps the noble Earl, when he answers my Questions, will give his reasons for having included two railway directors on the Committee. I should next like to refer to the point raised in Lord Onslow's letter with regard to the aggregation of mixed consignments. I am bound to say that the railway companies have, in most cases, come to an agreement on this subject, and are giving considerable help to the agricultural community by their action 1190 in this matter. I have before me a leaflet published by the largest of the railway companies, headed "Reduced rates for the Conveyance of Agricultural, Farm, and Dairy Produce, etc." It is stated in the leaflet that—The company are prepared to arrange special rates for regular consignments of agricultural, farm, and dairy produce sent in large quantities by goods or passenger trains.When we received this leaflet we wrote to ask whether milk would be included under dairy produce. The following was the letter we sent—With reference to the leaflet issued by your company on the subject of reduced rates for farm produce by passenger train, the last paragraph states that special rates are arranged for regular consignments in large quantities. Will you please let me know if this arrangement is applicable to large consignments of milk? For example, from one station there may be fifty churns a day consigned by thirty different senders to thirty different consignees. If from another such station a consignment of fifty churns a day were sent by one consignor to one consignee, would you in the latter case be prepared to quote a specially reduced rate for the carriage of the milk? If so, what special reduction could you allow?We have agents now in most of the large towns acting for the farmers; the milk could easily have been consigned to the agents, and thus we could have ensured large and regular consignments. The answer we received from the railway company was as follows—In reply to your favour, I beg to inform you that the rates for the conveyance of milk by passenger train are already on a very low basis, and we cannot see our way to reduce them for such traffic when sent in large quantities.I do not complain in the least. I know that milk is carried at a low rate. At the same time I call attention to the fact because these leaflets refer to "Dairy Produce," and it would be well in future for the companies to state that milk is excluded.
Then we come to what is, to my mind, the most important part of the Board's observations—namely, the paragraph referring to the loss and damage of produce conveyed at owner's risk, as it more especially affects the milk trade. The Board of Agriculture stated—Representations have from time to time been received by the Board as to the hardship which arises in cases in which consignments of agricultural produce are lost or damaged inconsequence of the negligence or misconduct of the 1191 servants of a railway company, but in which no compensation is recoverable by the consignor owing to the fact that the goods were carried at less than the normal rate and at his own risk. It is, of course, to be remembered that the consignor in such a case has contracted himself out of any right to look to the company for redress, but at the same time it is easy to understand that a considerable sense of hardship is excited if this view of the matter is adhered to, whatever may be the fault of the servants of the company. The Board understand that the companies have decided that they will consider claims in respect of total loss in transit, and that they will not refuse to make reasonable compensation in such cases, contributory negligence on the part of the senders or consignees being, of course, taken into consideration. It is also understood that the companies will consider favourably cases where partial loss or damage arises from circumstances which indicate extreme negligence on the part of their servants.The letter proceeded—There can be no doubt that concessions of this character, administered in a reasonable spirit, would remove a painful cause of controversy and friction.The noble Earl in this letter expresses the hope that the matter might receive careful consideration. The railway companies, in answer to the Board of Agriculture, stated that—Whilst the railway companies must maintain their legal position in respect to traffic conveyed at the owner's risk, it is their practice, in a friendly way, to consider, on their merits, any cases of total loss, proved pilferage, or misdelivery.The Board of Agriculture appear to think, from this answer, that the companies are going on a new line altogether and that they will make up in the future for what they have not taken into consideration in the past. The Board in their second letter stated—Lord Onslow believes that the decision of the companies that they will consider on their merits, in a friendly way, any cases of total loss, proved pilferage, or misdelivery, will do much to remove the sense of hardship which from time to time arises under this head, and he desires me to express his appreciation of the policy adopted in the matter.I would merely point out that, to my certain knowledge, they have adopted this attitude for the past five or six years. We have had repeated occasion to press them for compensation under these particular heads throughout that period. We have had volumes of correspondence, but in most cases there has been very little result and very little compensation. 1192 This is, then, no new departure. It will be noticed that the railway companies only say they will "consider" cases on their merits. Therefore we have not got very far except that they have put this in writing, which no doubt is a distinct advance. We hope later on to induce them to accept in certain cases the whole loss.
I wish to call attention now to the conditions of carriage of milk, which appear on page 88 of this Blue-book. There are eleven conditions, and they are all entirely favourable to the railway companies. Short of inducing the railway companies to accept the whole risk, we must try and get some modification of these very onerous conditions. They are most unsportsmanlike in their one-sidedness. Everything is in favour of the railway companies, and there is not one single point in favour of the poor farmer. He has to prepay his milk, and it will be remembered that on a former occasion I called attention to one case where the milk had been eleven days on the road, and where the railway company refused to pay any compensation. I also quoted another case where the milk was lost altogether, the railway company again refusing any compensation. I would ask the Board of Agriculture to consider whether they cannot help the farmer by inducing the railway companies to make some modification in these onerous conditions of carriage, so that the risk note may not put on the farmer such a heavy responsibility. No. 6 of the conditions of carriage states that—The senders and consignees must assist in the loading and unloading of the cans when the milk is carried at the reduced rate.Of course, a great deal of the milk comes to London and other places in the middle of the night, and the railway companies in those cases take the milk out of the vans and put it on the platforms themselves. In all cases the railway companies, for their own purposes, check the milk on its arrival, but several of the large railway companies do not make the consignees sign for the milk before they take it away. That is a great hardship on the farmer. Signatures are obtained by a good many of the large companies, but not by all. We want to induce all railway companies to obtain signatures from the consignees before allowing the milk to be removed 1193 from the platform. As things are at present, if a dishonest consignee chooses to say that he did not receive the milk, there is nothing to prove that he did. I very much hope that in this particular case the Board of Agriculture will do all they possibly can to induce those railway companies which do not now adopt the practice to obtain signatures from the consignees before allowing them to remove the milk. Condition No. 10 is really the risk note which the farmer has to sign. It states that—Two rates are in operation for the carriage of milk—one the ordinary rate, when the company accept the ordinary liability of a railway company with respect to the carriage of perishable merchandise by passenger train.Except for very short distances that rate is, of course, prohibitive and is hardly ever employed. The paragraph proceeds—The other, a reduced rate adopted when the sender agrees to relieve the company and all other companies or persons over whose line the traffic may pass, or in whose possession the same may be during any portion of the transit, from all liability for loss, damage, mis-delivery, delay, or detention, either with respect to the milk or the milk-cans when full or empty, except upon proof that such loss, damage, mis-delivery, delay, or detention arose from wilful misconduct on the part of the company's servants.Again I ask the Board of Agriculture if they cannot assist us in obtaining some modification of these very onerous conditions. I maintain that when there is total loss the company should pay that loss, and when they mis-deliver the milk, or it has been many days on the journey, the least they can do is to pay compensation for its loss. If modifications in this clause could be agreed to by the railway companies, it would do a great deal to remove the undoubted friction which now exists. I hope the Board will consider whether they cannot help us in this respect. I would suggest that the modification should be such as to let the farmer take responsibility for what may be reasonably assumed to be accidental, and make the company responsible for what is due to carelessness.
There is one more point I wish to bring to the notice of your Lordships, namely, the insanitary state of many of the milk vans. The noble Earl the President of the Board of 1194 Agriculture called attention to this question in his letter to the railway companies in April last, in which he said—Lord Onslow desires me to take the opportunity of saying that he has recently received very numerous complaints as to the unsuitable and even insanitary conditions under which milk is from time to time conveyed.This Blue-book was published before any answer was received from the railway companies, and I hope that when my noble friend replies to me he will be able to tell the House that the railway companies have accepted this proposal in a reasonable spirit. I called attention in February last to the fact that fish, offal, and live boars were very often sent in milk vans. The noble Earl said live bores pervaded all classes of society, and that it was difficult to get rid of them; but I hope that at any rate they will be excluded in future from milk vans. I do not know what the answer of the railway companies was, but I would point out that this grievance is still going on. I have in my hand two letters from farmers, one written on the 31st of May, and the other on the 1st of this month. In the first letter the writer states that almost every morning there is fish in the milk van, and that the water from them runs out in the van. He adds that the stench is sometimes very bad indeed, and that with the warm weather coming he is afraid there will be complaints about the milk not keeping. The other farmer writes—I understand you have had, or are having, a complaint from Mr. — about fish being in the same van as milk. I can endorse this. The stench is something awful. The liquid runs out of the van on to the footboard many a time, and when you open the door it makes you stand back.It will be seen from the date of these letters that the grievance is still going on. I hope the President of the Board of Agriculture will be able to tell us that the railway companies are taking this matter seriously in hand, and will introduce remedies. It is not a matter that affects agriculturists alone; it affects the public very largely, because, if the milk arrives at the big centres contaminated or tainted, there is risk of injury to the health of the general population. I hope that if the Board of Agriculture are not able to deal with this alone, they will induce the Local Government Board 1195 to assist them in getting the railway companies to convey milk in suitable vans. In conclusion, I desire to congratulate the noble Earl the President of the Board of Agriculture on having initiated this friendly correspondence with the railway companies, for I am sure that in the end the result will be of benefit to the agricultural community.
§ LORD BURGHCLERE
My Lords, before the noble Earl the President of the Board of Agriculture answers the Questions of my noble friend, perhaps I may be permitted to make a very few remarks on this subject. Whilst I agree wth many of the observations of the noble Earl who raised this question there was, however, one remark with regard to the composition of the Committee with which I am not so thoroughly in accord. I refer to the introduction of railway directors. For my own part, I think that if, in the words of the noble Lord, we are to obtain the cooperation of the railway companies in this matter, which it is highly desirable we should do, it is only fair that the companies should have some representative on the Committee. You might just as well appoint a Committee to consider the question of temperance and not put any brewers on it as appoint this Committee without including representatives of the railway companies. I should like to be allowed to join with the noble Earl in congratulating the President of the Board of Agriculture on the course which he has pursued. I think, if he will permit me to say so, he has taken a highly judicious course in writing in a friendly spirit to the railway companies on this matter. He has raised a subject of considerable importance to agriculturists at large, and I have great hopes that the outcome of his efforts may be of benefit both to agriculture and to the public generally.
The noble Earl behind me has fully pointed out to your Lordships the course which the President of the Board of Agriculture has adopted. He wrote a general letter to the railway companies, and received a reply which I consider to be of special value. I think it is the first time we have had an authoritative answer from the railway companies with regard to the interesting points which the noble 1196 Earl opposite raised in his circular letter. We then have the second letter of my noble friend somewhat criticising the reply of the railway companies, and the whole finally culminates in the appointment of a Committee with regard to one particular subject, and it is rather in that direction that I would venture to make one or two observations. I do not think it would have been right for the noble Earl to have acted otherwise than he has done in limiting the Committee to the specific object he had in view. The question of preferential railway rates is of a highly complex and difficult nature, and it would have been unwise on the part of my noble friend to have overburdened the Committee by adding other subjects.
I fully concur in what the noble Earl behind me said with regard to the conveyance of milk. The noble Earl the President of the Board of Agriculture has himself very strongly drawn the attention of the railway companies to the evils that might result from the contact of milk with insanitary matter during transit. That is a question of the highest importance to farmers, because dairy farming is, as we all know, an increasing industry in this country, and therefore it is desirable that the trade should not be injured by conditions over which the farmers have no control. This question of the proper transit of milk has a far wider bearing. It has an effect on the public health generally. I think my noble friend might be able to do something with the help of his own inspectors, who might press upon the railway companies the desirability of observing sanitary conditions in the conveyance of milk. If that particular subject does not come quite within the purview of my noble friend's Department, he, as a member of His Majesty's Government, can press it on the attention of the Local Government Board. Before I leave the question of the milk supply, I would ask my noble friend whether he is satisfied with the replies of the railway companies, and, if not, what course he proposes to pursue with a view of securing that the measures he himself has so strongly pressed upon the railway companies shall be carried out.
On the subject of the conveyance of small parcels of farm and dairy produce, 1197 the reply of the railway companies was to this effect—There are already specially low rates in operation on all railways for farm and dairy produce in small quantities, as well as still lower exceptional rates for larger quantities, and the Companies are of opinion that these rates, generally speaking, sufficiently meet the case.I do not like the words "generally speaking," and I should like to ask the noble Earl whether he is quite satisfied with that reply. I notice that he himself, in a further letter, states that the practice of the various lines is by no means uniform, and I think it would be desirable if he could obtain from the railway companies a guarantee that as far as possible the practice should be uniform. On the subject of rates and charges from rural stations, the Board of Agriculture, in their letter to the railway companies, stated—Lord Onslow is aware that such anomalies cannot be altogether avoided, especially in the face of competition with carriage by water, but he is of opinion that something might be done in the direction of the equalisation of the rates for the carriage of goods from the rural districts with those enjoyed by traders in urban districts.I consider that to be a very important question. What is the reply of the rail-may companies? It is brief, but I do not think it is entirely satisfactory. They say—The companies are unable to admit that this complaint has any general application.I would not go so far as to say that the railway companies had ventured to snub so important a person as my noble friend, but I do think the answer is of a somewhat; terse and perfunctory character. I again ask whether my noble friend is satisfied with that reply, and, if he is not satisfied, what action he has taken or intends to take to get his wishes carried out. I hope the noble Earl will be able to state that, if necessary, he will use all his powers, not only the powers of his own Department but his powers as a member of His Majesty's Government, to secure the carrying out of the reforms he has set forth; and, if he is successful, he will have conferred a great benefit on agriculturists and the public at large.
*THE PRESIDENT OF BOARD OF AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES (The Earl of ONSLOW)
My Lords, I have no complaint to make of the tone of the re- 1198 marks either of the noble Earl who introduced the subject or of the noble Lord opposite who at one time occupied the office I now have the honour to hold. I am glad to find that there is a general opinion in your Lordships' House that the question of railway rates, and especially as to whether a preference is or is not given by the railway companies to goods of foreign origin, is of great importance to the community and ought to be determined without delay. As your Lordships will have gathered from the remarks of the two noble Lords who have spoken, a Committee has been appointed to consider the subject. I am extremely glad that the noble Earl on the back benches, Lord Jersey, whose acquaintance with these subjects is well known, and who is a prominent agriculturist, has consented to be the Chairman, and I have also secured as members of the Committee several gentlemen who are deeply interested in agricultural subjects. I am told that the blot on the Committee is that there is upon it a railway director and a general manager of a railway. I would say, in passing, that Mr. Baldwin, besides being a director of the Great Western Railway Company, is largely interested in agricultural matters—he is a member of the Central Chamber of Agriculture in London—and Sir Charles Owens, the general manager of the London and South Western Railway, is perhaps better acquainted with this intricate and difficult subject than any other man connected with the railway interest.
I am asked why I placed railway men on the Committee at all. Unless a Royal Commission had been appointed, with powers to send for persons and papers and to examine witnesses on oath, it would be almost impossible to get from the railway companies the necessary information about rates unless they were willing to give it. There is one stage in these proceedings which is not contained in the Blue-book. I had an interview with the chairmen of all the railway companies who carry produce from the Continent to England and the Channel Islands, and I obtained from them a most unqualified assurance that every possible assistance in finding out what the rates are should be given to the Committee. Under those circumstances I think it would not only have been unwise, but most unfair to the 1199 railway companies, if they had not been represented on the Committee. As to legislation the reference to the Committee speaks of "legislation or otherwise," and what I had in my mind was not so much whether it would be desirable for Parliament to carry out the views of the Committee by legisation as whether it might not be possible to bring the questions at issue between agriculturists, traders, and railway companies before some tribunal at much less expense and with less parapher nalia than are involved in taking a case going before the Railway Commissioners. With regard to the milk traffic, to which both noble Lords attached considerable importance, I think it is very desirable that cases of compensation for total loss, for pilfering, and for misdelivery should be considered, and for the first time, I think, the railway companies have agreed to consider these questions.
An important point which has not been touched on is the holding of local conferences where there are disputes between the agriculturist and the railway companies. The first of such conferences took place at Northallerton yesterday, and I am informed that, broadly, the result has been that both parties will in future meet each other half-way. I may say that I am not satisfied with the reply which I received from the railway companies on the question of uniformity of charges for small parcels, and I am pursuing the subject further. There is a great deal of difference between the companies measured by the extent to which they are interested in this question. There are some which depend almost entirely on agricultural produce and others to whom the agricultural traffic is a mere bagatelle, and it is difficult to get the latter companies to adopt a basis of charge as low as that which obtains on the lines which depend more largely on this traffic. But my efforts are directed, if I may use the phrase, to getting the companies to work on a most-favoured-company basis, so that we may get as low charges on all the lines as are now made by the companies which treat the agricultural interest most kindly.
I believe the railway companies are anxious that milk shall in very case be carried without contamination. The companies give general orders to their servants, 1200 but we know only too well in the case of our own establishments that general orders are not always carried out. The companies have begged me, whenever a. case of milk being carried under insanitary conditions is brought to the notice of the Board of Agriculture, to acquaint the general manager of the company concerned, who will at once take steps to have the matter inquired into. There are three kinds of vans, and the only case in which contamination can occur is when the milk is carried in the guard's van, where pigs or dogs may also be carried. I think that care should be taken to avoid this. It would be desirable if milk were sent in more convenient churns that could be locked, so as to prevent pilfering. Farmers are occasionally prosecuted for mixing water with their milk and fined, and it has been afterwards found that the adulteration has been practised by the porters of the railway company. It would be better, too, if the tops of the milk churns were convex instead of concave, so that articles could not be put on them. I heard of a case the other day where a porter placed a bag of periwinkles on the top of a milk churn, and the salt drippings from the bag presumably trickled into the milk. I am glad to think that both the noble Earl and my noble friend, who was formerly President of the Board of Agriculture, welcome the appointment of a. Committee of Inquiry into this matter. I know it has exercised for some time past the minds of the agricultural community who believe they have been unfairly treated by the railway companies. I am perfectly satisfied from the composition of the Committee and the friendly spirit which the railway companies have shown towards the inquiry, that the Committee will be able to arrive at the truth, and that if there are grievances, it will not be beyond the powers of the Committee to suggest what steps should, be taken to remedy them.