HL Deb 21 July 1908 vol 192 cc1680-7

rose to call attention to the Dairies, Cowsheds, and Milk Shops (Ireland) Order of 3rd February, 1908, made with respect to each local authority in Ireland under Section 34 of the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act, 1878, and to ask whether powers similar to those exercised by the Lord-Lieutenant can be exercised by the Local Government Board in England; and to inquire what powers the Board of Agriculture have to make tuberculosis a disease under the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act; and to ask when the Government intends to introduce the promised legislation with respect to milk; and to move for a copy of the Irish Order of 1908, together with any correspondence addressed to local authorities in Ireland with respect to the said Order, either before or after the Order was made. The noble Earl said: My Lords, many months ago the President of the Local Government Board announced that he intended to bring in a Bill dealing with the question of milk supply, but the present session is drawing to a close, and nothing has been done or heard of the Bill. Now I venture to draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that in Ireland a general Order has been made (not model regulations), but a general Order applicable to and to be carried out by every local authority in Ireland is not very different from a general Act of Parliament applicable to the whole country. I am anxious to know whether the Local Government Board's attention has been called to what has been done in Ireland, and, if so, whether they can inform us whether it is necessary to bring in a Bill, and, if so, when they intend to bring in the Bill and what the nature of that Bill is going to be. I think that in all probability the answer will be that it cannot pass into law during the present session, but even if that be so I think we are entitled to know what are the terms of the measure. It might be very well introduced, if not in the other House, in your Lordships' House. We might be given the opportunity of considering the measure we have been promised and on the faith of which a number of clauses were withdrawn from certain private Bills which dealt with this question in their special areas. I presume that the main object of the Bill will be to diminish the disease of tuberculosis, and I am anxious to know whether the Board of Agriculture cannot do something towards scheduling that disease and treating it in the same manner that they have treated pleuro-pneumonia, cattle-plague, and other diseases that have been stamped out in this country. I am quite aware that in 1889 an Order in Council was made making tuberculosis of the udder a disease under the Prevention of Diseases Act, but that only deals with animals absolutely dangerous to health and does not deal with the question of stamping-out tuberculosis from the herds of this country. I also ask the noble Lord whether the Government will lay upon the Table of the House the Order that has been made by the Local Government Board in Ireland together with a number of very interesting and valuable communications which have been addressed by the Irish Local Government Board to the different local authorities in Ireland, because I think they will form some useful guidance to those of us who are interested in this question, and who are anticipating the introduction of the measure, which I venture to say is long overdue.

Moved, "That there be laid before the House a copy of the Dairies, Cowsheds, and Milkshops (Ireland) Order of the 3rd February, 1908, together with any corre- spondence addressed to local authorities in Ireland with respect to the said Order, either before or after the Order was made."—(The Earl of Onslow).


My Lords, the question which the noble Lord has raised is, at all events in the form in which it is put down, a sort of omnibus question affecting several Government Departments of both England and Wales, but I will endeavour to answer his Question briefly and to the best of my ability. The noble Lord is well aware of the various Acts that have been passed and the Orders that have been made—more so, I think, than I am. Various Acts of Parliament giving powers to the Privy Council and afterwards transferring them to the Local Government Board have brought about the present position. The original Order of 1885, which was made by the Privy Council, is still in force in England and Wales, and this has been supplemented by certain further Orders issued by the Local Government Board in 1886 and 1899, to which I think the noble Lord referred. I have no doubt many of your Lordships are, and I am quite sure Lord Onslow is, familiar with these Orders. The noble Lord asks three questions. First he asks whether powers similar to those exercised by the Lord-Lieutenant can be exercised by the Local Government Board in England. I may perhaps first of all say that there is a difference between the new Irish Order to which the noble Lord has referred and the Orders in force in this country, and the main difference is that the Irish Order incorporates and applies generally requirements which in England and Wales are dealt with by regulations made by the local authorities. The result is that in Ireland these requirements are made uniform and of universal application. In some respects also they are more exacting than those of the model regulations of the English Local Government Board. Then the noble Lord asks whether powers similar to those recently exercised in Ireland can be exercised by the Local Government Board in England, and that I rather take it is the main point of his question. The answer to this is in the affirmative. As the noble Lord knows, there is the General Act of 1878, giving certain powers to the Privy Council. These powers under a more recent Act have been transferred to the Local Government Board, and I may say that the Board have had before them the question of amending the existing Orders somewhat in the direction proposed, but have deferred doing so for the present in prospect of some general legislation to which the noble Lord has referred and has very justly said has been promised. I cannot say when the legislation on the subject of milk will be introduced, but the Government have it under consideration. I believe the Bill is in a forward state, and it is hoped it will be introduced in the autumn, but as regards that I cannot give the noble Lord a direct and distinct pledge. One part of the noble Lord's Motion deals with the question of the powers of the Board of Agriculture, which is really a matter for that Department, and I venture to think that the noble Lord having been President of the Board probably knows the powers of the Board. But I am advised that under Section 22 of the Diseases of Animals Act, 1894, the Board of Agriculture have power to schedule tuberculosis as a disease for all or any of the purposes of the Act. As regards Lord Onslow's question as to the Irish Order, I perceive that my noble friend Lord Denman is here, and, I believe, is prepared to answer that question. He tells me, however, that the Return will be given and also the correspondence for which the noble Lord has asked.


I cannot say that the reply of the noble Lord has enlightened us very much as to the milk supply legislation. As Lord Onslow pointed out, it is now more than three months since the President of the Local Government Board told us that legislation was going to be brought in, and the Minister for Agriculture so long ago as February last, in answer to a question I put to him in this House, informed us that it was the intention of the Government to deal with this matter during the present session. I cannot say that we know any more now on the matter than we did six months ago, and I think it is only reasonable for us to ask when we are likely to see this Bill and have the opportunity of considering the proposals. I hope the Local Government Board may be able to fall in with the suggestion of my noble friend and print this Bill and let us see what the proposals are. I think it would have been more satisfactory to many of us who take an interest in this question if we had been told what the Local Government Board have been doing in the matter during the last three or four months. We should like to have heard whether this matter has been seriously under the consideration of the Board and whether the Bill is yet drafted. I should also like to ask the noble Lord who represents the Local Government Board whether any communication has yet been made to the Board of Agriculture on the matter, and whether a draft Bill has been submitted to the Board of Agriculture. I should also like to express a hope that if that has not been done, before this matter is dealt with and the Bill is introduced, the draft Bill, or at any rate, that part of the Bill which deals with the production of milk on the farm, and the housing and, treatment of cattle, will be submitted for the consideration of the Board of Agriculture. The President of the Local Government Board, when he received a deputation from us not very long ago, told us that it was his intention, as I have no doubt it is, to deal equitably and fairly with the dairy farmers in the country, and, therefore, I think that it is not only desirable, but absolutely necessary that he should consult the Department who are best acquainted with the conditions of agriculture, and to whom the agriculturists in the country naturally look to guard them in this matter. I am only sorry that the noble Lord has not been able to give us further information than that which we have received this afternoon.


My noble friend who represents the Local Government Board in this House has already addressed your Lordships, and it is only for that reason that I rise to answer the further question, or rather the request for further information, which has just fallen from the noble Lord. What I would venture to point out to him is this: that in reality the main question which the noble Lord, Lord Onslow, has brought before your Lordships by the question which he has placed on the Paper relates rather to the difference in the working of the existing Dairy and Milkshops Order in Ireland and in England, than to the general question of milk supply, though I quite acknowledge he has mentioned it in the latter part of his question. The first question is esentially one which has always been dealt with by the Local Government Board and not by the Board of Agriculture, and to a certain extent the second also, because the private Bills which have hitherto dealt with certain aspects of this question go beyond the statutory provisions of the Orders made under the Contagious Diseases Animals) Act, 1878, to which you have to go back in these matters. These also are matters which have been hitherto dealt with by the Local Government Board in Bills which have nearly always gone before the Police and Sanitary Clauses Committee over which I had the honour to preside for some years, and that is also why I venture to say a few words on the subject. Now it appears from what has fallen from the noble Lord, Lord Onslow, who, no doubt, was correctly informed, and in that he has been confirmed by my noble friend, that the best legal opinion now is that a great number of things which have hitherto been divided between an Order arranged by the Local Government Board and regulations made under that Order by the local authorities in England and in Ireland, could undoubtedly be done, certainly in Ireland, because it has been done there, by Order alone. It will be seen by anybody who looks at the Order which is going to be laid before your Lordships' House that all the minute things which are done by the regulations of the local authorities in England are incorporated in the Order for Ireland, while if you look at the existing Order as it now runs in England, the main outlines are laid down and are left to be worked out for better or for worse—very often, unfortunately, for worse—by local authorities. The result has been that in some districts of England there has been efficient work, while in seine other districts there has been no practical working of the Act at all. No doubt that exists in Ireland even worse than in England, and the result has been that the Irish Privy Council, after taking counsel's opinion, came to the conclusion which I confess is new to me, and I have no doubt to most of your Lordships, that these matters which have hitherto been done by statutory regulation under the Diseases of Animals Act, could all be done by one fell swoop and one large comprehensive Order, which has been issued no doubt with excellent effect by the Irish Privy Council. The matter which the noble Lord brought before your Lordships was whether that could be done in England, if desirable. The answer I understand that has been given by my noble friend on behalf of the Local Government Board is that it could be done. Whether it is desirable is another thing, because nobody would deny that it is a very great act of centralisation, and I could quite imagine that local authorities which have rather sniffed at the notion of county councils being brought into the matter—they are at present entirely outside it—would be rather astonished to wake up one morning and find that the Local Government Board had issued one vast and comprehensive Order laying down rules and regulations for the whole of England, even with regard to details such as the amount of ventilation of cowsheds and the pits into which dung and manure are to be put. Another question which was put at the end of his inquiry by my noble friend was a far larger question as to what the intentions of the Government are with regard to milk legislation. That is an entirely different matter, because the questions relating to milk legislation have not been so much the exercise of the powers of local authorities as the claims of certain local authorities to exercise jurisdiction outside their own limits. That has been a great and burning question, because most of the great outbreaks of typhoid and other fell diseases, which have been traced to milk, have undoubtedly come out of the large towns and been transferred to other large towns and sometimes to country districts. That has been the question thrashed out for years before the Police and Sanitary Committee of the House of Commons. I was fortunate during my chairmanship with the help of the Chairman of Committees of your Lordships' House, the late Earl of Morley, to get certain model clauses agreed upon which worked for a considerable number of years, but several things have happened since then, and undoubtedly the question does require further legislation and the Government have undertaken to legislate. But it is, as I am sure the noble Lord will agree, an exceedingly difficult question, and it goes entirely outside the important, but far less important and less difficult question, whether or not one regulation should be made for the whole of England as it has been in Ireland under the old Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act, because in the one case you can act by executive Order while in the other case you undoubtedly require strong and new general legislation.

On Question, Motion agreed to and ordered accordingly.