HL Deb 04 August 1909 vol 2 cc914-6

My Lords, I rise to ask the Secretary for Scotland whether any inquiry has been made, or any estimate formed, as to the number of tuberculous cattle in Scotland; and, if so, whether he will state the information to the House; whether he can give any estimate—(a) as to the probable cost which will be incurred by the slaughter of tuberculous cattle in Scotland; (b) as to the total amount of compensation payable in respect thereof; and (c) over how many financial years it is estimated that such cost will be spread.

In regard to the Milk and Dairies (Scotland) Bill these questions are of considerable importance, and before the Secretary for Scotland introduced that Bill into your Lordships' House it is probable that he had some estimate made which would show the probable number of cattle that would be dealt with under the Bill and also the cost which would be likely to be incurred in the way of compensation for animals slaughtered. I would like to point out that the population in the towns would benefit more than anybody else under the Bill, and that the agricultural population would be those who would be penalised. It is of importance that we should have some indication of the probable cost and the probable number of animals that would be condemned.


My Lords, as the noble Lord knows, this is really not a matter which lies within the province of the Scottish Office, and my noble friend the President of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, who would have answered this Question had it been possible for him to be present to-day, greatly regrets that he is not able to be here. Everybody, of course, will recognise the force of the arguments which the noble Lord has used as to this being, at any rate in some degree, a general charge rather than a special local charge; but I may remind him that what has been introduced both for England and Scotland in the shape of milk and dairies legislation would be perfectly practicable without the Tuberculosis Order on which the scheme of compensation to which the noble Lord has referred hangs. It is true, of course, that the Tuberculosis Order is complementary to the two Bills, but at the same time the two Bills might be passed into law and become operative without raising the questions dealt with by the Tuberculosis Order. In those circumstances I regret to say I have no definite information to give. This has not been a scheduled disease before. Therefore there are no reliable statistics on the question, and we really have no reliable data upon which to found any deductions whatever. But my noble friend is at the present moment engaged in endeavouring to form some estimate of the number of tuberculous cattle which would fall to be dealt with under this Order, and if the noble Lord will be good enough to postpone his Question till a further date my noble friend will do what is possible then to give the information asked for.


My Lords, there is one suggestion I should like to make. The noble Lord says it is not within his Department, and that the legislation proposed could go on without bringing into force the Tuberculosis Order. Might I venture to suggest that there is some danger in pressing legislation for one country much in advance of another country when the two countries are so close together as England and Scotland. I do not want to give my fellow-countrymen a bad reputation and I will put it quite tentatively, but supposing there are much more stringent regulations in one country than in the other it is just possible that the inhabitants of that country might convey their cattle over the Border rather than have them slaughtered, and it seems to me of extreme importance, from a public point of view, that the legislation for the two countries should be kept as nearly on the same lines as possible and should go forward together about the same time. I am practically certain that, whichever country is dealt with first, there will be difficulties in enforcing the law without the danger which I have indicated.


I should like to support the suggestion made by my noble friend Lord Balfour. Strangely enough the provisions of the English Bill, of the passing of which there is no chance, or only a very remote chance, this session, are very different in many respects from those of the Scottish Bill, and I think it would be convenient if we could see both Bills in your Lordships' House at the same time and be able to judge whether some of the provisions in the Scottish Bill might not be more suitable for the English Bill than the provisions as at present drafted. I think the suggestion with regard to what may happen if a Bill is passed for one side of the Border and not for the other is one which certainly should be very carefully considered by those who will be responsible for this measure. The Tuberculosis Circular speaks about the very serious burden that is going to be placed upon local authorities if, as is at present proposed, the amount of compensation is to be found out of the rates, and not out of Imperial funds. I hope that, considering the very great doubt which exists as to what the cost is going to be and the fact that there is a very strong feeling that some part of this charge should be placed on Imperial funds, the noble Lord will think it right to postpone the Bill till some further date when we can have an assurance on the subject.


Perhaps I may be allowed to point out that what creates the difficulty anticipated by noble Lords opposite is not the fact of this proposed legislation. It is not the fact of one Bill being passed in one country before the Bill for the other country comes into force so much as the bringing into operation of the Order in one country earlier than in the other. The passing of the Bill is really not a crucial point.


We had an assurance that the Milk Bill would run with the Tuberculosis Order.