HL Deb 28 July 1909 vol 2 cc804-6

LORD CLINTON rose to ask the President of the Board of Agriculture how much of the sum of £140,000 provided under Section 18 of the Diseases of Animals Act, 1894, had been expended during each of the last three years in compensation for the slaughter of animals suffering from diseases other than swine fever.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Question which I wish to ask the noble Earl has reference to the sum of £140,000 which may be granted annually by the Treasury towards the fund out of which compensation is paid for cattle slaughtered in consequence of pleuropneumonia, foot-and-mouth disease, and swine fever. The compensation in respect of swine fever is limited to £50,000, and it is with reference to the distribution of the balance of £90,000 that I am anxious to obtain information. I believe that the amount of pleuro-pneumonia and foot-and-mouth disease recently in this country has been very small indeed, and in all probability the compensation paid in respect of those diseases is practically insignificant. I should be glad to have information on that point, and also to know whether the noble Earl can inform us if it would be possible to apply any part of the £90,000 in carrying out the Tuberculosis Order which the Board of Agriculture recently issued. Tuberculosis is to the community of vastly greater importance than these other diseases, since pleuro-pneumonia and foot-and-mouth disease are communicable only from animal to animal, whereas tuberculosis is communicable directly from animal to man. In my opinion the putting of the compensation payable under the Tuberculosis Order upon the rates will be the greatest possible obstacle to the proper carrying out of that Order, because local authorities will be very unwilling to keenly work the Order if they have to tax themselves for the expense incurred. I hope, therefore, that the noble Earl will be willing to use his influence with the Treasury so that tuberculosis may be included among the diseases scheduled under the Diseases of Animals Act, 1894.


My Lords, the noble Lord seemed to imply that this sum of £140,000 provided under the Act was voted every year. That is not the case. Only such sum is voted as is estimated to be required for each year. I am afraid that no part of this money can be used for the purposes of the Tuberculosis Order. That is impossible; but I can assure the noble Lord that I will do all I can to soften the heart of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the matter. I think we may say that we have never had a more sympathetic Chancellor of the Exchequer as regards agriculture than the present one. Brought up in North Wales among the small farmers, he knows the difficulties and troubles of agriculturists, and we are very fortunate to have him as Chancellor of the Exchequer. The amount expended in 1906–7 was £100 in respect of pleuro-pneumonia and foot-and-mouth disease, and in 1907–8 a similar amount, while in 1908–9 we drew £4,000 on account of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Edinburgh. A large number of cattle were slaughtered the moment the outbreak occurred, and I am glad to say that the money we then spent stopped the outbreak and no further damage was done.


May I ask why the noble Earl says it is impossible to place the charges in respect of the Tuberculosis Order upon this fund? We know, of course, that it is impossible to do so at the present moment, because the fund is limited to the other purposes; but what is to prevent the Government putting in one of their Milk Bills a short clause saying that this fund should be devoted also to this purpose? The one thing that the noble Earl has told us is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is very sympathetic, but the only way in which he can show his sympathy is by putting his hand into the funds of the Treasury and providing the money for this purpose. I take it that the Board of Agriculture, as well, probably, as the Local Government Board, would be very willing to relieve the ratepayers of a charge which ought obviously to be a national charge if they were able to do so. The only Minister who can do this is the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I therefore hope the right hon. gentleman is going to show his sympathy by doing what I am sure the Board of Agriculture and the noble Earl would be extremely glad to see him do—namely, find some part of the funds himself out of the Imperial Exchequer. I trust that the noble Earl will not think he has at all satisfied those who have taken great interest in this question, and that he will in the later stages of the Milk Bill give us some fuller assurance on this point.


The Diseases of Animals Act applies also to Ireland, and I would like to suggest to the noble Earl that a short Bill should be introduced adding the Tuberculosis Order to the Schedule of that Act. If this were done it would, I am sure, receive the support of all the Irish Members in the other House. This question of tuberculosis is a very serious one indeed in Ireland, and the disease has come to be known as the white plague. A very important organisation in the country is working against the spread of this terrible disease, and if the noble Earl could see his way to carry out my suggestion he would, I am confident, receive universal support. I hope that he will give some consideration to the point.

House adjourned at Five o'clock, till To-morrow, half-past Ten o'clock.