LORD STRACHIE had the following Notice on the Paper—
To call attention to the statements of the Secretary of State for the Colonies and of the President of the Board of Agriculture at the Imperial Conference on April 26 last, in reference to the admission of Canadian cattle into the United Kingdom; and to move, That it is inexpedient to repeal those sections of the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act, 1896, which prohibit the importation of cattle except for slaughter, and which the above-mentioned Ministers have expressed their intention of doing; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I want to make it perfectly clear at the beginning that this Motion is put down at the unanimous request of the Central Chamber of Agriculture, who regard with great fear, and are much disturbed at, the utterances of the President of the Board of Agriculture on this matter. Until lately we had thought—I speak for the Chamber of Agriculture, as Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee—that this was a 250 question which would never be raised during the present Parliament, and that for a long time we should have that safety from disease in respect of our flocks and herds which we have had up to the present moment.
§ I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to the fad that I am moving a very innocuous Resolution; not a want of confidence in the Board of Agriculture, but a Resolution to the effect that it is inexpedient to repeal those sections of the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act which at the present moment prohibit the importation of cattle except for slaughter, and which have been found so efficacious in the past. I hope, after this explanation, that the Government will recognise that I do it in no hostility to the Government or to the Ministers who have made these declarations. I myself have had experience in another place of admirable support, under very difficult circumstances, from Mr. Walter Long, when I was representing the Board of Agriculture and had on this question to fight a large number of Members on my own side who were anxious to admit store cattle into this country quite regardless of our own flocks and herds. But I am afraid that if the Government give way we may have a movement in favour of legislation to repeal this Act.
§ It will be necessary for me to quote somewhat largely from the Parliamentary Paper which was laid on the Table of this House in September giving extracts from the Imperial War Conference of 1917 with regard to the admission of Canadian cattle. Mr. Rogers, who was a protagonist of this question, said the embargo on Canadian cattle had been put on in 1892. It was true that, in 1892 it could be put on or taken off simply at the wish of the President of the Board of Agriculture for the time being; it was not until 1890 that Mr. Walter Long, then President of the Board of Agriculture, seeing the extreme danger of its being dependent on the sweet will of the President of the day, introduced legislation, bitterly contested in another place, making the measure compulsory upon all Presidents of the Board of Agriculture. Mr. Rogers said that since 1892 Canadian cattle numbering over 3,000,000 head had come into this country, and that there had been no disease in any case. That, of course, is a mere assertion. Whether it is so or not it is impassible for us to say, 251 because both pleuro-pneumonia and foot-and-mouth disease are very difficult to trace; especially is this so in regard to foot-and-mouth disease. At the present moment that disease is what is called ultra-microscopical, and therefore what the cause of it is or how the outbreaks arise is not known, apart, of course, from contact with diseased animals. But animals often have it very slightly indeed, and those cases are a great danger.
§ As to the outbreak in America in 1908–09, Mr. Rogers said that Canada was quite free during that period, and that it had been quite free from 1892 up to the present year. He admits, and it is well known, that there was a great outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in America in 1908–09. I remember that very well indeed, for at that time I was at the Board of Agriculture myself. Our fear of having the infection in this country was so great that it was considered necessary not only to forbid cattle being brought here from America except for slaughter, but a regulation was also passed saving that no cattle should be brought in at all even for slaughter from a large part of America. It cost that country a very large sum indeed to exterminate the disease. The Canadian representatives seem to think that the mere fact that Canada had been free from foot-and-mouth disease for a large number of years was a reason why there could be no possible risk of infection from there. But we have to remember as regards America, where there has been no foot-and-mouth disease lately, and as regards South America, where there is always foot-and-mouth disease, that if you once open the boundaries and let in cattle there is no safeguard or certainty that you may not get infection brought in from South America or even from America itself.
§ I should like to draw the attention of the House to a statement that was made when this question was being considered as late as June, 1910. There was a very strong attack made upon the Government of the day by the present Attorney-General, who was anxious that Canadian and other cattle should be brought into this country not only for slaughter but as stores. The Irish Members then opposed the proposal, as they had always done, and Mr. John O'Connor quoted the opinion of Sir William Butler, who for military reasons had lately been going all over the frontier between Canada and America. From what he saw he said that it was quite impossible to 252 police the immense border between the United States and Canada in order to prevent cattle being brought across the border so that they might be shipped as Canadian cattle. That bears strongly upon the argument that as Canada has been free of disease for twenty years therefore we should allow stores to be imported from there, and that if we did so there would be no danger of the disease being brought over here from America. On that I would repeat that as late as 1908 to 1909, when Sir William Butler was examining the frontier for military purposes, he declared that it was impossible to prevent cattle being sent across the border.
§ I should also like to quote the opinion of a gentleman who is well known to your Lordships—namely, Sir Horace Plunkett. Speaking upon this very question of restrictions, he said that if the restrictions were removed—that is, the restrictions forbidding the importation of stores from Canada into this country—he did not believe that it would be possible to police the thousands of miles of territory bordering between America and the Dominion of Canada so as to safeguard the danger of cattle being sent from the United States over the border into Canada. Sir Horace added that he spoke with some knowledge of the subject, as he had been in charge of large herds of cattle there. That is the opinion of a gentleman who I am sure the House will regard with respect. If you once allow Canadian stores to be brought over here, it is impossible also to prevent American stores being sent; for, if we say we are quite satisfied to bring them over from Canada, America will at once ask to be allowed to send their cattle over freely, and then you will have South America also asking for the same thing.
I want to draw your Lordships' attention to a statement of Mr. Prothero. Before doing so I will point out that Mr. Prothero has taken a different line from any other President of the Board of Agriculture, with the exception, I think, of Mr. Herbert Gardner, now Lord Burghclere. All other Presidents have said that there has been great danger in admitting these cattle, and have always treated the outbreaks of pleuro-pneumonia and of foot-and-mouth disease as being of great consequence. Mr. Prothero, speaking at the Imperial Conference last year, said—
The alleged outbreak in 1892, as far as I can see, was not a case of pleuro-pneumonia at all.
I also believe that at the present moment and for many years past, as far as I can make out, Canada has been free from the disease, and on those grounds, therefore, we should receive the present suggestion for the removal of the embargo very sympathetically.
I ought to say that Mr. Walter Long afterwards agreed with Mr. Prothero, and accepted his view that there was no danger at the present moment; yet he did at that Conference put in a caveat, and stated that there was a difference of opinion between the scientists on each side about the disease.
§ Mr. Prothero goes on to fortify his argument not only on the ground that Canada is perfectly free of foot-and-mouth disease, but he also says that the home demand for store cattle in the Eastern counties has been rather imperfectly met for years past. That is the argument with which I was very familiar when I sat in another place. You always had the great graziers of Norfolk and the whole of the large pasture counties saying, "We do not care about disease. We do not believe there is any disease. All we want to do is to get cheap stores." Exactly the same argument was used by the people of Scotland. I well remember a friend of mine in the House of Commons who was in favour of removing the restrictions saying to me, "You are destroying my business by not removing these restrictions. Until they were put on I used to import stores from Canada, and I only had to keep them six weeks or so, and then I sold them at a profit of £5 a head as the best Scottish runts."
With reference to the home supply of stores, I cannot do better than quote Mr. Walter Long himself. Speaking as lately as June 20th, 1910, in the House of Commons he said:—
If we had the courage and determination to impose restrictions such as these we may be able to give to our country, as we have given it, an absolutely clean bill of health. What the value of that is to stock raisers it is impossible to exaggerate. … Experience tells us that though our restrictions may not be logical, though they may be open to attack here and there, under their protection we have made our cattle healthy, and we have given an impetus to the cattle-raising industry without which the figures would have been very different from what they are now.
I must say that I prefer Mr. Walter Long's views to those of Mr. Prothero. If you want to get a large supply of stores in the country, if you want to make this country self-supporting not only in the matter of corn but also as regards cattle, then you must
do everything you can to encourage people to raise stock in this country as much as you encourage them to grow corn. You will not do that if you are going to have the cattle subject to disease through this country being flooded out with stores from Canada and other parts of the world.
§ Mr. Prothero went on to say that the supply of Irish stores was likely to diminish, and assured his listeners that so far as the English Board of Agriculture was concerned they were in favour of removing the embargo. "We do not believe there is now," he proceeded, "or has been for a good many years past, the slightest ground to exclude Canadian cattle on the score of disease." It will be very interesting if the noble Duke who represents the Board of Agriculture will tell us whether Mr. Prothero means the political heads of the Board of Agriculture when he says, "I can assure you the English Board of Agriculture." I know very well that Mr. Prothero's views are the smile as those of the graziers of Norfolk and Scotland. In the old days in another place the Under-Secretary for the Board of Agriculture, Sir Richard Winfrey, was a very strong advocate of repealing this Act altogether, and was always very strongly in favour of bringing stores from Canada, altogether regardless of disease, which he said did not exist. So I rather fancy that it is only the political part of the Board of Agriculture which is anxious for this change. I venture to ask the noble Duke whether the Chief Veterinary Inspector, Sir Stewart Stockman, is entirely in favour of doing away with protection in this matter, and also whether the other veterinary experts of the Board of Agriculture agree with Mr. Prothero that the present restrictions are entirely unnecessary and that there is not the slightest danger of introducing disease into this country if this Act is repealed.
§ Then I would draw the attention of the House to another point, and here again I have to deal with quotations. This point is with regard to what was said about stores and Ireland. Mr. Prothero said that he had not consulted the Irish Department. I think that was very strange indeed, and I should like to ask why he did not consult the Irish Department before he told the Canadians that he was ready to allow store cattle to come into this country.
§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
I am sorry to interrupt, but Mr. Prothero 255 never said that he would repeal the Act. Can you find the passage where he said that?
§ LORD STRACHIE
It conies to the same thing. I will find the reference. Mr. Prothero even went further. He said—There is one point I might mention. I think if I might use a slang phrase we were rather jumpy at that time about cattle plague, because just before 1896, when this new legislation was made, we had been bringing in cattle from Argentina, and on the voyage a whole shipload of cattle were discovered to be actually suffering from food-and-mouth disease. That was no doubt one of the reasons why we made this more drastic alteration.Then he went on to say that he had power under the Act to admit cattle for exceptional reasons, which is perfectly true. Mr. Prothero, at the Conference, said that he could merely by Order admit Canadian cattle. Does the noble Duke deny that he said that?
§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
My point was that Mr. Prothero never said that he was prepared to repeal the Act, and I asked the noble Lord where he found that stated.
§ LORD STRACHIE
The noble Duke does not deny that Mr. Prothero said that he could, merely by a stroke of the pen, admit Canadian cattle. That is even more dangerous than the other statement, and it is quite true, because under the Act of 1896 there is power under Section 1, sub-section (b), which refers to "foreign animals intended for exhibition or other exceptional purposes, and the landing of which is allowed for the time being by the Board, subject to the provisions of Part II (quarantine) of the Third Schedule of this Act." Under that section it is quite true that it can be done in exceptional circumstances; and it is well known that just before the beginning of the war Mr. Runciman did, acting under that provision, introduce into this country a large number of cattle from Holland. It is quite true that he quarantined them, but had it not been for the war there would have been a great row in both Houses of Parliament. Of course, Mr. Prothero would have to quarantine them, but they might be brought over and simply quarantined for a week or so. There is no doubt that he could do that if he liked. On the other hand, under the Defence of the Realm Act it seems to 256 me that the Government can do anything they like, and the Minister probably might say that it was in the interest of the country to introduce cattle.
The noble Duke further challenges me and says that Mr. Prothero did not agree to the repeal of the Act. Well, what did he say at the end of the Conference? I will quote from the White Paper—CHAIRMAN: Now the position is that the restriction is to be removed, and the Board of Agriculture will take such steps as are necessary, for this purpose, but upon the understanding that, there being no tonnage, there cannot be any arrivals.Mr. ROGERS: I do not want to have any understanding about it. If there is no tonnage, that follows.CHAIRMAN: NO, I do not want it to be a misunderstanding.Sir ROBERT BORDEN: It cannot become effective because there is no tonnage.CHAIRMAN: We cannot do it; I am quite sure that the Shipping Controller would stop it at once, and he would say, 'We cannot let live cattle come because they take up too much room.'Sir ROBERT BORDEN: We perfectly understand that.Mr. ROGERS: Yes, but still, we do not want to be placed in a false position. This is an old sore and an old grievance, and now is the proper time to have it cured, because the facts are all in our favour.CHAIRMAN: The Minister of Agriculture had undertaken to do it.Mr. ROGERS: Do not you think we should have a Resolution about it?CHAIRMAN: You do not want a Resolution do you—or if you like you can simply move that the embargo on Canadian cattle be removed as speedily as possible.Mr. ROGERS: I beg to move that.CHAIRMAN: Mr. Prothero accepts that, and there is an end of it.Therefore I am correct in saying that Mr. Prothero did promise Canada that at the earliest possible opportunity he would remove the embargo on Canadian stores, and I cannot see what reason the noble Duke had for interrupting me and saying he did not do anything of the kind. There it is in black and white in the White Paper.
§ The agriculturists in the Chamber of Agriculture were simply horrified at the statement made by Mr. Prothero the other day, and the only thing they can think is that he was led away for the moment by his good nature and did not realise what an intense feeling there is in the country on this question. If you take away what agriculturists consider as a Charter, which preserves their flocks and herds from infection, you will do a great disservice to them indeed. I must ask your Lordships, after what the noble Duke 257 has said, apparently under a misapprehension, to pass this very mild Motion, which the Chamber of Agriculture has asked me to bring before your Lordships' House and to press your Lordships to accept it.
§ LORD HINDLIP
My Lords, I cannot help thinking that those of your Lordships who are interested in agriculture—and they are no inconsiderable number—will be grateful to my noble friend for having brought forward this Resolution to-day. I have no right to speak for any one but myself, but I sincerely hope that the Government will accept the Resolution and that it will be pressed to a Division. I take that view, not only because of the Resolution itself, but also because I think His Majesty's Government have been inclined to treat this matter in rather too free and easy a fashion.
What is the Government's case? I cannot see that they have a case at all. There was the Imperial Conference last year, at which two Canadian statesmen, Sir Robert Borden and Mr. Rogers, naturally put forward what claims they thought Canada had for the removal of this embargo. I do not think I shall be accused of saying anything disagreeable when I remind your Lordships that at the time of the Imperial Conference, when the Canadian Government were making these representatins, they were going to face a General Election in Canada. I have no doubt that the noble Duke, when he comes to reply to the noble Lord who has just sat down, will base his case upon Canada, and that he will say there is a great demand throughout the length and breadth of Canada for the removal of this embargo, and for the exportation of store cattle from Canada to this country.
When the subject was raised in this House in 1906 the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, speaking as an ex-Governor-General of Canada, said that he had not the slightest doubt that, as far as Canada was concerned, the people in that country would think that we had the right to deal as we thought proper with what was a domestic matter concerning ourselves. I know something about Canada, and I do not believe that there is the slightest real 258 feeling there for the removal of this embargo. May I draw your Lordships' attention, and particularly the attention of the noble Duke who I believe is going to reply, to what is going on in Canada in this connection? In the western part of Canada there are hundreds of thousands of acres crying out for store cattle—for mixed farming. In Manitoba, in Saskatchewan, in Alberta, in British Columbia, the cry to-day is, and has been for years, for mixed farming. They want their cattle in the west of Canada, and not to be sent over here.
Now, what is Mr. Prothero's ease? His case, as my noble friend has already said, is based upon the opinions and the wishes of a certain number of breeders in this country, chiefly inhabitants of the Eastern counties. Mr. Prothero said in the White Paper, "If"—he admits that there is an "if"—"there is to be a large extension of arable farming after the war we shall want to increase our reservoir of store cattle." I agree. That is what some of us are trying to do; but, if I may say so, as everybody connected with the Board of Agriculture seems to hate the sight of an animal on four legs (except a racehorse), it is not an easy task. Your Lordships will remember when some of us were trying to impress on the Ministry of Food the necessity of store cattle for making manure. That was last summer; but the idea was rather put on one side.
If this embargo is removed, what is going to be the position of the two classes of stock-owners in this country—the breeder of pedigree stock for export, for dairy produce, and for beef; and also the ordinary farmer who breeds his calves and sells them as calves, or keeps them for a while before he sells them to the butcher? Mr. Prothero asked us to rear all our calves—and, as a matter of fact, all our pigs. Calf-rearing, as many of your Lordships know, is a rather expensive amusement; and at the end of the war, in six months time, in a year's time, or possibly in two years' time, what is going to be the position of the breeder in this country if this embargo is removed and store cattle are brought from Canada and dumped in this country? I do not think that the noble Duke himself would very much care for his market suddenly to be flooded with cheap Canadian store cattle. I do not see that anybody will be benefited except a very few people; and, on the other hand, 259 you are going to injure a great many more people and some very valuable industries. The attitude of the breeders in the Eastern counties in connection with this matter reminds me of the Manchester cotton man who wants Protection for himself and Free Trade for everybody else.
There is another matter which came to my notice the other day in connection with the importation of cattle. I understand that a proposition was put forward, quite unofficially, either by the Board of Agriculture or by a member of that Department, to import a certain number of Danish cows. The Danes have not a great deal of feeding-stuff, and they are, I believe, beginning to slaughter some of their cows. Denmark is also particularly free from disease. Was this proposal welcomed with open arms? No. The Board of Agriculture said, quite unofficially, that they would not do this as they were afraid of opposition. Opposition from whom? Opposition from the Eastern counties. So we have this position—opposition from the Eastern counties on the one hand against the importation of cows from Denmark; and, on the other hand, the same people trying to induce the Government to remove the embargo on the exportation of store cattle from Canada. We have been pretty free from disease in this country, but the breeder has had a good deal to put up with. We have had a good number of infantile ailments like measles; we are suffering from Lord Rhondda and Sir Arthur Lee; but these are minor diseases, and, although they will leave bad after-effects, we shall recover from them. But I hope that His Majesty's Government will pause before they run the risk of infection from really serious diseases. The noble Lord (Lord Strachie) has dealt with disease on the frontier between America and Canada, and has shown how impossible it is effectively to police that frontier. In the Livestock Journal of December 28, 1917, there was a cutting out of the Shorthorn World of Chicago saying that tuberculosis was prevalent both in cattle and pigs throughout the East and Middle West of America, and that the losses occasioned by animals dying from that disease were extremely heavy; that, in fact, it was estimated by the Department of Agriculture that those losses amounted to £5,000,000. That is not a very cheering statement as to the health of cattle not many miles away from the Canadian frontier
260 If this embargo upon Canadian cattle is removed it will be only the thin edge of the wedge. You will have to remove the embargo from all other countries. What will the Argentine people say to that? Will they continue to send their buyers to Birmingham and other places and pay what is practically a record price—2,000 guineas—for a young bull? Will they be content to do that after we have opened the door to disease from everywhere, which disease it will be impossible to locate until it is too late? May I say that I do not think that the Government have been very successful in their meddling—shall I call it?—with animals. They have meddled with pigs, and with fat cattle. There is too much of this "Hidden Hand" business pulling Mr. Prothero and the people whom agriculturists trust; and I hope that, with regard to this most valuable industry, there will be a little less "butting in" by people who no doubt mean very well, but whose misdirected efforts generally have a disastrous effect.
THE EARL OF NORTHBROOK
My Lords, as I have for a good many years occupied the position of chairman of the Veterinary Committee of the Royal Agricultural Society, which is greatly concerned in this matter, I should like to be allowed, before the noble Duke replies, to make a few observations. I entirely agree with what Lord Strachie said just now, namely, that the statements—perhaps the not very carefully-considered statements—which Mr. Prothero made at the meeting of the Imperial Conference on April 26, and especially his concurrence with the resolution that the embargo on Canadian cattle should be removed as speedily as possible, was received with dismay by stock breeders in this country. They took it as an indication that the Board of Agriculture had decided without previous consultation with the Agricultural and Breed Societies in this country, and without ascertaining the views of the stock breeders here, to abandon the policy which for twenty years had given security to our flocks and herds from infection by disease imported into this country with foreign cattle, and that the Board were prepared to revert to the policy, or rather to the position, that was in force before the passing of the Diseases of Animals Act, 1896, when the Board of Agriculture had power to put countries on the free list. Experience had shown that that position was an exceedingly 261 unsatisfactory one and did not give the stock breeders of this country the protection which they desired and deserved.
To show you, my Lords, how very unsatisfactory the position was at that time, I need do no more than quote from the statement that was made by Mr. Prothero at the Imperial Conference on April 26. He pointed out that shortly before the passing of the Diseases of Animals Act, 1896, the Board were permitting cattle to be brought from Argentina and that on the voyage a whole shipload were found to be actually suffering from foot-and-mouth disease. That is a risk to which stock-owners in this country do not wish to be subjected again. The Veterinary Committee of the Royal Agricultural Society very carefully considered the Report of the proceedings of this Conference on April 26, and on their recommendation the Council, in the month of November, passed the following resolution:—That the Board of Agriculture be asked to give an assurance that no proposal shall be brought forward for the repeal of the Diseases of Animals Act, 1896, until the Royal Agricultural Society and the breed societies interested have been consulted.We received a reply, signed by the Assistant Secretary of the Board of Agriculture, in which it is stated that—In the case of cattle from Canada, no legislation will be introduced unless and until the importation of live cattle born and reared in that country is found to be both practicable and consistent with domestic policy after the war, and in any case the Board would naturally, before any legislation is proposed, take steps to obtain the views of breed societies upon the subject," and so on.The Council of the Royal Agricultural Society on the whole considered that this reply was satisfactory, but I should like to call your attention to this fact—namely, that a resolution very similar in character to that passed by the Royal Agricultural Society was passed by the Parliamentary Agricultural Committee. That resolution was forwarded to the Board of Agriculture, and in due time, on December 18, a reply was received, signed by Sir A. D. Hall, Secretary of the Board of Agriculture, and I wish to quote to your Lordships the concluding paragraph of that letter. He said—With regard to the other resolution of your Committee concerning the importation of Canadian stores, I am to say that the question cannot arise during the war, and, moreover, that legislation will be required before any steps can be taken 262 to permit of the entry of Canadian stores. All that Mr. Prothero has done is to agree with the Canadian authorities that the entry of Canadian store cattle could no longer be resisted on the score of their possible infection with foot-and-mouth disease or pleuro-pneumonia, leaving the future question of their importation to be determined by considerations of general agricultural policy. You will see that no promise has been given to permit of the entry of these stores now or after the war, and should the question come up later the breed societies and other interests concerned would have ample opportunity of stating their case against a change of policy.If the noble Duke, in replying, will give an assurance on the part of the Government on those three points—first, that no promise has been made to Canada on the matter; secondly, that no action shall be taken until after the war; and, thirdly, that before any action is taken the agricultural and breed societies and all interests concerned shall be consulted and be given a full opportunity of stating their opinions, and, if possible, their objections to any proposals which are made—I think, speaking for myself, and I believe speaking for the Royal Agricultural Society of England, we should be satisfied. We feel that we cannot ask the Government to do more than that; and if the noble Duke will give us such a pledge, I hope and believe that it will be unnecessary to press this Motion further.
§ THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE (THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH)
My Lords, I understand from the remarks of the noble Lord who initiated this debate that he is disturbed at the idea which has been set abroad, that store cattle might be brought into this country from Canada. He pointed out to your Lordships in the course of his remarks that he had grave fears that these cattle, presuming they were allowed to come from Canada, would not be born and bred necessarily in Canada, but that they might come over the border from the United States, and that consequently this country might be the recipient of cattle from the United States which were infected. The noble Lord also went on to remind the House that there had been foot-and-mouth disease in Argentina, and that cattle had been known to have pleuro-pneumonia in Canada.
Might I briefly remind the House of the history of this matter? From 1865 diseases of animals broke out very frequently in the United States of America, and also in 263 Europe. The worst year I think was the year 1892, when Europe in particular was scourged by diseases like foot-and-mouth disease and pleuro-pneumonia. The Government then decided to pass legislation to protect the home breeders from the contagion of their animals, and the Diseases of Animals Act, 1896, was passed. Previous to that, in 1894, an Act was passed which did permit of certain consignments of cattle coming into this country from abroad, but in 1896 the Act was quite drastic and it embodied the principle of total prohibition except for slaughter of cattle at the port of entry. The noble Lord referred to Clause 27 of that Act, and reminded the House that under it, under very special conditions, certain animals might be allowed to come into the country. It is perfectly true that that particular clause was never repealed, but I do not think it has ever been put into operation except in the case of animals for exhibition.
§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
I believe I am right in saying that there have been cases in which animals have come from Australia and Argentina for exhibition and have been refused entry at the ports. The noble Lord made great play with the occasion when Mr. Runciman admitted Holstein-Friesland cattle from Holland in 1914.
§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
I do not want to pursue the discussion in that avenue. I do not know the conditions under which Mr. Runciman let them in, but I know great pressure was put upon him at the time to do so, and I am bound to say, being an owner of Holsteins myself, that I consider Mr. Runciman's action was extremely beneficial to the British Holstein Breeding Society. Therefore, the position was that all cattle were prohibited from coming to this country since the year 1896, except those cattle which were killed at the port of entrance. It is alleged, and I believe with justice, that since 1896 none of the Canadian cattle have been infected with disease. The Paper from which the noble Lord quoted is very conclusive on this point. Mr. Rogers, who was the representative of the Canadian Government at the War Conference, stated most emphatically that in his opinion the 264 Canadian store cattle were completely free from disease. These are his words—Since that date I may say for the information of the Conference that over 3,000,000 head of cattle have been shipped from Canada and slaughtered on arrival in Great Britain and no single case of disease has been discovered.I rather gather that the noble Lord did not place very great confidence in the statement Mr. Rogers made. I am not capable of expressing an opinion. I presume that Mr. Rogers, who was a representative of Canada at the Conference, must have been speaking with authority and with due weight. The noble Lord will bear in mind that Mr. Prothero said this—We do not believe that there is now, or has been for a good many years past, the slightest ground to exclude Canadian cattle on the score of disease.Then Sir Robert Borden said—That is absolutely so.Furthermore, Mr. Long, the Colonies, said.—I think the time that has elapsed has shown that Canada has a complete and clean bill of health during the last fifteen or twenty years.Well my Lords, what conclusion may we draw from this testimony? Surely, it is this, that so far as contagious disease is concerned there is no justification for the British Government refusing to allow Canadian stores, born and bred in Canada, to come into this country. That is the conclusion which I think we are entitled to draw, and that conclusion—that is the point the noble Lord asked me particularly—is strongly supported and endorsed by all those at the Board of Agriculture who are competent to express an opinion on the veterinary side of the question. The noble Lord who moved this Motion took me to task for saying I could not find any statement from Mr. Prothero in which he said he was willing to repeal the Act. I think we got a little bit at cross-purposes, but the conclusions of the Conference, which the noble Lord read, were really not in relation to the repeal of the Act but in relation to the removal of the stigma contained in the statement that Canadian cattle were not free from disease.
§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
He will find that Mr. Rogers said—"to remove the stigma from which we are suffering."
§ LORD STRACHIE
The noble Duke has only quoted from the original. What I laid emphasis on is on page 6, at the very end. When Mr. Walter Long said, "Mr. Prothero accepts that, and there is an end of it"—he meant he accepts the removal of the embargo, which must mean legislation—Mr. Hazen said:I think, as we have a statement from the President of the Board of Agriculture that this restriction will be removed, and that he does not see why it should not be done at once, we might leave it there.
§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
I can assure the noble Lord that is what was intended, and that is the proper interpretation which he should place upon the statement made at that Conference. I think the noble Lord himself is aware that more or less that is the proper interpretation to place upon it, and I am bound to say I am fortified in my view, because here is a report of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, to which the noble Earl, Lord Northbrook, referred. The noble Lord, at a meeting of the Society on December 5, raised this very point; and what did the noble Earl, Lord Northbrook, say? He said the matter had been raised at the last meeting of the Council and a communication was addressed on the subject to the Board of Agriculture; that a reply had been received which had been read that day before Lord Strachie had entered the room; that, for his Lordship's information, he might say that in general terms the letter was satisfactory inasmuch as it gave an assurance that the Government at the present time had no intention of introducing legislation; and that before legislation was contemplated the President of the Board of Agriculture would consult the breeding societies. The noble Lord is in possession of that statement, and perfectly aware of the intention of the President of the Board of Agriculture.
§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
Yet the noble Lord tries to read into the White Paper a point of view and an intention on 266 the part of the President of the Board of Agriculture which he knows from the letter referred to at the Royal Agricultural Society was not his intention.
§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
I am sorry to hear that, because Lord Northbrook and those who are members of the Royal Agricultural Society expressed their complete satisfaction and agreement with the letter which was received from the President of the Board of Agriculture. I admit the point is not worth arguing further. I now turn to the consideration, on general grounds of policy, whether it is expedient to allow store cattle to come into this country or not. The noble Lord who moved this Motion made great play with the words which Mr. Prothero used—We shall want a great many more store cattle if we have this great extension of arable farms. We shall want more animals to trample the straw, and eat the root crops.That is purely a pious expression of opinion on the part of the President of the Board of Agriculture. He does not say it is essential they should be let in. He points out that this is one of the considerations which should appeal to some people, which might appeal to some people; but he does not pledge himself that because store cattle are required in this country therefore they must be let into England from Canada. Personally, I am not prepared to express any opinion on the merits of the subject. I gladly, for the moment, subordinate my views to those of the noble Lord, Lord Hindlip, who has a far greater knowledge of Canada than I have, and I should infinitely prefer to leave the question of whether it is wise or unwise to increase our home stock by the supply of cattle from Canada for consideration at the termination of hostilities. Therefore really the position is this. In the opinion of the Board of Agriculture, supported by the representatives of Canada and fortified by our own veterinary experts, we believe that Cana- 267 dian cattle are entirely free from disease: and the President of the Board of Agriculture has pointed out that store cattle might be of assistance to the agricultural community in this country.
Now I come to the pledges which the noble Earl, Lord Northbrook, asked me to give. I can assure him that no promise has been made to permit the entry of store cattle from Canada into this country, but I cannot promise him that no Act may be passed permitting them to come before the end of the war, because I am not at all certain what Government may be in power, or who may be in a position to decide these matters, before hostilities are terminated. I can give him this further promise, that no change can take place until the Act of 1896 is repealed and fresh legislation brought in in its place. It is quite obvious that if, and when, fresh legislation is brought forward, there will be ample time for all the breeders of England, and for any noble Lord or any Member of Parliament, to lay their views thoroughly before the President of the Board of Agriculture and the officials of the Department. They will be able to express their views in Parliament and out of it before the passage of the Bill, and the noble Earl may be quite sure that no Bill will be passed in which the views of the breeders are not fully considered by those responsible for such a measure.
§ VISCOUNT CHAPLIN
My Lords, as I was responsible, now many years ago, for the Act of Parliament by which we were enabled, as we hoped finally, to exterminate pleuro-pneumonia from this country, perhaps I may be permitted to say a few words in this debate. As there appears to be some misapprehension on the subject I hope I may be allowed to deal, as briefly as possible, with what appears to me to be the merits of the whole question we have discussed this afternoon in connection with the Paper which was circulated to us some nine months ago. I became aware of it almost immediately afterwards, and I naturally took upon myself to examine it with great care. I came to certain conclusions upon it at once. One of them was this; that I thought it might be exteremly prejudicial to raise the question at that time, because no doubt great feeling was expressed at that particular Conference upon this subject, and I believe it accurately represented the feelings in 268 Canada. I thought, therefore, it might be highly prejudicial, if hostile comments in public and hostile debates on the subject were to occur in Parliament or elsewhere, to the success of the election which was about to be fought by Sir Robert Borden and his friends. I went so far as to write to the Secretary of the Chamber of Agriculture urging this view upon them, and begging that at all events any discussion on the subject might be postponed until the election was over. That was very rightly and properly observed.
Now, having said that, I wish to say a few words on the merits of the whole question as it appears to me. On Page 3 of this White Paper the opinion is expressed by Mr. Prothero that the alleged outbreak of pleuro-pneumonia, in 1892 from Canadian cattle which were landed here was extremely doubtful. With all respect to Mr. Prothero that was not so. I took the trouble, immediately afterwards, to go through all the old papers on the subject which I had in my possession, and the facts proved beyond doubt that, as far as expert opinion in this country was concerned—there was one exception, and he only said that there was one case which was extremely suspicious, and therefore he should call it doubtful—with this exception, of all the other veterinary surgeons (if I recollect aright, for I have not examined the short analysis I made on the subject since then) not one of them would say it was not pleuro-pneumonia, and the great majority said they had not a doubt but that it was. That was the opinion of the experts at that time, and why Mr. Prothero should say it was extremely doubtful I cannot imagine, unless, as I think it is reasonable to suppose, he had never given full consideration to this branch of the subject, which at one time was considered of the first importance to agriculture. Seeing that we had been for years free from this disease, and that with only occasional exceptions we had kept foot-and-mouth disease successfully out of the country for a great number of years, there was no particular reason why he should have gone back to years gone by in order to make himself completely master of the question. On page 4 he says, "It applies to all countries as a general principle, but we could admit for exhibition or other exceptional purposes." That, I believe, is perfectly true. But, of course, no one can suppose that any President of the Board of Agriculture would sanction 269 importation, such as those which were desired and asked for by the representatives of Canada at the Conference, in the face of the specific statement in the general Act, which lays it down in one of the Schedules that, with regard to foreign animals, "they shall not leave the port alive."
To those who are not versed in this subject, let me say why those few simple words were of vital importance to the herds of this country. Unlike foot-and-mouth disease pleuro-pneumonia can be conveyed only by the immediate contact of one animal with another, and therefore there was an absolute and perfect safeguard as long as that clause was maintained, because all the animals were slaughtered at the port of debarkation and never went out of it, and therefore it was impossible that the disease could be conveyed by them. That is a cardinal point in considering this question which never ought to be lost sight of. Once you part from it I am convinced that sooner Or later—it may not be for some considerable time afterwards perhaps—you will certainly find an Outbreak of pleuro-pueumonia again in the country. It is one of the most insidious diseases in the world, and it is now held to be impossible to detect it in a living animal. It lies dormant sometimes for years. How then is it possible to know whether Canada or the United States or any other country is positively safe from this disease?
I remember that at the time that I was at the Board of Agriculture as President we spent an enormous sum of money and an immense amount of labour on this matter, and I was brought into contact with the greatest and most famous experts of this disease of that day. That is why feel so strongly upon this question. On page 4 Mr. Long said something in support of the views I have just put before your Lordships. He said—It was said just now that I was responsible for this policy and for advising the Government. It was certainly not that at all. Nor did we accept the view (which my friend Mr. Prothero has said obtained twenty years afterwards) that we had not abundant evidence" [of the disease coming from Canada]. "There was a difference of opinion between your scientific people and ours. Our people held a strong view about it. There was a great agitation in this country about disease, particularly about pleuro-pneumonia, and our scientific people differed from yours.All that I have said upon that branch of the subject is therefore fully supported by what I have just read from Mr. Long. At 270 the close of the Conference he said some thing else to which I will come later. You must remember that, it is many years since these things occurred, and being at the Colonial Office, as he was at a most interesting period, it is more than probable that he would not have hall the time to recur to all the documents and considerations hearing upon this matter in the same way that I did. Probably if he had done so his opinion would have been still more closely allied to my own than it actually was.
Let me now refer to another statement of Mr. Long. He thinks that Canada has a clean bill of health. Canada may have—I am not here to deny it—but I am quite certain that throughout the vast districts of Canada it is impossible to speak with absolute certainty. More than that, nobody pretends to deny that the United States is not still suffering in many parts from the disease, and when you consider that there is a frontier of 6,000 miles between Canada and the United States, how can you say with certainty that some of the diseased animals in America may not pass over the border into Canada, especially when you consider that farmers are crossing and recrossing with their flocks and herds from the United States into Canada as they have been doing day by day for the last two or three years. That being the case, how can you say that this insidious disease may not he discovered perhaps in a few years afterwards in some parts of Canada also? These are considerations which ought to be borne in mind.
The labour and expense that have been incurred in this country in stamping out disease have enormously added to the value which has been given to our herds by the certain and assured knowledge that they are quite free from disease. Personally I think that it would be an unpardonable act if any English Government with all this knowledge in their minds—and the Board of Agriculture ought to have it in their minds—were to depart from this policy, and so risk our herds in this country again being infected and injured probably for a great number of years to come. I must give just one other quotation from Mr. Prothero. On page 5 he said—There is one point that I might mention. I think, if I might use a slang phrase, we were rather jumpy at that time about cattle plague, because we had been bringing in cattle from 271 Argentina, and on one voyage a whole shipload of cattle were discovered to be actually suffering from foot-and-mouth disease. That was no doubt one of the reasons why we made this more drastic alteration, but we could, not by legislation but merely by an Order of the Board of Agriculture, put Canada into the free list to-day.Both those statements—the possibility of putting Canada on the free list and the other—may lead to a confusion between cattle plague, which is the most frightful disease in the world, and foot-and-mouth disease which is a totally different thing. It does seem to me that Mr. Prothero was speaking without adequate knowledge of the subject with which he was dealing at that particular time. I am not surprised at that, because we have had no cattle plague in this country during his Presidency of the Board. I well remember the first outbreak a very great number of years ago. There is no reason why Mr. Prothero should have had any occasion to examine these questions with the closeness they deserve. Mr. Long went on to say that before the Act of 1896 an Order in Council would be sufficient. That was what Mr. Prothero thought. But that is not so. That is not the case now. Mr. Long said it would have to be by the repeal of the Act of Parliament. That is exactly what the noble Duke said, and in my humble judgment the noble Duke and Mr. Long are in that respect absolutely right.
And therefore I come to this, that there is nothing immediately imminent. That is a great relief, and if the conditions laid down by Lord Northbrook can be accepted by the Government—it is rather difficult to see how they can be, because it seems to me that they are exactly in conflict with some of the opinions expressed by the two Ministers at the Conference—but if those conditions could be accepted, and we were assured that they would be carried out, that would be not unsatisfactory to me. For what were they? First of all, that no promise has been made of the repeal of the Act of Parliament; secondly, that no action will be taken until after the war; and, thirdly, that before any action is taken which should have the effect of admitting cattle from Canada into the interior of the country all the great societies—the Royal Society and other great societies—should be consulted.
The noble Duke seemed to be much impressed by the fact, which was stated at the Conference, that 3,000,000 animals had been landed from Canada during the 272 last 20 years or more, and not a single case of disease had been detected. Naturally. Why should it be detected? The animals landing, it was perfectly certain, could not convey disease into the country and conequently they were not examined. Why should they have been? It would have been simply labour thrown away. They were just slaughtered and killed, exactly as every animal is killed by the butcher. But they are not examined for pleuro-pneumonia. So that that argument, which was considered a very strong argument in favour of Canada, as a matter of fact is perfectly worthless. Then I did not quite follow the noble Duke, and perhaps he will tell me if I was wrong. I understood him to say that there was no doubt in the mind of the Government, under all the circumstances of the case, that they ought to be admitted. Was I right in that?
§ VISCOUNT CHAPLIN
I hope you did not. Then I am quite satisfied; because at the close of the proceedings of the Conference Mr. Long, for whose opinion I have the greatest respect, and for whom personally I have the greatest possible regard, made a statement which, I own, rather horrified me. It was asked whether the Minister of Agriculture had undertaken to do it. I quote from the White Paper—Mr. ROCERS: Do not you think we should move a resolution about it?CHAIRMAN: You do not want a resolution, do you—or, if you like, you can simply move that the embargo on Canadian cattle be removed as speedily as possible.Mr. ROGERS: I beg to move that.CHAIRMAN: Mr. Prothero accepts that, and there is an end of it:Well I venture to think that that is not an end of it; and, what is more, if ever it is proposed to repeal that clause in the Act of Parliament, as far as I am able to judge and as far as it is right in any circumstances to prophesy about the future, I am afraid I must say that I am convinced thatthere would be in the interests of agriculture and food in this country—I think also that there ought to be—the most determined opposition to any such proposal, and I, at all events, am one of those who would fight against it for all I am worth.
§ LORD STRACHIE
I think I am right in supposing that the noble Duke is not 273 willing to accept my Motion on behalf of the Government?
THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (THE EARL OF CRAWFORD)
I did not intend to speak; but, it seems to me that if a decision is to be taken by the House on this subject, the Second Reading of the Bill, if ever a Bill on the subject is introduced, will be the obvious and concrete method of recording your Lordships' Judgment.
§ LORD STRACHIE
Then do I understand that the Lord Privy Seal does not accept my Motion, which merely says that it is inexpedient to remove this embargo, though Mr. Long and Mr. Prothero declare their intention of doing it? We have apparently got to wait for future legislation. That may be a very long while.
§ LORD STRACHIE
I would not desire to press this Motion if I could get an absolute understanding on the matter. I must say that the noble Duke was very careful not to refer to the Central Chamber of Agriculture and its view. He simply quoted against me the Council of the Royal Agricultural Society, of which I am a member. But the Royal Agricultural Society only said they were satisfied that they were going to be consulted. Well, the Central Chamber of Agriculture is not such a confiding body. It is a more democratic body and more representative of the farmers of this country, being composed almost entirely of tenant farmers, and they were not satisfied with the assurance. They wanted something a great deal stronger, and they really believed that it is very little use to be told that they will be consulted, because you can act just as you like. What they are frightened at is the statement made in the White Paper. But if the noble Duke will give me this assurance I will not press my Motion. Will he give me the assurance that he has the authority of Mr. Prothero to say that Mr. Prothero made no promise at the Imperial Conference to remove the embargo, notwithstanding any impression that may have been left, and notwithstanding the statement, which apparently so impressed the Canadians when they moved a Resolution, and Mr. Long 274 said that Mr. Prothero accepted that Resolution for the removal of the restriction, and when Mr. Hazen said that they had a statement from the Board of Agriculture that the restriction would be removed and that he did not see why it should not be done at once. If, on the other hand, the noble Duke says all this is entirely a mistake, and that Mr. Prothero did not mean what he said, then on behalf of the Central Chamber of Agriculture I will say that we are perfectly satisfied that Mr. Prothero made no promise to remove the embargo upon Canadian cattle.
§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
I think it will simplify matters very much indeed if I say that the letter which the noble Earl, Lord Northbook, read out from Sir Daniel Hall to the Royal Agricultural Society, sets forth clearly and in concise language the precise views of the President of the Board of Agriculture. It will be better for me, I think, to confine my reply to the noble Lord to stating that I prefer to pin my views on that letter, because it is the carefully considered and chosen language of the President; and I do not feel authorised in any way to go beyond it. If that letter will not satisfy the noble Lord, I am sorry.
§ LORD HINDLIP
My Lords, I can speak again only by the leave of the House. The noble Duke in his speech said that Mr. Prothero had promised to remove only the stigma and not the embargo. Now I rather gather that the noble Duke is going back on that, and wishes to lead us to suppose that Mr. Prothero has made a promise.
THE EARL OF NORTHBROOK
My Lords, I only wish to remove a misapprehension on the part of the noble Duke. The letter from which I last quoted with regard to no promise having been made was not the letter addressed to the Royal Agricultural Society; it was a letter addressed by Sir Daniel Hall in reply to a resolution passed by the Parliamentary Agricultural Committee. Speaking for myself, may I say that I am satisfied with the assurance given by the noble Duke. I understand that he was reluctant to give an assurance that no action should be taken during the war, because, as he says, there may be a change of Government. But I hope that I may take it from him that, so long as the present Government remains in office, no action will be taken.
§ VISCOUNT CHAPLIN
My Lords, may I ask, with the leave of the House, in order to try and come to a unanimous decision—
§ VISCOUNT CHAPLIN
—that nothing will be done in the way of repealing the Act, at all events until after the war?
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
I really must appeal to the House. The noble Viscount now asks that nothing should be done with regard to repealing the Act during the continuance of the war. It is impossible for this Government to give any decision on that point; it may not be in office.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
If this point is to come to an issue, it must be via legislation. I appeal, therefore, to your Lordships to defer a decision on this subject until it reaches the House in a concrete form by a Second Reading of the Bill. It is quite impossible, as Lord Strachie must know, for the Government to acquiesce in a Motion which in terms censures, or repudiates, two members of that Government. I think the situation is clear. It is obviously impossible for us to accept the Motion; and actually there is a conflict of opinion between two sides of the House as to what the statements made at the Imperial Conference involved. I submit to your Lordships that the proper time and occasion to take a verdict upon this subject is when the matter is put before you in a concrete form.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Does the noble Lord wish to include the words "and which the above-mentioned Ministers have expressed their intention of doing"?
§ LORD STRACHIE
I assure the House, as I carefully said in my opening remarks, that I did not wish to express any censure on Mr. Long or on Mr. Prothero on this subject. I was merely expressing the views of the Central Chamber of Agriculture, that it was inexpedient to repeal these 276 particular parts of the Act. If the noble Earl the Lord Privy Seal desires, I am willing to leave out all the words except the Resolution itself.
§ On Question, Motion negatived.