VISCOUNT CHAPLIN rose to call attention to the agitation now being promoted by Lord Beaverbrook in the Daily Express, by The Times, and other important newspapers, now in support of the reintroduction of foreign cattle through and from Canada, without the safeguard of slaughter at the port from the reintroduction of pleuro-pneumonia into this country which has now given the cattle in the United Kingdom absolute immunity from that disease for upwards of thirty years; and to move: "That this House declines to remove what is wrongly described as 'the embargo,' on cattle which come to our shores from Canada or from other countries for the following reasons:
1. The term itself is very misleading, and purports to be used because of its injurious effect on the price of meat. On the other hand to abandon the policy of slaughter at, the port, would reopen the door at once to the risk of the ravages of pleuro - pneumonia from which we have suffered so severely in the past, and compel us to relinquish a safeguard which has given us absolute security against that pestilential disease for upwards of thirty years.
2. There is no embargo on the importation of live cattle for slaughter from any country in the world, Canadian or otherwise, and they have been so imported from Canada and other countries in thousands, and can be so imported now, provided they come from countries which are not suffering from any cattle disease.
3. Pleuro-pneumonia, unlike many other cattle diseases, can only be conveyed by the immediate contact of one animal with another; therefore, so long as the provision for slaughter remains, and contact is impossible, we are safe.
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I make no apology for asking your Lordships' permission to address you on this occasion, for this is a question with which I have been familiar, more or less, for the greater part of my life. I am, unhappily, old enough to remember the terrible disasters which were suffered in agricultural districts from rinder-pest a great many years ago. Indeed, although I was not at that time of age, that was the first occasion on which I ever took part in public business. I joined a farmers' committee in the County of Lincoln, formed for the purpose of doing all that we could to counteract the ravages of that deadly disease, which was then called the cattle plague. Hundreds of such committees were formed at that time all over the country, and at last, the Government doing all they could to help, the disease was, by the mercy of Heaven, extinguished before the whole of the cattle in the country were destroyed, but not before it had brought untold ruin upon thousands of agriculturists in all parts of the country. This was particularly the case in Cheshire, a great dairy country, where they suffered almost untold damage. The devastation in Cheshire at that time was literally appalling. All this I remember.
§ But how did the disease come here? It was brought here by some foreign cattle, which were infected with it. It was not discovered at the time, and it spread nearly all over the country, extending at one time with the great rapidity which, I believe, is one of the chief features of that horrible disease. That was before the policy of slaughter at the port had been embodied in the law of this country. I heartily hope that that policy will never again be abandoned, and for this reason. Next to rinder-pest, pleuro-pneumonia 356 is the worst and most deadly cattle disease that we have in this country, and, in my opinion, it is the worst disease that you can have in your herds. You hear a great deal about foot-and-mouth disease now, but foot-and-mouth disease is not worth thinking about compared with pleuro-pneumonia. Foot-and-mouth disease can be discovered with the greatest possible ease; it lasts only a very short time; it is not deadly. The animals do not die, although they have been killed in such enormous numbers during the last outbreak in this country that the taxpayers have, I understand, had to pay £1,000,000 sterling for the animals which have been killed.
§ We never did that in former days, except on two occasions. It was held to be perfectly right when the disease first broke out, and before it reached any very great severity. We killed animals then. Again, when it was approaching the end, and we felt sure that we could extinguish it altogether, we killed again. But, except on those two occasions, either at the very beginning, or to make sure of removing the disease, that was not the practice pursued by the Board of Agriculture, at all events in my time. On one occasion, when I was at a Cabinet I received a message from the head of the Department that foot-and-mouth disease had been discovered in the Metropolitan market, among some cattle from Denmark, which had been there three or four days. He requested to see me immediately. I sent a message that I would see him the moment the Cabinet was over. At the end of the business of the Cabinet, I told my colleagues what had happened, and I begged them to give me carte blanche, to which they agreed at once. I then went to the office and saw all the heads of the Department. A large number of inspectors were summoned to London immediately, and I saw them all. I do not think any Department of Government could possibly have a better and more enthusiastic staff than that of the Board of Agriculture at that time. Although the disease had spread, in spite of everything, to twenty different counties, I was able within five months—or it may have been just over—to show a clean bill of health again. I believe we did not have any return of the disease in this country for five years afterwards.
§ Pleuro-pneumonia, however, is a totally different thing. Unlike foot-and-mouth disease, it can be conveyed only by the im- 357 mediate contact of one animal with another, and consequently so long as you can prevent that contact you are perfectly safe from pleuro-pneumonia. That is the position in which we stand at this time. The beginning of it, at all events, was accomplished by your humble servant, who at that time had just been asked to become President of the Board of Agriculture. Although the disease was then raging I accepted the position, but on the one condition that the Cabinet agreed that I should be empowered to deal with the question forthwith. Consequently, I introduced a Bill in the House of Commons on February 28, 1890. It met with little opposition in either House, and became law. It was followed, shortly afterwards, by two amending Acts. One dealt mainly with finance and compensation, in which I had the cordial support of Mr. Goschen, then the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was one of the ablest and most enlightened statesmen it has ever been my good fortune to know. The other, in 1891, was of much more serious importance. That was after I had ceased to be President of the Board of Agriculture, if I remember aright, but I was consulted upon it. That Bill contained this proviso in the Third Schedule, namely, "The animals shall not be moved alive out of the wharf."
§ It is this proviso which at the present moment is causing all the difference between Canada and ourselves, to which I will refer later. Before doing so, I will consider what would be the cost of abolishing what is called the "embargo." In my Notice I have stated my views about giving it that name. I think it is most misleading, but people must judge about that for themselves. What it did for us was this: Firstly, it largely increased the number of our cattle and our herds; secondly, it gave an increased inducement to the breeders of cattle to embark more than they had done before on the breeding of cattle; thirdly, it added to the value which would be given by purchasers of the stock, by reason merely of the knowledge that in buying stock from us at that time they were certain to be free from pleuro-pneumonia; fourthly, it has added very largely to our own home production of food, and no one knows or recognises the importance of that better than the Prime Minister himself.
It was on February 23, 1917, I think, that the Prime Minister made, in my
humble opinion, the most powerful and most helpful speech upon the agricultural interest that it has ever been my good fortune to read. I am going to quote two or three sentences from it to show the enormous importance that he attached at that time to increasing the home production of food. In that speech he said—
I now come to the third, and perhaps the most important, direction in which by home production we can assist to enable the country to overcome its difficulties, and that is in the production of food supplies.
No doubt the State showed a lamentable indifference to the importance of the agricultural industry and to the very life of the nation, and that is a mistake which must never be repeated.
I hope that the statement of the Prime Minister will be borne in mind and acted upon by himself and his political supporters. The Prime Minister continued—
It is essential, therefore, for the safety of the nation—for the maintenance of the nation, for the life of the nation—that we should put forth immediately every effort to increase production for this year's harvest and the next, and that we should do it immediately.
That reminds me, of what occurred very shortly afterwards.
§ The Prime Minister having made that speech, many of us went about the country doing all that we could to support him. It was rather late for spring crops. A speech delivered on February 23 would not reach the farmers very quickly, and would not leave them any great time for the coming harvest. And yet, as he had wound up by saying he hoped the farmers would put their backs into it, what was it they accomplished? Even in that short time they sowed 375,000 more acres with corn than had ever been sowed in this country for I do not know how many years before. Therefore they met him in every way they could, and they did their very best to give him support.
§ I come now to the provision which has caused all this disturbance between us and Canada. Nobody in either House, of Parliament would regret more than I that anything in the nature of a slur or a stigma should be thrown upon Canada. I believe that Canada has done a very wonderful thing in getting her stock so clear of disease as she has done. I have this advantage in discussing this subject, that many years ago—I dare say before a good many of your Lordships were, born 359 —I travelled through the whole of these great districts in Saskatchewan where these numberless cattle are now bred and reared. When I was there those districts were all occupied by buffaloes. Now, owing to the enterprise of Canada and Canadian farmers, cattle have taken the place of the buffaloes. If I am opposed to them in this matter it certainly is not from any disregard of the feelings of Canada, or because I am unwilling to meet them, but because it is clear to me that my first duty is to see that our own herds in this country are not left open again to the incursions of pleuro-pneumonia.
§ I am told—and I am not here to deny it—that Canada is perfectly free from that disease. But I was brought up in the Board of Agriculture in my early days, and I was told this—and I believe there was truth in it then, whatever there may be now—that that disease was the most difficult in the world to detect in the living animal; that sometimes it could not be ascertained whether an animal had that disease or not. One difficulty, in particular, was pointed out to me. Whenever an animal had been inoculated against it, if it got the disease in after years it never responded to inoculation again. I am not a veterinary surgeon; I have had no education in those matters; but I have never forgotten that teaching.
§ More than that, you must consider the enormous extent of the areas in Canada where these cattle are kept. I had to travel over thousands of miles, for I went the whole way from what is now the City of Winnipeg. When I went to Winnipeg it consisted of eight great wooden storehouses and one stone house surrounded by a wooden palisade, and three tribes of Indians were waiting outside to exchange their furs and the other things that they sold for tobacco, flint, steel guns and powder and shot. I rode the whole way from what was then called Fort Garry, the headquarters of the Hudson Bay Company, to within about 130 miles of the Rocky Mountains. That is an enormous distance. I saw the whole country, and how it is possible to examine, or even think of examining, all the cattle reared in a district like that so that it can be said with absolute certainty that they are entirely free from every kind of disease, passes my comprehension.
But I have something stronger than that upon which I rely for the course I have
taken in this matter. We have had many debates in this House on this subject. Lord Lee of Fareham spoke on several occasions. In one of those debates he quoted Sir Robert Borden, and it is to that speech I want to call your Lordships' attention. He said—
For these and other reasons, my Lords, in the view of the Board of Agriculture it would be quite inopportune to consider removing the embargo or altering existing legislation.… Altogether, in view of the changed circumstances since the qualified undertaking was given by the Government in 1917, we are not prepared to introduce legislation and alter the existing law. At the same time—
and here I join with him most heartily—
I feel once more bound to dissociate the Government in the most formal way from the reflections upon Canada implied in Lord Strachie's speech, and to renew in the most formal way our withdrawal of the stigma to which the Canadian Government so rightly objects. The matter has now become one simply of—
domestic concern, to use Sir Robert Borden's phrase—
But Sir Robert Borden was Prime Minister. I do not know how we can get away from that. A pure matter of domestic concern!—
and a matter with regard to which the Government must consider and safeguard British interests to the exclusion of all other considerations
Why all these attacks should be made upon us by a number of gentlemen, who may have very good reasons for making them and who, I have no doubt, are very largely interested in the success or the failure of what they are trying to carry at the present time, I really do not know.
§ I am content to take my view of the question from this quotation from Lord Lee and from what I have seen myself. He assures me that it is accurate and I have no doubt that it is so. Although I would rather do anything in the world, if I could honestly do it and do it with the conviction that I was right in doing it, than offend Canada, that is why I adhere, and shall continue to adhere, to the course which I have laid down in the Resolution which I have placed on the Paper. There is a great deal more that I could say upon the subject if I had the strength to say it. It may be that I shall be called upon to reply to some of the speeches that may be made, but for the moment I hope your 361 Lordships will excuse me if, having made the best effort in my power—and a very trying experience it has been, I can assure you—for the time at all events I resume my seat.
§ Moved, That this House declines to remove what is wrongly described as "the embargo," on cattle which come to our shores from Canada or from other countries for the following reasons—
- 1. The term itself is very misleading, and purports to be used because of its injurious effect on the price of meat. On the other hand to abandon the policy of slaughter at the port, would reopen the door at once to the risk of the ravages of pleuro-pneumonia from which we have suffered so severely in the past, and compel us to relinquish a safeguard which has given us absolute security against that pestilential disease for upwards of thirty years.
- 2. There is no embargo on the importation of live cattle for slaughter from any country in the world, Canadian or otherwise, and they have been so imported from Canada and other countries in thousands, and can be so imported now, provided they come from countries which are not suffering from any cattle disease.
- 3. Pleuro-pneumonia, unlike many other cattle diseases, can only be conveyed by the immediate contact of one animal with another, therefore, so long as the provision for slaughter remains, and contact is impossible, we are safe.—(Viscount Chaplin.)
§ THE MARQUESS OF LINCOLNSHIRE had given Notice that on the Motion of Viscount Chaplin he would move, That it is incumbent on His Majesty's Government to carry out their pledge made at the Imperial Conference in 1917 to remove the embargo on Canadian cattle. The noble Marquess said: My Lords, my first duty is to congratulate the noble Viscount upon having brought this important subject—a subject of such importance both to ourselves and to the great Dominion of Canada—before your Lordships' House. I should like also to say that we have listened to the noble Viscount's speech, made under sadly difficult circumstances, with great attention, for two reasons. In the first place, it is extremely refreshing in these days of "Go-as-you-please" inside the Cabinet, 362 or out of it, to listen to a man who has the courage of his convictions and is not afraid to state them. We may not agree with what he says, but it is really a great thing once more to be able to listen to a man who has convictions and is not afraid to state them.
§ Another reason is that the noble Viscount is a member of a most remarkable trio of agricultural experts—himself, Lord Ernie, and Lord Long of Wraxall. Here I hope I may be allowed to express the great regret with which I heard that a very sad family affliction has befallen Lord Ernie in the course of the day. I can assure him how deeply we feel the sense of duty which has prompted him, in such sad circumstances, to be in his place on this occasion. Those three noble Lords form the triumvirate, as I say. It is a great comfort also to think that the services to the State of these distinguished statesmen have been acknowledged by their elevation to seats in your Lordships' House, where they have received so warm a welcome and so much appreciation on the part of the country.
§ With reference to what we have before us to-day, I hope I may be permitted not in any way to touch upon the merits or demerits of the case. We all know more or less the merits of the case and if we had forgotten anything we have been reminded of it by the eloquent speech to which we have just listened. I should think that all these merits and demerits were thoroughly thrashed out by the Royal Commission of 1921, which sat for Heaven knows how many days, examined a large number of witnesses, and at the end unanimously reported in favour of the removal of the embargo. It seems to me that settles the question. The thing is done. There is an end of it—the evening and the morning of the sixth day. So far as that is concerned it seems to me that it ought to settle it. Therefore, I shall simply confine myself to what is germane to the Motion that I have the honour to move.
§ Here may I say that I think we ought to take exception to two statements that have been made in the Notice which the noble Viscount has placed on the Paper. The noble Viscount seems to think that all this is a newspaper stunt; that it has been got up—he puts it in black and white—by Lord Beaverbrook and The Times for the purpose of newspaper propaganda. It is nothing of the sort. It is a very vital 363 question, and all that the newspapers have I done is to give expression to what I venture to think is the popular opinion on the subject. Lord Chaplin seems to think that his ideas carry great preponderance with the majority of his fellow countrymen, and, so far as I can make out, it appears I to him that every man who has the brains of a rabbit must naturally agree with his point of view. Is that so? I think that proposition is very much open to question. It is very difficult to get to the bottom of anything, but may I deal for a moment with what I suppose people still call the opinion of the United Kingdom?
§ In England there are from forty to forty-six millions of people, I suppose, and, thanks to Free Trade, all of them are fairly well fed and most of them are meat eaters; I suppose we might call them by the old English name of beefeaters. Surely, amongst all those millions, living in congested towns sometimes, you would not find a great preponderance of opinion to back up the noble Viscount. There are people who, rightly or wrongly—I offer no opinion on the subject—consider that this Canadian embargo must and does increase the price of meat. The unfortunate Minister of Agriculture has had a reminder of that from the deputations which have bombarded him during the last week in an endeavour to make him see the matter through their eyes. Then we go to Scotland. As a whole—both as regards agriculturists and people who live in the towns—Scotland is against the embargo.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LINCOLNSHIRE
I speak under correction, but I am informed that the great majority of the people of Scotland, agricultural and urban, are dead against the embargo. As regards Ireland, it is very difficult at present to know what Irish opinion really is on any matter under the sun, but on the subject of the importation of Canadian cattle I am informed by those best qualified to know—those who are Irishmen—that Ireland is understood to be most strongly against the removal of the embargo. But there is a difference of opinion about that. Let me quote what Mr. Prothero, as he was then, said on the Royal Commission to which so many references have been made. About Ireland he said—(The Irish Department) may make difficulties, but I do not think that they will, because, 364 as I say, the whole development of Irish farming is in favour of the breaking up of those great ranches on which the cattle were grazed, and from which they were sent over.Even as regards Ireland there is a great difference of opinion. There is English opinion about Ireland, and there is Irish opinion. When people of that sort disagree, who is to decide?
§ THE MARQUESS OF LINCOLNSHIRE
I take that from the noble Earl, Lord Mayo. How about the three political Parties? May we, for one moment, consider what they think about it? Labour, I believe, is dead against the embargo. I do not think that I shall be contradicted about that. The attitude of the great Unionist Party is, I submit, as difficult to ascertain as Irish opinion.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LINCOLNSHIRE
I am so glad to hear these interjections, because one lives and learns, and it is a great education. The opinion of that which Lord Carson has said is not the Unionist Party is difficult to ascertain. There used to be three distinct planks in the Tory platform in the good old days when Arthur Balfour, Harry Chaplin and Walter Long were pro-consuls—Consule Planco. There were several planks in the platform, and they are somehow or other, I am afraid, getting rather rotten. The Unionists have torn up the Union of Ireland. The House of Lords, of their own accord, have done away with the supremacy of their veto. The keeping out of Canadian cattle was a third plank in the platform—and a most important plank in the agricultural platform. The embargo, we understand, was introduced by the noble Viscount (who was originally Walter Long) more than twenty years ago, in 1896. That plank, as I understand, is now being pole-axed by the noble Viscount, Lord Long of Wraxall, himself the very man who introduced it. That I think is a double somersault, and one which has been wonderfully well executed. I congratulate the noble Viscount opposite upon landing safely on his legs in this House, for it is an acrobatic performance which might have been rivalled, but certainly could 365 not have been excelled, by the most experienced and daring saltimbanco that ever performed in a European circus.
Then, there is Liberal feeling. What am I to say about that? I think it is clear enough that Liberal feeling, journalistic and political, is entirely in favour of doing away with the embargo. As Free Traders, the Liberal Party naturally refuse to have anything to do with Protection, veiled or otherwise, and so strong is the feeling on the subject that in the great Election of 1906, when the Liberal Party came again into their own, with a majority of 350 over all other Parties in the House of Commons, almost all the leaders publicly stated that they would vote for any Bill for the removal of the embargo. So far as I remember there were Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, Mr. Asquith, Lord Loreburn, Sir Edward Grey, Lord Tweed-mouth and many others. All were in favour of removing the embargo, and openly expressed their determination to vote in favour of a Bill if it were introduced into either House for the removal of this embargo.
It has been said—I was confronted with it two days ago—"if that be the case why on earth, when you had this greet majority, did you not remove the embargo yourselves?" The answer to that is plain enough. The Ministers were in favour of it, and would have voted for a Bill if it had been brought before them, but there never was any question of a pledge given by Cabinet Ministers collectively or individually on the subject. No pledge of any sort was given to the great Dominion of Canada, but if there had been such a pledge the Liberal Party would not have spent five years postponing it and whittling it away. If we had given a pledge at that time we should have carried it out in exactly the same way as we carried out the pledge that we gave to the great Commonwealth of South Africa. We told them that we would give them self-government. There was tremendous and most determined opposition to it in this country, but in spite of that we brought in a Bill and carried it in both Houses. It is generally recognised now that the action of the statesman, then familiarly known as "C.B.," saved the great Dominion for the British Empire.
I do not think I need detain the House at any greater length. There really seems to me no necessity at all for us on this side 366 of the House to speak. The speeches to which we shall all listen with great attention will be those of the members of the so-called Unionist Party. The situation now is entirely changed. In 1909, or 1910, foot-and-mouth disease, in spite of all precautions, broke out with great virulence and a large number of British cattle had to be slaughtered. The Coalition Government, in 1917, gave the famous pledge to Canada. It was given by Lord Ernle, ratified by Lord Long of Wraxall, who afterwards became Secretary of State for the Colonies, and confirmed in the Commons House of Parliament by Mr. Lloyd George, the Prime Minister, himself on March 10, 1921. There are all sorts of stories and rumours about new that this pledge is going to be whittled away. We are told that live cattle are to be allowed to land if they are quarantined for fourteen days. If that is true any fresh legerdemain of this sort must be most strongly resisted as Canadian irritation will only be increased by the production of such measures as that. Still, I suppose that has been thrust aside. Only this morning we had still more contradictory news.
It is simply a question of broken pledges, and we unfortunate agriculturists on this side of the House know full well what such pledges mean. We know how far we have been able to depend upon Coalition promises. We voted to a man during the war for a Protectionist measure introduced by Lord Ernie, the Food Production Act, as to which Lord Milnerin this House gave us the word of honour of the Government that it was a war measure, and that, in no circumstances could it or would it be introduced in time of peace. The Armistice had no sooner been signed than Lord Lee of Fareham brought in his Agriculture Bill. We fought that as well as we could, but we were beaten. It was a distinct breach of faith. Within six months the promise of 46s. for wheat to the farmers and the minimum wage to the underpaid agricultural workers were repealed, and the landlords of England, the tenant farmers and the farm labourers, were thrown over and betrayed. I need not remind your Lordships of the fate of Lord Ernle's Act to put soldiers on the land. It is now in the course of being pole-axed on account of the expenditure—an expenditure which the Government realised before they brought it in.
The breaking of faith with one's own countrymen is bad; it is very bad. After 367 all, we have our resource; there is the ballot box in reserve. To break faith with our great Dominions, to break faith with the great Dominion of Canada, which in extent, if you exclude Alaska, is bigger than the whole of the United States and which in the days of England's need sent her sons to fight and die for this country, is unthinkable. For good or evil the Government—I suppose I must call them a Government—has given Canada a solemn pledge and at all costs, at all hazards, and whatever may be the result to certain individuals, that pledge must be kept and the Prime Minister must be made to stand by his words.
To leave out all words after ("that") and insert ("it is incumbent on His Majesty's Government to carry out their pledge made at the Imperial Conference in 1917 to remove the embargo on Canadian cattle.")—(The Marquess of Lincolnshire.)
§ LORD ERNLE
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Marquess for the sympathetic reference he has made to the circumstances in which I address your Lordships this afternoon. I agree with him that the methods of a newspaper agitation may be distasteful but that in this case they have done a public service. They have called our attention to the strength of Canadian feeling on a question which has become one of serious gravity and Imperial importance. I do not, however, agree with the noble Marquess in his version of the pledge. There was a pledge undoubtedly given at the Imperial Conference of 1917. The obvious and simple interpretation of that pledge is that which the noble Marquess has placed upon it, but I do not think that that is an accurate interpretation. It is not my meaning. It is not the interpretation I put upon it within a few weeks of the Conference, and I do not believe it is consistent with the line of discussion followed in the Conference. That is the subject to which I shall confine myself; it is the only matter connected with this subject upon which I have that special knowledge which possibly will be of use to your Lordships in the discussion.
The pledge lies in the Resolution before the Conference. At the Conference the Canadian representatives did not ask us to reverse our domestic policy of exclusion. They made no request of that sort; they did not dispute our right to shut their 368 cattle out. They complained, not of exclusion as a fact in itself, but of the grounds on which that exclusion was based, and you will see in the White Paper that Sir Robert Borden says, in effect: "Make it a fiscal question, and it is a matter of domestic concern with which we shall not trouble ourselves." "Decide," says Mr. Rogers, "on a policy of Protection for your livestock industries, and we offer no complaint and make no opposition." The possibility of a reversal of our domestic policy of exclusion was not even raised by the Canadian representative. It was raised by me, for the reasons which I have explained in your Lordships' House, and in my evidence before the Royal Commission. I founded the possibility of a change upon two express conditions. Those two conditions were—first, that there should be a very large extension of tillage in the United Kingdom; and, second, the assent of Ireland. Those two conditions were before the Conference throughout. They were present in the minds of the Canadian representatives at the time that the Resolution was put, and, for that reason, I have always thought, and I believe my successors in office have always thought, that there was no definite pledge to reverse our domestic policy of exclusion.
There was, I admit, a promise, contingent upon a change in our agricultural circumstances, and conditional upon my obtaining an authority the possession of which I, at the time, specifically disclaimed. If that is not the pledge, is there one? I have no doubt whatever that a pledge was given, and the scope and meaning of that pledge must be looked for in the course of the discussion and in the context of time and circumstances. In 1917 the Canadian representatives did not, as I have said, complain of our shutting out their cattle. The reason is obvious. They had at that time complete command of the United States market, and they had used it to such an extent that, in the autumn of 1916, the chief livestock officer of the Dominion had been instructed by his Minister to recover some of the breeders and stockers with which they had parted It was my knowledge of that fact, with other reasons, that impelled me to give Canada a timely warning that, in certain circumstances, we might want every store that Canada could send to this country. But, though the Canadian representatives did not complain of the fact of exclusion, they complained of the ground upon which it 369 was based. Canada was justly proud of the exceptional health of her cattle, and she considered that a grave injustice had been done when they were excluded from this country on the score of disease. The slur, the stigma, created a sore, which rankled and festered. There was a grievance bitterly and widely felt. It was strongly resented in that country. That was the point upon which the Canadian representatives insisted, and the removal of the slur was the point for which the Canadian representatives pressed us.
If I might use a very homely illustration, I think I can bring before your Lordships the feeling of Canada upon that subject. Supposing the wife of a London artisan, justly proud of the cleanliness of her house and the wholesomeness of her children, took her son to a board school, and asked for his admission. If the manager said to her: "My school is overcrowded; you must go elsewhere," she would probably grumble at the inconvenience, but if the manager said to her: "Your son is suffering from ringworm, and I cannot, have him in the school, lest he infect the school," she would furiously resent the insult. I do not claim that my illustration is a dignified one, but this, mutatis mutandis, was the position of Canada. She did not feel the practical difficulty, because she had this large market at her doors. It was the sentimental grievance which created the sore, and, right away through the Conference, that was the point made by the Canadian representatives. In the few sentences which precede the Resolution, you will see that that is the point to which Mr. Rogers recurs. He says: "Remove this stigma against us; cure the old sore and the old grievance." The removal of that slur was demanded by the Canadian representative, not as a concession, not as a favour, not as a term in any bargain, but as a bare act of justice, and the reparation of a wrong done by the Mother Country to the Dominion.
Years ago I had come to the conclusion that the Canadian case was right. I thought that the original case on which our action was taken was wrongly diagnosed. I thought that there was a quite honest divergence of opinion between our country and theirs. I thought that we were, in 1896, horrified by the shambles of the Argentine cattle ships, and I thought that, with perfect sincerity of purpose 370 and on the advice of honest and competent experts, we were not unwilling to find evidence which should justify a policy that should prevent for all time the recurrence of those horrors. It was a happy mistake for us, but it was a mistake all the same. In normal times, I do not deny that I might, in my official sense of expediency, have allowed it to overrule my personal sense of justice. I might have returned the stereotyped official answer.
But in 1917 the request for the removal of that slur was made in exceptional circumstances. I do not know if the noble Viscount who, as Colonial Secretary, took the chair at the Conference, may be able to enlarge upon those circumstances. I do not feel myself able to do so. I can only put the matter thus. We met at that Conference with that desire to remove misunderstanding which was naturally engendered by close comradeship in a life and death struggle for the nation and the Empire. I wished to give the Canadian representatives everything that they asked, to do it fully, to do it unconditionally. I wished to sweep away, so far as the machinery of our policy of exclusion went, all the allegations of disease, to admit to the full the doubtfulness of the original case. That is the thing to which I pledged myself, and that is the pledge which was given at the Conference. It is a pledge, to abandon all the allegations of disease, and the restrictions and grounds of the embargo, that are founded on disease, and to recognise in the fullest and frankest manner possible the health of Canadian cattle. I did throw out a suggestion that we might best emphasise our sense of the cleanliness of Canadian cattle, and best repair the wrong of which Canada complained, and do her the act of justice for which she asked, by introducing into this country for a limited time a limited number of Canadian stores.
I am one of those—I regret that I differ in that respect from the noble Viscount—who think that Canadian cattle could be admitted into this country with reasonable safety. I do not say the same absolute safety that you get from absolute exclusion, but reasonable safety. But at the Conference I took care not to pledge myself on that subject. I said quite definitely: "If we do take action in that respect then something or other is going to happen." I should not be honest with your Lordships if I did not say that I came to the con- 371 clusion within the next two years that it was the best way to do it —that we should in that way satisfy Canadian feeling, and yet be able to retain our domestic policy—and if I had remained in office I should have tried to bring in a measure of that sort, probably have failed, and then resigned. That was my feeling.
All through the period while I remained in office, however, I could not have done that, and for an obvious reason. There was not enough food in the country to keep our own cattle alive, and it was a miracle of resourcefulness on the part of our farmers that they were kept alive during the war. Therefore, when I was asked whether I would do anything of the sort, I always said that it was inopportune. If I was asked to reverse our domestic policy and bring in Canadian cattle I replied that the agricultural circumstances had never arisen on which my promise was based, and I venture to think that in that matter I was perfectly consistent.
I think, and I do not hesitate to say, that I made a serious mistake at the Conference in giving silent consent to the Resolution. I have not the haziest recollection of what was in my mind at the time, but I think what I ought to have said was this: "That Resolution, so far as it relates to the removal of the slur, I accept all along the line, and absolutely unconditionally, but so far as it relates to the removal of the embargo—I hate that word and think it is thoroughly misleading—so far as it relates to the reversal of our domestic policy of exclusion, I can only agree to it on the two conditions I have specified." If I had only said that all this misunderstanding would not have occurred. The point of my speech simply conies to this: I do not agree with the noble Marquess that, in discussing this question, we are bound to honour reluctantly a disputed pledge, alleged to have been given by an unauthorised Minister. I do not think that is the case. I think that we are bound by what passed at that Conference to honour the pledge I have indicated to you, and I very much regret that we have done nothing beyond a verbal expression now and then to remove the slur.
Meanwhile, not only our own position but the position of Canada has profoundly altered. Our own position has altered since the Royal Commission ceased its sittings. Southern Ireland is now in the same 372 position, whatever she may be technically and legally, as the free Dominion of Canada. She is a free State, and although I can imagine that it might be held at law that Ireland is still entitled to be in the position in which she was in 1896, I confess that I doubt whether you would convince many Canadians of the truth of that argument. We have changed in another way. I cannot conceive, for instance, that Lord Lee of Fareham could ever with any show of consistency have reversed our domestic policy of exclusion. I do not think he could, nor do I think I could, because first I and then he were bent on making this country more self-supporting, and to take away from the stock-breeder what you were on the other hand giving to the arable farmer would have been too inconsistent even for the Coalition Government.
Canada also has changed profoundly. She has abandoned her policy of 1917, which was to develop the chilled and frozen meat trade, and for that purpose to keep up her head of cattle. The Western States of Canada, which are the cattle-rearing States, have asserted their political influence. She is in danger of losing the markets which she had in 1917, owing to the fiscal policy of the United States. She has indefinitely postponed the policy of finishing her own cattle, and to-day she asks us to reverse our domestic policy and take in her cattle as stores. She asks it, as the noble Marquess reminds us, on the faith of the plain and obvious meaning, detached from its context, of the Resolution of the Conference, and the mischief that I think we have done by not taking some action in this matter is that for five years we have allowed that Resolution to stand before the Canadian people, without its context, and probably, I imagine, with phrases that might have been taken out of my own language and without the safeguards contained in the context. We have stood by while Canadian feeling has been strengthened and has risen to a height which I seriously think we must, in the consideration of our domestic industry, look at carefully and decide upon very deliberately, in view not merely of our own national interests but in the interests of the Empire.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT BIRKEXHEAB)
My Lords, I rise for the briefest possible space of time, not so much to indicate the attitude of the Government—because the attitude of the Government 373 is comparable to the snakes in Iceland, of which it was said "There are none"—but to explain my own individual position. It is perfectly true that the Government decided here and in the House of Commons to leave the matter, without putting on the Party Whips, to the unfettered decision of both Houses of Parliament. The noble Marquess, Lord Lincolnshire, has spoken with disapproval of that practice. He referred to these days when decisions are left by Cabinets to Parliament upon the "go-as-you-please" principle. Well, I am never quite sure whether the noble Marquess is making a grave or humorous contribution to our debates and I am frequently left in doubt as to whether his real purpose is to pass some substantial censure upon the unworthy stewards of the affairs of the country or merely to give the rein to some acceptable or agreeable badinage.
If it is the purpose of the noble Marquess to indulge in a serious censure I might perhaps be bold enough to remind him that for some forty years the fundamental issue of Free Trade and Protection was left as an open question by the Government in both Houses of Parliament, and that the question of Catholic emancipation— a question not less grave than that under debate to-day—was, similarly, left by many Governments of the Party to which the noble Marquess belonged as an open question. And I seem to remember that the Cabinet of which the noble Marquess was a conspicuous ornament left the grave question of female suffrage year by year to the House to be dealt with in precisely the same manner. And for that decision the noble Marquess was, of course, responsible.
I was, I confess, somewhat puzzled by the noble Marquess's interesting historical exegesis of what happened after the year 1906 in relation to this matter. The noble Marquess recounted with pardonable historical pride that the Party to which he belonged came back with a majority, I think he said, of 350 over all the other Parties in the House, and that all the important Ministers, including, by necessary inference, the noble Marquess, were in favour of the abolition of this embargo. Then the noble Marquess, if he will allow me to say so, with great mental agility, anticipating a possible question, said: "I shall perhaps be asked, 'If you were all in favour of it, why did not you introduce legislation to carry it out?'" He said the answer was perfectly plain. To my 374 obtuse mind it appeared less perspicuous than to the noble Marquess. He said: "We had not given a pledge." But, if they were all agreed, it the matter possessed the importance which obviously the noble Marquess, to-day, thinks it did, and which he thought then that it did, was not it possible for that great Party, led by these great men, having as its instrument an immense majority—was it not possible for them to do anything in relation to which they had not given a specific pledge? I can assure the noble Marquess, if his memory is so great a traitor in this matter, that they did many things in those fateful years in regard to which they had given no pledge before the Election.
But I will only make this observation. I am not in a position to speak for the Government. The noble Earl who represents the Ministry of Agriculture in this House is equally not in a position to speak for the Government. And the reason is this. There are formidable currents of opinion in the country, represented not only in this House, but in the House of Commons, cutting clean athwart any principle of Party division which is known either in this House or in another place. Fifty instances could be given, fifty justifications could be cited where that has been so, where no great question of Party principle has been affected, where a matter has been left to the unassisted decision and discretion of Parliament.
I rose, however, to state what my own individual position is. I was asked at the last General Election whether I intended to vote in favour of the removal of this embargo. I say quite plainly that I knew very little about the matter. I knew, of course, of the Parliamentary history of the controversy, but I had no claim to have formed, or to state, an informed opinion I remember once saying, with a considerable measure of truth, in the House of Commons, that I was the only lawyer in that assembly who was not an expert upon agriculture, and I retain this claim in your Lordships' House. I know little of cattle, and I might say with one who wrote long ago that quae cura boum qui cultus habendi sit pecori are mysteries shared between the noble Viscount and the noble Marquess into which I make no attempt to obtrude myself.
But when I was asked this question in the Election of 1918, which followed the 375 war, I took the trouble to write to London and ask what was the position of the Government and of the Ministry of Agriculture in relation to the matter. I was supplied with certain information and I had, as it now appears, the extreme misfortune to give a definite promise to those whe were good enough at that Election to return me to the House of Commons, that, if so returned, I should vote in favour of the removal of the embargo. And I cannot hold myself discharged from the obligations of that promise because the matter comes up in this House, and not in the other House. I was supported in that promise by material which was supplied to me, and supplied, if my recollection does not mislead me, by the Ministry of Agriculture, the representative of which in this House will presently inform your Lordships, with great weight and authority, that the Ministry of Agriculture to-day takes an entirely different view.
The noble Lord, Lord Ernle, who has laid us all under great obligations, has, if he will allow me to say so, done great injustice, not to the general atmosphere, of which he said something, but to what he himself specifically said—to what is on record in the Blue-book as having been said by him, and what, I think, has never since, until to-day, been contradicted by him. But before I read it I would add that, with all the clarity of speech which never forsakes the noble Lord, whether he employs his tongue or his pen, I am left in considerable doubt now—and I listened with the greatest attention—as to what his view really is. He says it is a great pity that we did not tell Canada that we should remove the slur. If I may say so I was not greatly impressed by what I may call the ringworm illustration, because if a woman, in the circumstances indicated by the noble Lord, were to take her child to a school and the child was rejected on the ground that it was suffering from ringworm, if the child had not got ringworm I agree she might reasonably feel incensed. Does the noble Lord think that she would not feel incensed if the schoolmaster said: "I will not take your child, and I will not give yon any reason at all." I assure the noble Lord that I do not wish to appraise these pathological inconveniences or to weigh them in the scales against the moral objection, but if such a thing happened to my child I am not at all sure which I should regard as more serious.
376 The real truth is that Canada never really objected merely to the slur. They are men of business in Canada, and what they wanted was the removal of the thing. Whether they were right then, and whether they are right now, for the life of me I do not know, because I am not an agriculturist, and that is why I informed my mind of what the noble Lord said. These were his words—As far as I personally am concerned, and so far as the English Board of Agriculture is concerned, after the war is over, of course, because it is not an economical mode of bringing meat to this country during the war to bring over live animals, we should, I consider, be wise to remove the embargo.So far, I agree there is no pledge; but what there is there is a clear statement of the view of the noble Lord that is immensely authoritative on the matter, repeated by him to-day, and reinforced by the authority of the Board of Agriculture of that day, that they would be wise to remove this embargo. I listened to that, as I was bound to do, with great respect.
Then the noble Lord, later, in the same speech, said—And I can assure you that so far as the English Board of Agriculture is concerned, we are in favour of the removal of the embargo. 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.The noble Lord must really let me say, as a humble candidate for Parliament, that when I received this message I was entitled to draw certain definite inferences and to give certain explicit pledges. And the inference I was entitled to draw was that neither the noble Lord, Lord Ernle, nor the then Board of Agriculture, thought there was the slightest ground for excluding Canadian cattle. There was nothing in what was said then to affect that in the slightest degree. There is nothing, if I may say so with the profoundest respect, in what has fallen from the noble Lord to-day to affect it in the slightest degree.
Another old friend of mine, a man of great authority in these matters, the noble Viscount, Lord Long (then Mr. Walter Long), made some remarks at the Conference, with the weight with which he must always speak on this topic, and I must say, in passing, before I address myself to his speech, that I suppose there is something in the indictment which the noble Marquess, Lord Lincolnshire, made against Lord Long, 377 that in this question in a period of some thirty years in which, as the noble Marquess told us himself, things have altered so much, in which Canada has grown up from the kind of community which was referred to in his interesting speech by Lord Chaplin, who roamed there for some six months, into the sophisticated community that it is—in those thirty years he has discovered that the noble Viscount, Lord Long, has modified his views. If he had not done so, if on the contrary he had imitated the laudable and unbroken consistency of the noble Marquess, Lord Lincolnshire, during the same time, he would have been unworthy of the offices which he has successively held with so much success and of his place in this House to-day.
This is what Lord Long said—and this, again, was available to me for my guidance—As far as I am concerned, as my name has been brought into it, I can only say that I entirely agree with Mr. Prothero's policy.It seems to me that the circumstances of the noble Lord, Lord Ernie, were that he was not only wrong himself but he was seducing his colleague. Lord Long went on to say—I think the time that has elapsed has shown that Canada has had a complete and clean bill of health during that time.…Now the position is that the restriction is to be removed.That is what the noble Viscount, Lord Long, said, and Lord Ernle sat there, and the Canadians sat there, while the noble Viscount said "the position is that the restriction is to be removed." This was the information which I had. Lord Long said—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.This in the presence of the Board of Agriculture! We have now another head of what was then the Board of Agriculture, and as these chameleon transformations of policy are bewildering, their exposition will be interesting.
Then Mr. Rogers asked—Do not you think we should have a Resolution about it?He was evidently a cautious representative or, perhaps, he had been following this problem for a considerable period of time. To that Lord Long replied—You do not want a Resolution, do you?—or if you like you can simply move that the embargo 378 on Canadian cattle be removed as speedily as possible.Mr. Rogers: I beg to move that.Mr. Walter Long: Mr. Prothero accepts that, and there is an end of it.So that, in the presence of Lord Ernle and with the high authority of Lord Long, the representatives of Canada were assured that the Resolution was accepted by the British Government and that there was an end of the matter. They believed it, and they went home and informed the Canadian I Government that there was an end of the matter.
They little knew us. The matter was very shortly afterwards revived, and it I became quite plain that there was by no I means an end of the matter. A Question was addressed to the Prime Minister on March 15, 1921, by a deputation of agricultural members, protesting against the removal of the embargo, and the Prime Minister pointed out that what amounted to a pledge had been given by Lord Ernie and Mr. Walter Long. On the next day a specific Question was addressed to the Prime Minister in the House of Commons, and this is what he said in reply—In view of the pledge which was given to Canada at the Imperial Conference in 1917, the Government proposes to set up an impartial Inquiry as to whether the embargo could be removed without inflicting serious injury on the agricultural industry.If I may make a comment upon and a most friendly criticism of the attitude of the Government of which I am a humble member, I would say that that sentence appears to be a little lacking in logic. I think it should have read in this way: "In view of the pledge to Canada at the Imperial Conference in 1917 His Majesty's Government intend to carry it out."
But, ex abundanti cautela, a Commission was set up and, as it was a purely technical matter, my noble and learned friend, Lord Finlay, was made Chairman, a duty which he discharged, as all who know him would imagine he would, with great impartiality and ability. What was the result? This Commission unanimously reported that the embargo ought to be removed. After this, I who know nothing whatever about it and have drawn information from any and every scanty rill I could find, from the pronouncements of successive heads of the Board of Agriculture in this important matter, who pledged my word to my own constituents on the matter, am now prepared to say to Canada: "It is quite 379 true that Lord Ernie gave a pledge when he was at the head of the Board of Agriculture; it is quite true that Lord Long assented to that pledge; it is quite true that the Prime Minister admitted that there was a pledge; it is quite true that the Royal Commission reported that the pledge ought to be carried out, but at the same time all we are prepared to do is to remove the slur, and we are going to do it, on the cattle as far as we can and to say that there is not a stain on the character of any single bull in Canada." Having some knowledge of our Canadian fellow subjects, I am wholly unable to believe that they will derive as much satisfaction as is hurriedly supposed from this solatium.
I am in this position. I have given a pledge. I shall adhere to that pledge, and I am enormously supported in my adherence to that pledge by the knowledge that agricultural authorities of the highest eminence are equally divided upon it. While the doctors are squabbling around the deathbed the patient may be allowed to form an opinion of his own. I am informed that the agriculturists in Scotland are not in agreement on this question at this moment. My authority for that statement is the Secretary for Scotland who supplied me with details in great quantity, and who will make some observations on the matter when it is raised in another place. I do not say that his observations will be in quite the same form as my own, because he is much more informed than I am and will be able to deal with the matter with greater knowledge and in greater detail. I have the happiness of knowing that I shall continue to have the guidance which Lord Ernle gave me in days that are past, and I shall also have the benefit of the knowledge possessed by many of the greatest agriculturists in this House.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, I hope I may for a few moments address your Lordships on this subject. I have no authority to speak for anyone, and I speak merely as a private member of your Lordships' House. But during the past few years I have had opportunities of informing myself upon various aspects of this most disputed question. I venture to hope that your Lordships will realise that, deep and strong as my regard for Canada is, I have almost an older affection—namely, that of my connection with various breeding societies. My very earliest recollections take me back to the 380 time when I was intimately acquainted with a herd with which some of your Lordships may still be familiar, or which you may remember. But, even if I felt that I might be going against the interests of Canada, I certainly, if I thought there was the slightest danger to the breeding stock of this country, should not hesitate as to which line to take. As it is, having made myself as acquainted as I possibly could with conditions throughout Canada, I have no hesitation whatsoever in saying that I see no danger in allowing a free admission of Canadian-bred cattle into this country.
It is unnecessary, I hope, after what has fallen from the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, and after the somewhat critical and searching examination of and comparison between the speech which we heard from Lord Ernie this afternoon and the Report of the Imperial Conference, for me to follow in those footsteps. I can only inform your Lordships that when the Canadian representatives, Sir Robert Borden and Mr. Rogers, returned to Canada after the Imperial Conference, they had not got the slightest doubt in their minds that what was intended was not some mere lip service as to the immunity of Canadian herds from disease, but a bona fide effort by the Government to bring forward that legislation which would be necessary to remove the restrictions operating against Canadian cattle. They may have been right, or they may have been wrong, but at any rate they had not the slightest hesitation as to the impression which had been left in their minds.
I may, incidentally, refer here to the statement of Lord Ernie just now that Canadian policy had changed. It is true that the policy which has been adopted, with Government support, for the building of abattoirs and cold storage in, I think, Montreal and Quebec, has been abandoned. It has not been abandoned on account of what passed at the Imperial Conference here, but in the hope and belief that that work, which was originated or sanctioned by the Canadian Government, was not necessary in view of the removal of the restrictions which were operating against the importation of Canadian-bred cattle into this country. If the policy of the British Parliament is to maintain the restrictions against Canadian - bred cattle I have absolutely no doubt that that policy of 381 increasing the cold storage will be adhered to. I may, in a moment, or two, add something on that point.
I would refer next to a word which has taken considerable hold on the public imagination during the course of these discussions, and that is the word "slur." Your Lordships must have no misapprehension on this point. There is more than a sentimental grievance in the use of this word. I have seen steers prepared and ready to be sent over to Europe. They were sent over, and I believe they were looked at with a good deal of admiration, arising from the way in which they had been prepared and the condition in which they arrived on this side of the Atlantic. But again and again, in efforts that have been made in Canada to create an overseas trade, this has been cast in the teeth of Canadians: "How can you expect other countries to take your cattle when the Mother Country insists on refusing to have them?"
I wish to assure your Lordships that I am not exaggerating when I say that very considerable importance indeed is attached to the removal of this "slur," not merely from the sentimental point of view, but from the actual effect upon the conditions of trade. I have no authority to speak on behalf of anyone in Canada, but I am certain that if any reasonable bona fide suggestions could be made for further inspection for the better control of Canadian herds, those suggestions would be favourably received. I do not wish to disguise the fact that recent changes in the United States tariff have made it essential that fresh markets should be opened, and Canada is quite prepared, if suggestions are made with the bona fide intention of removing any difficulties which may exist to-day, to consider the suggestions in the most favourable manner possible.
But this question is not merely a Canadian question. Apart altogether from whether a pledge was given or not, there is another aspect which, I believe, is still more important. Some of your Lordships may have had the privilege, which I had last, week, of seeing the parade of prizewinners in the Royal show at Cambridge. It was a sight which probably could not be equalled anywhere in the world. There were representatives of almost every breed of cattle raised in this country, and a most remarkable show they made. But, good as the show was actually in the ring, as one went 382 about one heard, in ordinary conversation, that while there was an amazing collection of cattle, there was no trade. One was told that the bottom had fallen out of the market, and that the prospects were about as bad as they could be.
Sometimes I think that we in this country hardly realise the enormous assets that we possess. Whether it is due to the natural quality of the soil, or to the long experience which we have gained, whatever reason may be the true one—probably there is a collection of reasons—there is absolutely no doubt that we are the only country capable of producing that stock which is necessary not merely for the foundation but for the renewal of herds elsewhere. To-day, for various reasons, very considerable changes have taken place in agricultural matters, especially in Western Canada. More and more it is becoming obvious that the old methods of continuous cropping are bound to result in a very serious deterioration of the soil. In fact, the surprise, is that worse results have not occurred already. Again and again I heard the same sort of statement, that there were too many farmers in Western Canada who are following the example of the other side of the line, where the land is not farmed but mined; that is to say, when everything the soil can produce has been taken out, the land is left derelict, and the farmers move elsewhere.
There is an obvious danger of that taking place, to-day in Canada. It is possible, of course, to secure artificial manures and put something back into the land, but undoubtedly in the mind of most Canadian farmers, especially in the Prairie Provinces, is a closer and more intensive cultivation and a big development of mixed farming. If any encouragement is given them, we in this country—we are the only country that can provide them with what they want—will see a big demand in the course of the next few years for the highest class of our stock to act as the foundation stock; and they will return to this country for stock for renewal purposes. If the old country can do something to help them in developing their trade, there is no reason why steps should not be taken which would be equally beneficial to the breeders of stock in this country and to the breeders of stock in Canada, especially in the Prairie Provinces.
383 There is only one other aspect of this question that I shall venture to place before your Lordships. It is universally admitted that the proportion of frozen meat to fresh meat is rapidly rising in this country. The growth of the population and the growing necessities and requirements of the milk and dairy produce are probably operating in that way. Since I returned from Canada I have been endeavouring to get hold of a most interesting and illuminating Report of the proceedings of the Committee of Congress appointed in the year 1917 for the purpose of investigating the operations of the Meat Trust of Chicago. Unfortunately, I have not been able to get hold of that Report, but it is one which we could study with considerable benefit from the point of cattle breeding and other industries.
In this country we are using more and more frozen meat. I have never yet received a satisfactory answer to all the inquiries I have made as to why we are not able to provide a far greater proportion of that than we do. Instead of receiving our meat, as we do, from the Argentine and the stock yards of Chicago, I see no reason why we should not do the rearing and finishing, and all the incidental work, connected with cold storage plant, and receive the benefits of the by-products. There is a great opening in this direction, and even if we are unable to carry sufficient stock for our own purposes, so far as frozen meat is concerned, it should be possible to admit stores from Canada which could be utilised for the purpose. I understand that one of the reasons why it is difficult to use animals slaughtered at the port for immediate cold storage is that it is necessary they should have a period of time—three weeks would be the most—in order to get over the effects of the voyage. With co-operation between ourselves and the Dominion an industry of considerable advantage could be built up. If your Lordships reject the Motion of Lord Chaplin it would restore confidence, create an infinitely better feeling, and tend to remove that unfavourable impression that exists at the moment—I do not wish to disguise it from your Lordships—and also show that you are fully determined not only to maintain the pledge but to do something towards a closer connection and co-operation between the Mother Country and Canada.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, the noble Duke has made a serious speech, 384 speaking with much authority and from a most valuable experience. The subject is, indeed, a serious one, and he has in a great degree removed- the debate from the atmosphere of comedy in which it was invested, to some extent, by the Lord Chancellor. There are only two points which arouse any serious interest in the mind of the public. The first is whether a pledge was really given in 1917 by the Government—not by an individual Minister, who obviously cannot give a pledge to amend an Act of Parliament—in favour of the admission of cattle from abroad. The noble Lord, Lord Ernle, has explained very fully the circumstances in which that so-called pledge was given. I understood that he regarded it as a contingent pledge, dependent upon certain circumstances, which, as a matter of fact, never occurred, and although he would have been glad, having said what he did, that for a certain period a limited number of Canadian cattle should have been expressly admitted, yet he does not regard the Government or the country as pledged to the free admission of cattle from abroad.
I have a certain sympathy with the position of the noble Lord because some of my friends and I find ourselves subjected to a very similar sort of criticism in connection with the Economic Conference in Paris in 1916. At that time we agreed to certain Resolutions as to the steps that were to be taken by the Allied Powers, France, Belgium, Italy and ourselves, in certain contingencies. They involved, or might involve, in certain cases fiscal action contrary to the view which Mr. Asquith and Mr. Runciman, the other Ministers concerned, and I held. The contingencies never came into play, and, consequently, the expressed intentions of those Resolutions have been completely neglected by the present Government as well as by ourselves. And yet we are always being told, whenever we object to any advance in the direction of Protection or of a tariff against imported goods: "Look what you did when you were one of the people responsible for the Paris Resolutions." Similarly, I think that the noble Lord opposite, Lord Ernie, finds himself open to a construction of what he said in 1917 which is not altogether fair. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack quoted certain isolated sentences from what Lord Ernle then said, altogether ignoring the qualifications of the context.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Does the noble Marquess suggest that there is anything in the whole of what was said by Lord Ernle which in any way qualifies the passage which I selected for reading? I can assure him that there is none, and I have given the deepest attention to the matter.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
The noble and learned Viscount was, of course, entirely within his right in saying that those particular sentences had forced him, at a particular time, to join in a pledge for the raising of this embargo, but the noble Viscount, at any rate, paid no attention to the very careful and elaborate explanation of the circumstances which Lord Ernie gave us in his speech. The question of the pledge is one which, as I say, is of interest to public opinion here. Everybody will agree that, if an absolute pledge was given by the Government, that pledge has to be honoured. There can be no kind of dispute upon that subject on the part of anybody, however unfortunate he may consider the consequent action. But I confess that I am one of those who cannot see that anything in the nature of an absolute pledge was given, and I cannot, therefore, agree that it is necessary to take any action on the subject now.
The second point, and, so far as I know, the only other point which interests the public, is whether the introduction of these store cattle will reduce the price of meat. That, as Lord Lincolnshire has said, is the only point in which the majority of the inhabitants of this country are interested. They have been told that beef will go down 6d. a pound directly the embargo is removed. The right honourable gentleman the Minister for Agriculture lost his seat at Dudley on that statement. I am bound to agree, speaking as one who is altogether opposed to an alteration of the law, that, if it could be shown that there would be a substantial fall in the price of beef as the result of repealing the Diseases of Animals Act, it would be extremely difficult to stand out and oppose it on behalf of a single section of the community—namely, the farmers who breed cattle. But not only is that claim of a fall in the price of meat not proved, but it is known not to be true. Nobody can bring forward any valid argument to show that the introduction of 100,000, or, if you like, 200,000 lean cattle from Canada would have any 386 but the slightest effect on the price of beef, and that is made absolutely clear in the I report of the Royal Commission.
As regards the interests concerned, the consumer, as an abstract and cold-blooded person, cares nothing for the relative I interests of the person who breeds the cattle and the other person who fattens them. It is a question as between the material interests of two trades. If the consumer is a soft-hearted man, he will be to some extent moved by the fact that the man who is going to be damaged is the small man, the small farmer or small-holder who is a breeder, whereas the man who is going to benefit is either the substantial grazier or the well-to-do salesman in the meat market. But, qua consumer, the only point that interests the inhabitant of this country is the price of beef.
One statement has been made which I desire to contradict. It is said that the opposition to the change in the law is mainly fostered by a few producers of pedigree cattle of the different fattening breeds concerned, such as shorthorns, polled Angus or Herefords, and that it is a selfish fear of the importation of cattle which makes them prominent in the matter. That, of course, is perfectly absurd. It is a matter of complete indifference to the owner of a pedigree herd what are the numbers of lean cattle admitted to this country, provided he can feel reasonably sure that they will not bring any of the dangerous cattle diseases with them. He has nothing to do with the supply of fat cattle for this country. His business is that which was described by the noble Duke, namely, that of breeding the best possible stock, and exporting it, as he hopes, at high prices to different parts of the world.
What the breeders do object to is one possibility which has not been mentioned by any advocate of the change in the law. The different breeding societies have been working hard for a number of years past, and working with great success, for an improvement of the average animals, the farmer's animals, of each particular breed. The standard in all those breeds I have mentioned has been vastly improved of late years, owing to the action of the larger breeders in supplying bulls. There undoubtedly is a fear that, if the indiscriminate importation of cattle—female cattle in addition to steers—is permitted, a great deal of that work might be rendered 387 nugatory by the indiscriminate use of such animals by farmers who are attracted by cheapness, and do not know their own best interests. That is the only interest, so far as I know, that the scientific breeders of cattle have in this matter, and of course, although everything that has been said about the immunity of Canada from pleuropneumonia and foot-and-mouth disease is true, and much as the Dominion is to be congratulated on that fact, yet there are other diseases, such as tuberculosis, and, more particularly, that most sinister malady of contagious abortion, of which the importation is undoubtedly dreaded by those who know the facts.
There is one further argument which I know affects many people—namely, what I might call the humanitarian argument of the circumstances in which store cattle are transhipped. That, I think, was mentioned by Lord Ernle, and it has its bearing on the particular question. I think it cannot be disputed that there is a greater risk of the careless shipping of lean rough animals, brought over to be sold as store cattle for feeding, than of cattle brought over fat to be slaughtered at the port of disembarkation. I do not know whether that argument may appeal to many of your Lordships, but it does appeal, I know, to a great many people, and it is by no means without substance.
I am sorry to be parted for once in a way from my noble friend, Lord Lincolnshire. He, I thought, as the Lord Chancellor pointed out, trod on rather dangerous ground when he spoke of what happened when he and I came into office with Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman in 1905. It is unquestionably true that the subject of altering the law—although my noble friend believes the need for alteration to be founded on the sternest Liberal principles, and is almost inclined to drum me out of the Liberal Party for taking an opposite view—never was raised during the whole of those years. My noble friend was a most skilful and active Minister of Agriculture, but I cannot recollect, and I think I can trust my memory on that point, that he ever made any suggestion m that direction during the years when we were colleagues.
Now I only want to ask one or two questions about what it is that is actually proposed, for no speaker so far has indicated what amendment in the law it is proposed to make. It is all very well 388 to make a sort of after-luncheon speech of sympathy with Canada, and allusions to what indeed can never be forgotten—namely, the part that Canada played in the war—but what I think the agricultural community will want to know is what it is that you actually propose to do. Do you propose to repeal the Act of 1896 altogether? Or do you mean to bring in a short Act of Parliament applying only to Canada and to no other part of the world, or any other part of His Majesty's Dominions? Or do you propose to bring in an Act facilitating the importation of cattle from other parts of the Empire—from the Dominions and from the Crown Colonies? That, of course, would be a measure of Imperial Preference, which would be attractive to many, but which Lord Lincolnshire would dislike. As a Free Trader he would undoubtedly say that what you do for the Empire you undoubtedly ought to do for the whole world. Or, to put the question in another way, are you going simply to return to the system of licences?—that is to say, to place on the Ministry of Agriculture the whole burden of deciding whether, at any particular time, cattle may be admitted from any individual country.
This is a question of considerable importance, because you may very easily be misleading your Canadian friends into supposing that their case can be treated as a purely isolated one, and that it is possible to legislate for them without legislating for other parts of the world. The Government, as we know, is not united on this question, and I have no doubt that the present Minister of Agriculture would not agree to bring in a repealing measure at all. But I think that those who speak so confidently of the necessity of doing something ought to make it clear to us, who do not share their view, exactly what that something is. I agree that in all human probability you could ship a very large number of cattle from Canada without any real risk of introducing disease, but I do not think, having had some experience of administration, that you will be able to stop there. You will immediately get a demand from South Africa; of that I am pretty sure. I think you will probably get it from other parts of the world. You may get it to some extent even from distant Australia. That would be followed, I think, by some demand from friendly countries in Europe, and also from the United States. All, therefore, I think you can possibly do, if you are going 389 to alter the law, is to say that any country which is able to show that for a fixed period, whatever that period may be, it has been immune from disease, will be entitled to import cattle without restriction into this country. I venture to think that that would be a very retrograde action.
The noble Duke who spoke last does not share my views on that subject, but he did develop with great power the thesis on which I should like to insist, that this country has by now really become the stud farm of the world and the stock farm of the world, and that we could go on supplying the best individuals of six or eight breeds of cattle, to say nothing of horses and pigs, without ever again importing any bull or cow into this country. Alter all, it has been done in the Channel Islands, with great success, for about 300 years, where two breeds have been kept absolutely separate, and everybody who has a herd of either in England has to go back every second generation or so to buy a bull from the Islands. That being so, I cannot help thinking that it really is not worth while to alter your whole policy into one of importation. If you could take the Canadian question alone, and if you could confine the importation to bullocks, I dare say it would be hard to argue against it. But I do not understand that that particular aspect of the question has been considered. Believing, as I do, that the whole question is a very much wider one than has been indicated by any speaker so far, I shall be obliged to give my vote for the Motion of the noble Viscount.
§ VISCOUNT LONG OF WRAXALL
My Lords, as I had the honour to preside over the Conference to which more than one allusion has been made, and as I also was responsible for the Act of 1896, perhaps your Lordships will allow me to say a few words in this discussion. I confess, as an old war horse, that I have been very much tempted to enter some of those interesting fields which have been approached by the noble Marquess who moved the Amendment and by the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition. Very interesting discussions might be held by us in reference to those questions which affect the Party to which the noble Marquess belongs or in reference to the Paris Resolutions or any other of those interesting questions upon which so much discussion has taken place, 390 with so very little result up to the present time; but I forbear.
It is not even necessary for me to deal with the extremely good-natured, humorous criticisms of myself which the noble Marquess delivered, because the Lord Chancellor has already. I think, covered that ground. But I must say that I did listen with amazement to the noble Marquess, who has been for so many years a pillar of the great Liberal Party and, I know, has frequently described himself as a real democrat, attacking poor me because at the end of thirty years I have admitted that science has added to our knowledge of this particular quest-ion, as it has of a great many others. The noble Marquess charges me with changing my views. That is a charge which I do not think it necessary to stop now to dispute. But, if I have changed my views, there are two very sound reasons. One is that we know now a great deal more of what is meant by Empire than we did twenty-eight years ago, and we have much greater inducements to give effect to our knowledge.
Some reference has been made to the discussion which took place in the Imperial Conference of 1917. After the speech of the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, who was discharging at that very time the high office of Governor-General of Canada, with so much advantage to the Empire, and so much distinction to himself, I do not know that it is necessary to say much more about the position of the Canadian Government at the time when they came over to the Conference of 1917, and the view they took of the result of this particular discussion with which we are dealing to-day.
As soon as the Prime Minister of the Dominion of Canada arrived in this country for the Conference of 1917 he came, as usual, to see me as Colonial Secretary. When he had disposed of the questions affecting the war the very first subject to which he directed my attention was this subject of what he called the "stigma" or "slur" upon the credit of Canadian breeders and others interested in cattle. And he pressed it upon me as a question of vital importance, and one which might very easily become a very troublesome question as between this country and Canada. I took the usual course, as it was my duty to do, and wrote to my noble friend who was then Minister of Agriculture. I told him what had 391 passed, and also that I thought it was of the utmost consequence—and I hold that view still—to the relations between the Dominion and ourselves, and that, if possible, he should make some concession.
The noble Marquess who has just sat down says that he cannot find a pledge. He went on to say that a pledge made by a Minister is not a pledge made by a Government. Agreed. I maintain that this was an absolute pledge. It was so understood by Canada, and it was certainly so understood by myself, as the language which the Lord Chancellor quoted from me shows quite clearly. So fully did I believe in the reality and completeness of the pledge that, as the Lord Chancellor has already shown, I said that it was not necessary to have a Resolution. That pledge, of course, was made by my right honourable friend as Minister of Agriculture and not, as someone has said, confirmed by me. I had no power to confirm it, but, as Chairman of the Conference of 1917, it was my duty to sum up the result of the discussion, and to put it to the Conference, and I did not hesitate to say, from my own knowledge derived at the time, that the view that the pledge was a complete one was held by every member of the Conference, and, above all, by the Canadians.
Then the noble Marquess says: "Yes, but this pledge is no binding pledge, because it had yet to be confirmed by the Cabinet." That is a mere truism. No single Minister, except the Prime Minister, can bind any Government. It is a well-known fact that one of the advantages of a Cabinet Minister lies in the fact that by his constant attendance at Cabinets and constant association with the Prime Minister and his colleagues he knows far better what the view of the Cabinet is upon all the great questions of the day than anybody who is outside. And when I presided over that Conference it is perfectly true that I knew that any decisions we arrived at would have to be submitted to the Cabinet, and that the decision arrived at by the Cabinet would have to be confirmed by Parliament.
But after what took place in that Conference, profoundly though I regretted the necessity of having to deal with this question in this way—because I believed in the legislation of 1896, which I carried myself—I can only say that, so firmly convinced was I that the credit of the Government, aye, 392 and not only of the Government but of the whole country, was involved in dealing with this Canadian question, that if the Cabinet had reversed our decision or if Parliament had reversed it, the first thing I should have done would have been to place my resignation in the hands of the Prime Minister. I should have felt that the word that I had passed—whether with regret or not does not matter—had been broken. I am not discussing that aspect of the case with which the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition dealt in the latter part of his remarks. What I am endeavouring to show to your Lordships is that I have good ground for feeling and believing I that a pledge was given and that the pledge ought to be kept.
Very well; how is it to be kept? It is suggested that you are going to meet the Canadian difficulty by telling them that there is no slur, no stigma on their cattle, but that you are going to maintain the law which is based upon that stigma and nothing else. The noble Marquess asked what is to be the policy if we do away with the policy of to-day? I do not know that it is for me to answer that. I can say what I would do. He said that he did not know whether we were going to abolish the Act I of 1896. That Act, as he knows, is a very j short one; it consists, I think, of one section. What it did was to make the Acts of 1890 and 1894 operative without the intervention of the Privy Council, and to make them the permanent law of the land. It is obvious that that Act will have to be repealed if you are going to deal with the question which is commonly spoken of as the Canadian embargo.
I have said that I believe it is regarded in Canada as a question of absolutely first-rate importance. It was so represented to me by Sir Robert Borden. Who and what is Sir Robert Borden? At the time he made these representations to me he was the representative of the Dominion and the head of his Government. What is he? He is a man of lofty patriotism. He is a man of great ability. He is something more than that; he has other possessions. He is a man of broad common sense, and I am quite certain that he is the last man in the world to have exaggerated any case that he had to present to our Government. Above all, I am certain he is the very last man in the world to have exaggerated a case which he knew must cause some domestic difficulty here. Yet, as my noble 393 friend the Duke of Devonshire has said, he regarded it not as a mere sentimental matter, not as a mere grievance that we had imposed Regulations in 1896 for which there was no justification. He regarded it as a slur upon the credit of the Canadian cattle breeders which had, as it must have had, an obviously ill effect upon the general condition of their trade. He put it forward as a matter which was causing the greatest possible irritation in Canada and which he had to present with all the force at his command. I can assure your Lordships that he spoke to me with the deepest sincerity, and impressed me with the fact, which I am sure was a fact, that this was a matter which would have to be dealt with and satisfactorily settled.
The noble Marquess says that he cannot find a pledge in what took place. He twitted the Lord Chancellor with the statement that he had made, and he charged the Lord Chancellor with ignoring statements made by my noble friend Lord Ernie, which the noble Marquess holds as qualifying in some way the statements he made at the Conference. But the noble Marquess obviously was guilty of a stronger act of omission; he entirely forgot to take account of any of the remarkable statements made by the noble Duke who, at the time when all this occurred, was Governor-General of Canada and knew better than anybody what were the feelings of the Canadian Government and of the Canadian people. I have said that while I admit and accept the proposition that no pledge of a single Minister is operative without the Cabinet and without Parliament, I am convinced that if Sir Robert Borden and his colleagues had not satisfied themselves that this pledge was complete and had not believed that it would be acted upon, they would have brought the matter there and then before the Imperial Cabinet. It is useless indulging in reminiscences of this kind, but I know as a member of that Imperial Cabinet, knowing very well what their general views were— an Imperial Cabinet, may I remind your Lordships, composed not only of Ministers representing our own Cabinet but of Ministers representing the four great Dominions—that that Imperial Cabinet would have decided in favour of Sir Robert Borden's contention.
I find it very difficult to put into words what I feel about the pledge, because I know quite well that my sense of honour 394 is no more acute than that of any other member of your Lordships' House. I hope it is, at all events, as acute. But I cannot conceive how anybody can read the White Paper containing the proceedings of that part of that Conference, without coming to the conclusion that two Ministers of the Crown, knowing full well what they were doing, knowing full well the responsibility they were taking on their shoulders, deliberately pledged the Government of that day to carry out a certain policy in regard to one of our great Dominions. I feel that that produces a situation which ought to I be approached, if your Lordships will forgive me for saying so, with the utmost consideration.
Forgive me if I am going outside my province in venturing to make any recommendation to your Lordships, and accept as my excuse and apology the fact that I speak as one who was Colonial Secretary at that time, as one who went through all the horrors of the war. My first duty when I took over the Colonial Office was to approach all the Dominion Governments and some of the Crown Colonies and beg them to double, treble, and quadruple their supplies of men; to ask them to take upon their shoulders the awful responsibility, as one of them put it to me, of sending men abroad who would never return, of facing widows whose husbands had been left in a foreign land, of considering fatherless children and all the causes of suffering and agony which were, of course, apparent to them at that time. With all of that in one's mind and in one's heart, in the light of all the lessons that we learned then, it seems to me that your Lordships have to consider to-day not so much the question of what will be the effect on cattle in this country of removing this possibility of infection, but whether this is not one of the great Imperial questions which come up for settlement.
There are many I believe, in your Lordships' House and in the country who honestly and sincerely desire to see, as a consequence of the war, the different parts of the Empire drawn closer and closer together, and who desire that we shall take advantage of those almost limitless resources which are to be found in the British Empire for the benefit of our Empire and of ourselves. Is it to be said we are right to take advantage of all the possessions to be found in the different parts of the Empire, and that the first time a suggestion is made I to us by one of the great Dominions which 395 would seem to involve some risk, and therefore some little loss, to ourselves, we should say, "While we are ready for Imperial development we will not have it in this form because it may possibly injure us"? I say in all earnestness and sincerity, with all the experience that I gained during those eventful years, that is an impossible course for any real Imperialist to take.
The noble Marquess asked whether there was any practicable recommendation that we were prepared to offer to those who believe in the pledge, and feel that it has to be honoured. I have indicated the line upon which I would proceed. I should treat this question as a great Imperial question. I do not share the fears of the noble Marquess, Lord Lincolnshire, as to Imperial Preference. I believe in Imperial Preference. It was established a year or two ago during the time that I had the honour to be at the Colonial Office, and I am very proud of the fact. My remedy would be to deal with the question as an Imperial one. I would retain the Act of 1896 as regards cattle coming from foreign countries, and I would admit cattle coming from our own Empire upon certain conditions, to be arranged between the Oversea Dominions and ourselves.
The noble Viscount who moved this Resolution—and whose speech demands the sympathy of the whole House, for no one knows more on this subject than he does—told us that he believes that pleuropneumonia may lie dormant for any length of time, and therefore cannot be protected by mere quarantine. If that is the case, what have noble Lords who to-day are demanding that we should stand by this absolute exclusion to say to what occurred at Slough? Unless I am greatly mistaken, only the other day at Slough there was a sale of some 120 Friesian cattle. Where had they come from? They had come from South Africa. And where have they gone? They have been scattered all over the United Kingdom. Is there no risk of infection from that? Is not South Africa a vast territory just as liable to the spread of disease as America, and indeed much more so? Anybody who knows South Africa knows that the checking of disease is one of the most difficult things. I am not condemning what has been done, but am only saying that your policy is not complete when, while offering opposition to this particular proposal, you are already running risks which no law can prevent. 396 I am told that a limited time of quarantine would make these cattle perfectly safe, and that if we were to impose a quarantine of, say, one month, we should be quite safe, or at all events reasonably safe. I believe Canada would accept that. To do that would be to treat this question as it ought to be treated—namely, as an Imperial one, and not as a domestic one.
I am grateful to your Lordships for having listened to me. I would point out in conclusion that we are now witnessing the re-birth of an Empire. We are faced with new problems, very difficult some of them, and perhaps even embarrassing to us, but I maintain that if we are going to bear our new responsibilities with fortitude, and to bring ultimate success to the Empire, we must have a policy of give-and-take. We must look to the Empire to stand by us, and we, on our part, must stand by the Empire. I hope that your Lordships will to-night show Canada that we intend to keep our word.
THE EARL OF MAYO
My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Chaplin, has done a great service to the United Kingdom and Ireland in bringing forward this Resolution. May I be permitted to say that this is not a political question. I agree with the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, that in regard to the question of the supply of food to the 42½ millions in England, Scotland and Wales, the consumer does not concern himself in the least as to how the stuff comes in, or what sort of stuff comes in, as long as it is eatable and fit for human food. The noble Lord who has just sat down mentioned the sale at Slough of Friesian cattle brought from South Africa. I know that those cattle were most carefully examined before they left, and also most carefully examined and watched on board ship. If there had been the slightest doubt about any of them their owners would not have got the enormous prices for them that they did get at Slough. Ten bulls sold for an average of £1,300; one calf sold for £700, and another for £900. Your Lordships may be sure that if there was the least suspicion of any disease the whole sale would have been a fiasco. The cattle, I am informed, were tested for tuberculosis.
I notice, in reading and listening to the debates in this House, that any stick is good enough with which to beat the Government. This is not a case of the Irish blackthorn. This is a case of the goad with 397 which the noble Marquess, Lord Lincolnshire, prods the Government. The noble Marquess said that Ireland was against the removal of the embargo. That is perfectly true; the whole of Ireland is against it. I shall follow the example of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, and deal with what, is printed on the Paper, and not with generalities. First, it is said that meat would become cheaper if Canadian cattle were let in. The real truth is that meat becomes cheaper when Argentine, Australian and American beef comes into the market. What affects the stores in Ireland is this. If two cargoes of Argentine meat come into the market the price of our fat beef and stores in Ireland drops at once. If you happen to clash with that market you lose your money. Secondly, it is said that there has been no disease amongst Canadian cattle for 30 years. I will say something on that point later. In the third place, it is said that Canadian cattle will compete with Irish store cattle, and that, therefore, store cattle will be cheaper. What we are frightened of in Ireland, and what the breeders of those magnificent herds of which the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, spoke, are afraid of is disease coming into the country.
I know there is no pleuropneumonia in Canada; but there are other diseases. Let me quote, from written records and tell your Lordships what came out in the evidence given before the Royal Commission on the Importation of Store Cattle. In examination by Mr. Aspinall it came out that the Report of the Minister of Agriculture for the Dominion of Canada for the year ending March 31, 1920, says this—The importance of taking suitable measures cannot be too strongly emphasised, especially so as the disease is gradually increasing in this country.Mange is the disease referred to. Then, in his evidence, Mr. Joseph McLoughlin, a member of the Irish Farmers' Union, and Chairman of a branch of the Farmers' Union, County Louth, said—I accept Canada's claim to a clean bill of health on the same basis as I would accept a criminal statistics' return from a country which had no police force or judiciary of any kind. Neither am I aware that when the ports were open before that the cattle-carrying boats carried an official British veterinary surgeon to certify as to the cause of death of cattle jettisoned during the passage, and would certainly think it vitally necessary to have such official to be opened to store cattle again. I do not know of any stone wall between the United States of Canada to 398 prevent the spread of contagious cattle diseases I over a 2,000-mile frontier; but I do know of the railway wagons from all parts of the United States to be seen continuously running on Canadian railways and vice versa.That is pretty strong evidence, and when you find the Royal Commission saying. "We are of opinion that there is no substantial ground for the apprehension that such admission would introduce disease amongst the cattle of this country," we, in Ireland, are beginning to get a little nervous. We are quite determined to keep disease out of our country. We have succeeded so far in doing so as we have an excellent Board of Agriculture.
Let me just tell your Lordships what amount of cattle we provided this country with during the war. Mr. Gill, who was for twenty-one years Secretary to the Department of Agriculture in Ireland, in his evidence stated that the total cattle herd in Ireland has been increased, in twenty years by over half a million head the annual supply to Great Britain has been increased by 125,000 head. But the improvement in quality—their quality as beef, and as early maturers and quick fatteners—has been recently estimated as I representing an intrinsic value, irrespective of market fluctuations, of £5 a head. In 1920 Ireland had only 10 per cent, of the population. She had 43 per cent, of the cattle in the United Kingdom. She consumes less than one-quarter of the cattle she produces; the rest are sent to Great Britain. Two out of every five beef cattle slaughtered in Great Britain before the war were born in Ireland. During the period of the war Ireland sent to Great Britain 3,862 223 cattle and none were lost through submarine action. That is what Mr. Gill said. It is pretty good evidence of what we in Ireland do towards supplying this country with food.
I should like to mention one or two other matters with regard to disease. The noble Marquess, Lord Lincolnshire, mentioned contagious abortion, but it is not the contagious abortion that is known in this country. It is a most insidious, dangerous, and contagious disease. Let me read from the evidence given by Mr. John Maker, President of the County Kilkenny Farmers' Association and a member of the Irish Farmers' Union. He lived for thirty-four years in New Zealand. Speaking of a recent visit to Canada, he says—It occurs in this way. I am told that, roughly speaking, there were 3,750,000 milch cows 399 in Canada at that time, I think those were the figures, and out of that number only one calf out of every three is born alive. In other words, two out of every three are dead when born owing to this disease.The Chairman [Lord Finlay]—That is a most alarming statement.Evidence shows that the disease is commonly called "trembles." A cow might be quite right now and in half an hour's time—it might occur at any stage of pregnancy, and at any moment—the cow might take a fit of shivering, the calf be born dead, and that was the end of it. It is highly contagious.
It is all very well saying that there is no disease in Canada. There is disease there, and we are going to keep it out of Ireland by every means possible. I remember hearing about cattle plague long ago, and those who know Ireland will remember the curse it was to our stock and the havoc it played with our herds. It will never be forgotten. I wonder if Lord Lincolnshire has read the evidence given before the Royal Commission. He knows, as well as I do, that if any contagious disease happens to get into these herds—and we have only just begun to establish these valuable herds in Ireland— and the word goes round, farmers will not be able to sell their cattle to the Argentine or to Canada. It is taking a very great risk to allow Canadian stores to come in. They would have to be fed by the Norfolk and Scottish farmers before they were fit to be put on the market.
I have crossed the Atlantic with them and seen one of these animals thrown overboard. There was no disease at all. What struck me was that they were much too fat for stores, and no doubt were sent in order to be slaughtered and eaten. But unless the Canadian farmers change their breed of cattle and send a smaller class, the farmers who wish for them will find that they will eat a great deal and be very expensive before they are fit for the markets of this country. I hope the embargo on Canadian cattle will remain, and I shall follow the noble Viscount, Lord Chaplin, into the Lobby. I do not see my noble friend, Lord Long, now in the House, but I should like to tell him what a Wiltshire farmer—the noble Lord comes from that county—said to me. I go down to fish there, and I have fished there for nearly thirty years. He said: "If our Member is going to vote for the removal of the embargo on Canadian 400 cattle, we shall vote against him, and see that he is turned out."
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, we have j heard a great deal from many authorities on the Imperial aspect of this question, and Heaven forbid that I should attempt to diminish that side of the question in any way, but we must not ignore the point of view of the simple agriculturist, the farmer of this country who is endeavouring to earn his living. It occurs to me that that point of view has not yet been laid before your Lordships with any great emphasis. I will invite your Lordships to carry your minds back to the introduction of the Diseases of Animals Act, 1896, to dissect agriculture into its two natural aspects of stockbreeding and arable farming, and to see what has happened to these two distinct sections during that time.
Arable farming, ever since 1896, and, of course, a little earlier, and with the exception of the few years of the war and those which immediately followed it, has not been, if I may use the expression, good business. All three classes engaged in that business have found it extremely hard to keep their heads above water. On the other hand, stockbreeding has been, during those 26 years, not a source, of great wealth, but progressively successful. It has been good business, where arable farming has been bad business, and I should like to ask your Lordships if there is no reason for that distinction. There must be a reason, and that reason, obviously, is that stockbreeding has been ensured stability, while arable farming has never had the advantage of stability during all those years.
The Diseases of Animals Act, 1896, was the charter of the British breeders. Call it, if you like, Protection; call it protection against disease or protection against competition, it matters not; it was his charter. On that charter he has risen to the heights which we know and recognise as being of such great advantage to this country. Remove that charter, and you at once remove the stability upon which he has thriven, and, although the effect may not be immediate, it is perfectly certain that, when the British stockbreeders as a whole realise that their markets will be unstable and that they will be liable to suffer the same disadvantages as their brother arable farmers now suffer, British stockbreeding will decline. Although for a short time the arable farmer may obtain his store cattle 401 slightly more cheaply than at present, it is an absolute certainty that, in course of time, he will find himself having to look entirely to the oversea market, with nothing to fall back on at home. Will that be to the advantage of the nation as a whole and of the farming community?
It may be said that just now there are, in certain parts of England and Scotland, a number of farmers who are in favour of raising the embargo—not that great majority, either in Scotland or elsewhere, that has been spoken of by noble Lords, but still a considerable number in some parts of the country. Those farmers are all arable farmers, who are suffering acutely from the depression created by a number of circumstances, all of them entirely beyond their own control. Persons in that condition are apt to clutch at any straw which they may consider in the least likely to help them out of their difficulties. They are good ground upon which this propaganda, which has been so frequent of late months, can fall. It is not surprising that there are a certain number of arable farmers at the present time who are likely to desire that the embargo should be removed. But they are a very small minority of the farmers of this country. The great mass of farmers are sufficiently long-sighted to know that if you remove their charter they are doomed to struggle along as their brother arable farmers now struggle, and their industry will no longer be worth their while, as it has been for some years past.
Various Governments, indeed most Governments, have done their best to make it impossible for British agriculturists to live at all. Is it not time that those who live by agriculture and have regard for agriculture should ask this and every other Government to leave them alone? After all, this Act of 1896 has worked admirably for this country, and admirably for agriculture right through. It inflicts no hardships upon anybody. Why not let it alone? Are we to have the only small part of agriculture which is now prosperous knocked down and made unprosperous by Government action? It is not asking very much of those noble Lords who have no such real interest in agriculture as have others to give us some chance of keeping our heads above water in the only direction in which there is any scope at the present time. Surely, it is to the national advantage that British agriculture should flourish. If one section of it is now in a fair way to 402 flourish, why make it impossible for that section to carry on? It is not as if you were going to benefit anybody else. I cannot see that anybody—consumer, or arable farmer, or any portion of the inhabitants of this country—can benefit in any way from the removal of this embargo.
Upon the Imperial question I prefer not to touch. It has been dealt with far more ably than I could hope to deal with it by noble Lords speaking with infinitely greater authority than myself. But I think the position of the British agriculturist has a right to be voiced in your Lordships' House, and, at the risk of being thought small-minded, I have dared to voice that complaint. We have been told over and over again that this is a great Imperial question. I am not here to deny it; I am not in a position to deny it. But there is at least an element of what I might call a traders' question underlying the whole thing. I wonder—I wish I knew—whether Canadians as a whole are so bitterly keen about this matter as has been suggested in your Lordships' House. I happen to be honoured with the acquaintance and friendship of a number of Canadians, and I have not been able to discover quite that zeal for the removal of the embargo that has been described to your Lordships. But I will not pursue that point. All I wish to do is to invite your Lordships to consider the case of the British agriculturist; not to destroy the only section of British agriculture which is now flourishing, but to give that section a chance to carry on to their own advantage and to the advantage of the nation, as they have done in the past.
One other little point upon which I should like to touch—it was raised by the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe—is whether or not the people of this country would for long tolerate the importation of great masses of lean, cheap beasts from overseas. The cruelty involved in this trade is immense, and, after all, these cattle cannot be worth very much when they are put on the ship, or they would be no advantage to British farmers at this end. Their loss is not going to be worth the same consideration as is the loss of fat cattle, and I have great doubts whether the British public as a whole would care to see this embargo removed, if they realised that to which they were going to subject the oversea cattle in the passage to this country.
My Lords, I only desire to say one word in order to make a suggestion which may relieve a good many noble Lords who feel, as I do, that we are in a very grave dilemma. If we vote for the Resolution of the noble Viscount opposite it might be construed that we I repeat the slur, but if we vote for the Amendment of the noble Marquess we commit ourselves to something about which there is a difference of opinion; and I think anyone who has heard the speeches of Lord Ernie and Viscount Long will probably agree with me that there is a difference of opinion as to what the pledge was. Therefore, in those, circumstances, in order to avoid committing ourselves tonight to agreement with cither of those Motions, I have consulted several noble friends who are interested deeply in this subject, and they promise me their support if I move that this debate be now adjourned, with a view to the consideration, on a later day, of a Resolution somewhat to the following effect—I do not commit myself to the actual words now, because I think the wording will have to be carefully considered—namely, "That this House accepts the conclusion of the Royal Commission that Canada is free from pleuro-pneumonia in cattle, and that stores from the Dominions might be admitted, subject to precautions by means of quarantine being taken." If your Lordships are at all in favour of that, I am prepared to move it.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(Lord Harris.)
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, perhaps I may intervene on the Motion of my noble friend, Lord Harris, because the noble Viscount, Lord Chaplin, has asked me to say that so far as he is concerned he is prepared to fall in with the I Motion for the adjournment. He, on his part, would by no means, I think, be disposed to commit himself to the actual terms of the Resolution foreshadowed by Lord Harris. I am in the same position myself. From what I heard of the terms of the Resolution I think it is one which would require careful examination and consideration before it was agreed to. I confess I am much impressed by what my noble friend opposite said. He said that on the one hand the acceptance by your Lordships of the noble Viscount's Motion; might, at any rate, be regarded as continuing the slur of which the Canadians 404 so bitterly and, from one point of view, so reasonably, complain, whereas if the noble. Marquess's Amendment were carried the House would be committing itself to some legislation, the precise terms of which have not been explained.
My noble friend opposite, Lord Long, was good enough, after I had spoken, and had made some complaint that we did not know where we were in this respect, to give an exceedingly clear exposition of what he would do if he were in a position to carry an Act of Parliament; but, of course, it is impossible to say what view the House as a whole might take, or what view might be taken in another place, or by His Majesty's Government. I cannot help thinking that Lord Harris made a valuable suggestion in moving the adjournment, and in giving us time to consider the various possibilities which have been indicated in some of the speeches this afternoon.
THE FTRST COMMISSIONER OF WORKS (THK EARL OF CRAWFORD)
My Lords, so far as the Government are concerned we readily agree to the proposal for the adjournment of the debate. I hope, however, that your Lordships will reserve Thursday of next week for the second day of the discussion upon the constitution of this House. If that be so, I am afraid that the debate on this Motion will have to go over to the following week, unless your Lordships sit on Friday.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.