HL Deb 29 November 1922 vol 52 cc99-104

My Lords, I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies when he proposes to introduce a Bill to give legislative effect to the agreement reached at the recent Conference between representatives of His Majesty's Government and the Canadian Government in connection with the removal of the embargo on Canadian store cattle.

The question of Canadian store cattle is so well known to your Lordships that I need not take up the time of the House by saying a word on the subject itself. I have only to remind your Lordships that it was gone into by His Majesty's late Government and it was agreed by both Houses of Parliament that the honour of the country demanded that the question of the pledge given to Canada should be settled for good and all. We live and we learn. We have heard, to-night, a discussion about the amount of responsibility which attached to each member of the Government as regards Palestine and Mesopotamia. That may be extended, for all I know as an outsider, to the French Front, to Turkey, to Russia and to various other great questions of state. But of one thing we are certain, and that is that this pledge was given by the Prime Minister with the approval of the whole of his Cabinet. They were all pledged to it, and an agreement has now been reached between this country and the great Dominion of Canada. It is now an agreed measure, the position of the Government in respect of it has been clearly stated, and a communication, I may say, has been made unreservedly to the Press.

Considerable disappointment exists today not only in Canada but in this country as well that no mention was made of this important question, which is really one of life and death to agriculture in the Dominion of Canada, in the King's most gracious Speech from the Throne, and no legislative action is promised, so far as I know, to give effect during the present session to the agreement which was reached with His Majesty's Government on the question of the embargo. A new Government has come in. We now have a Canadian-born Prime Minister, and an ex-Canadian Governor-General as Secretary of State for the Colonies. In those circumstances I think this country may reasonably hope for the immediate fulfilment of the nation's pledge which, owing to actions and tactics to which I need not allude at the moment, has been so long and so unaccountably delayed. I very respectfully ask the noble Duke, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, to give us, if he possibly can, a favourable answer, because I am sure it will be received with widespread satisfaction not only in this country but in the Dominion.


My Lords, I desire to support my noble friend in the request he has addressed to His Majesty's Government and to the noble Duke the Secretary of State for the Colonies. I desire also to make a suggestion. As this is the first time I have had to address a Question or to support a Question addressed to the noble Duke as Secretary of State, I may, perhaps, be allowed to say how much I rejoice that that high post in the Government is filled by the noble Duke who, to all his other distinctions, adds that of practical experience of how the work in our great Dominion is carried on. I share the view of the noble Marquess opposite that, in regard to questions affecting the Dominions, his presence at the Colonial Office is a guarantee of their sympathetic and considerate treatment, and especially is it an inducement to us to believe that this old grievance between the Dominion and this country will be removed without any delay.

I confess that I do not understand why there should have been any delay in giving effect to the agreement, which, as we learned from the newspapers, had been arrived at between Canada and the United Kingdom. I made it my business to ask the distinguished Canadian statesman who now fills the post of High Commissioner whether the delegates who had come from Canada had been thoroughly satisfied with the agreement that had been reached, and whether he thought that the difficulties were removed, and that we might look forward to a satisfactory settlement in the future. He assured me that the negotiations had been conducted in the most friendly and agreeable spirit, that they had arrived at a satisfactory conclusion, and that he thought the whole difficulty was removed. I know now—not on his authority—that a grave feeling of anxiety has been aroused in the Dominion by the delay in giving effect to the arrangement arrived at.

May I remind your Lordships that this question was fully debated in the House of Commons and your Lordships' House, and Resolutions, practically similar in character, were passed? In your Lordships' House, as I am sure you will remember, the prevailing feeling was not one in regard to the practical or technical difficulties connected with the cattle, but it was that the whole situation between the Dominions and the mother country had been altered by reason of events to which I need not refer, and that it was our bounden duty to treat Canada, as she desired to be treated, with absolute fairness and full justice. I do not know what the details of the agreement are, but I myself, many years ago, when responsible for the Ministry of Agriculture, secured the passage of the Bill of 1896 which produced the condition of things to which Canada has so strongly objected. It may be that there is a certain amount of detail work to be done—that is to say, the Resolution carried in your Lordships' House authorised certain examination of the cattle, whether at both ports or at one the Resolution did not specify. This matter has no doubt been settled in the negotiations between the respective Governments. There may be some other details to be settled, but I respectfully submit to His Majesty's Government that however many details there may be to decide, and whatever machinery it may be necessary to provide, those things offer no excuse for delay in passing the main Bill.

It would be quite possible—I speak with some knowledge of the work that has to be done in connection with the importation of cattle into this country—and it would be easy, to pass a Bill giving full recognition to the Resolution passed in both Houses that the embargo should be removed. His Majesty's Government can, if they desire, in the Bill take to themselves power to issue, by Order in Council, any Regulations which it may be necessary to enforce in order to carry out the principles of the measure. I am satisfied that the Bill would take no time in passing through both Houses, whereas if it, is postponed until next session we shall be face to face with a real and serious difficulty.

First of all, I am assured that Canada will resent this postponement, and will regard it as a failure on our part to meet her half way. Let me remind the Government that Canada sent over her own delegates to this country to confer with our people. She did everything she could to expedite the settlement of the outstanding difficulties, and she is entitled, I venture to say respectfully, to full consideration now. If it be necessary to elaborate some machinery that, I believe, can be done by Order in Council. I do not think that either your Lordships' House or the House of Commons would object to the use of that particular power. If I am told that an Order in Council would not be sufficient for the purpose, I would answer that there would be no difficulty whatever in passing a Bill giving effect to the decision of your Lordships' House and of the other House, and telling Parliament and the country and the Dominion that another Bill would be introduced next session providing the particular machinery required.

May I also remind the Government that if the Bill passed to-morrow, it would take a considerable time to provide the lairages and the general accommodation on ship board and on the quay side, which, no doubt, will have to be provided. Canada is asking that there shall be no delay in removing this embargo. I am confident that this question has been and will be treated with the fullest consideration by His Majesty's Government and the Secretary of State, but it is possible that in the great pressure of work which has fallen upon them during the last few weeks they have not realised as fully as some do what dangers there are in front of us if we put it off for three, or four, or five months. I urge upon the Government that they should deal with this Question before Parliament is prorogued. The Prime Minister stated—I think in one of his speeches in the House of Commons—that although he hoped the House would rise on December 6, and confine the work of Parliament to the Irish Bill, yet that it would not be possible to avoid some other business which might arise. This is a justifiable case for an exception to the rule of one Bill and that only to deal with the Irish matter. I urge His Majesty's Government and the Secretary of State, the noble Duke, to give friendly consideration to the request of the noble Marquess opposite.


My Lords, I should like to associate myself with the noble Viscount, Lord Long, in saying that I am quite certain that flue noble Duke, who knows Canada very well indeed, will appreciate the importance of this question being settled. But there is another aspect of this matter that I should like to mention, and that is that the people who deal in cattle in the country to which I belong want to know exactly how they stand in regard to the cattle trade. This delay is upsetting to that trade, and that is the only reason that I have risen to say a word on this subject. I do not know Parliamentary practice so well as my noble friend Lord Long, but I imagine that an Order in Council would deal with the matter at once. We understand in Ireland that the matter has been settled, and after what Lord Long has said about his conversation with a Canadian statesman it seems clear that Canada also thinks the matter is settled. In the country from which I come we think that it is settled, and that Canadian stores will come in under proper protection. That protection was suggested by my noble friend, Lord Long, during the very long debate upon this matter in this House. The question is urgent. The session will come to an end very shortly, and if the difficulties could be tided over by an Order in Council it would be a good thing for all the cattle dealers in Great Britain and Ireland. When Parliament meets again we could have a Bill.


My Lords, I should like to endorse what the two noble Lords have said, although I doubt whether an Order in Council will he sufficient. I did not take part in the debates on the matter in this House last session because I was a member of the Royal Commission which reported in favour of the removal of the embargo, and the House was sitting, as it were, in judgment on that Report. Now that both Houses of Parliament have decided in the most emphatic manner that the embargo ought to be removed, it would be most advisable that some steps should be taken, at as early a date as possible, to give effect to the decision. As the law stands at present there is an absolute prohibition of any importation, and a clause in an Act passed about thirty years ago will have to be repealed. Power also will have to be given to the Ministry of Agriculture to make Regulations.

When the Royal Commission was appointed many people said that it was one way of shelving a difficult and delicate question. The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Finlay, Chairman of the Commission, with the assent of the other members, determined that that kind of criticism should be met, and he kept us working for hours day after clay examining a vast number of witnesses in order to get the Report out as speedily as possible. We managed to do so; we made a Report in as short a time as any lengthy Royal Commission ever did. Both Houses of Parliament endorsed that Report. Many months have gone by without further steps being taken. I feel sure that if the Government would move in the matter it would inspire confidence and lead to a much better feeling among all those who are engaged in this great trade.


My Lords, I am glad to be in a position to inform your Lordships that it is the intention of the Government to introduce a Bill in the present session of Parliament. We shall use every effort to pass it into law, and I hope the expressions of opinion, for which I am most grateful, from some of your Lordships will ensure that before the Prorogation of Parliament this long and difficult question will be finally, definitely, and honourably settled.