§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY had given Notice to ask His Majesty's Government whether, subject to such guarantees as to inspection and sanitation as may be agreed upon with the Governments concerned, His Majesty's Government intend at an early date to remove the statutory restriction upon the importation of cattle from Ireland, whereby such cattle are detained for six days in the premises to which they are first removed from their place of landing or from an authorised market; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Marquess said: My Lords, my Question is connected with the cattle trade of Ireland, and I think this is the first occasion in this Session on which that country has been mentioned here. 114 The Question deals with an admitted in-justice in connection with the Act which was passed last Session, the Importation of Animals Act, 1922. I need hardly say, tit the outset of my remarks, that I have no desire or intention to embarrass the Government. I am not asking them to reverse the decision at which they arrived last Session, when it was decided by Act of Parliament to raise the embargo on Canadian cattle. The decision was reached in your Lordships' House, and the resulting measure was the Importation of Animals Act.
§ My Question deals, however, with one provision of that Act, which, in my judgment and, I think, in the judgment of most of your Lordships, should be considered merely a temporary measure and should be governed by the actual circumstances of the case—I refer to the detention, when they reach this country, of animals which conic over from Ireland. Perhaps your Lordships will pardon a short retrospect of the circumstances. Previous to the Importation of Animals Act, Irish cattle were classed as cattle from the United Kingdom, and all other cattle, outside that class, were styled foreign cattle. In consequence, Irish cattle were from time to time subject to an order requiring their detention for various periods after arrival in this country, such orders being issued as occasion demanded, and being dependent upon the existence and prevalence of disease in the country.
§ It will be within your Lordships' recollection that last year, some time before the introduction of the Importation of Animals Bill, an order of this character was issued requiring the detention of Irish store cattle for six days after their arrival here. This order was then understood to be of the same character as previous orders, and to be the necessary corollary of the unfortunate succession of outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease which had occurred in England since the war. This order was of a purely temporary nature, and was loyally supported and upheld by Irish stock raisers and dealers as part of the machinery devised to free this country from a devastating disease, an object to which we all naturally attach the highest importance. There was never any suggestion against the health of Irish cattle. Ireland was admitted to be free from disease, and the restriction was im- 115 posed solely in order to prevent the movement of large mobs of cattle from market to market, making the isolation of beasts which came in contact with the disease in English markets difficult, if not impossible. That is a brief history of what has occurred.
§ Meanwhile, a pledge about raising the embargo on Canadian cattle was given to Canada and this pledge at that stage came up for fulfilment. There was a conference—in fact, I believe, there was more than one conference—between the British and Canadian Governments, but the Irish authorities were not consulted. The Irish authorities were expressly informed that Ireland did not come up in this discussion, and those same authorities, I think, received an undertaking that the question of Ireland would not be discussed without consultation with the proper Irish authorities. No such consultation took place at any time so far as I am able to ascertain. In spite of this pledge which was given to Ireland, another pledge or undertaking was given to Canada, and that undertaking was that Canadian cattle should enjoy the same rights and privileges as were accorded to Irish cattle; in fact, that Irish and Canadian cattle should be placed on exactly the same footing.
I will venture to quote the words of the Attorney-General in another place on this subject. He said:
There was an express arrangement with the Canadians made by the late Government under which it was expressly arranged that whatever provisions on this side apply to Canadian cattle should apply equally to Irish cattle.
Consequently, when the Government Bill was introduced, it was found to contain a provision that "an imported animal shall mean an animal brought to Great Britain from a country out of Great Britain." That is Section 3 of the Importation of Animals Act, 1922. Irish cattle thereby lost the status which they had enjoyed from time immemorial as cattle of the United Kingdom, and stood with Canadian cattle, which now ranked as imported instead of foreign. Moreover, the regulation requiring six days' detention for Irish cattle now became statutory, instead of occasional and temporary, simply in order to place her cattle trade on the same basis as the cattle trade of Canada in connection with this country. The restriction can no longer
be removed by order of the Minister of Agriculture, whenever the special circum stances which had necessitated its imposition had happily passed away.
§ It will be well within your Lordships' recollection that one of the most serious of Irish indictments against this country is contained in a grievance which is centuries old—and this grievance has been repeated with, I might say, wearisome reiteration—that England in her own interests has always disregarded and even destroyed Irish trade. I have spent a great deal of my time in combating this suggestion as imaginary and illusory, but in this case I have no weapon with which to continue that argument, and I feel that this country, in her arrangement with the Canadian Government, is doing an injury, a very great injury, to a trade on which Ireland so essentially depends. Now this restriction involves the Irish cattle dealer in a considerable difficulty. He finds himself on the horns of a dilemma. He must either take the best price that he can obtain at one of the authorised markets—and your Lordships will be aware that when this is known in this country various steps will be taken by which the Irish cattle dealer will be placed at a very great disadvantage—or incur very heavy loss, by reason of the six days' detention, in the expenses which he will have to bear. I think your Lordships will realise that the Irish cattle dealer has always been ready and willing to accept the restriction as a temporary measure in special circumstances, but under the Act which was passed last Session the Irish dealer is penalised for all time.
§ I am venturing to speak for the whole of Ireland in this connection. This is a matter which affects Ireland, both in the North and in the South. It has been said that the Free State is a Dominion and cannot claim different treatment from that of other Dominions. But surely the Free State can claim equal treatment and when the Free State received a promise that no steps would be taken which affected Ireland without consultation with them, it must be very obvious that the Free State, in connection with the status of Irish cattle, has not received the same treatment as regards consultation as have the Canadian Government. Canada was consulted, and Ireland was not consulted. Further, the argument 117 that all the Dominions should be treated alike is vitiated by this self-same Act. Special privileges are accorded to Canadian and also Irish cattle which are not accorded to cattle which might or should come from other Dominions. This is expressly shown by the fact that Clause 4 of the original Bill was dropped. That clause, in certain circumstances, accorded to other Dominions the same rights and privileges in regard to the importation of cattle as were accorded to Canada. There is an argument, of course, that all Dominions should be treated alike, but I submit that that argument is altogether unsound.
§ You cannot alter either the history of the past or the geography of the world by art Act of Parliament. You cannot, without grave injustice, deprive Ireland of the rights in the cattle trade which she has acquired by over a century of Union. You cannot make Ireland more than a few hours' steaming from these shores, nor Canada less than several days'. You cannot shorten the length of the frontier between Canada and the United States by a single mile, a frontier which renders her particularly open to the invasion of cattle diseases. Nor can you deprive Ireland of the advantages of her sea frontier, in the immunity which it gives her from disease. Where nature has imposed such differences, it is idle to imagine that you can ignore them in legislation. And yet we are told that "it was expressly arranged that whatever provisions on this side apply to Canadian cattle should apply equally to Irish cattle." Therefore, it seems to me, when it is suggested that the Free State has acquired the status of a Dominion, that it really is missing the whole point of the argument to say that exactly the same conditions should apply to the Free State of Ireland as are applicable to other Dominions.
§ I think your Lordships will agree that the case of Northern Ireland is even a stronger one. What I have already said applies to Irish cattle generally, from whatever part of Ireland they come, whether from the Free State or from the North of Ireland; but the stock raiser of Northern Ireland has, in my judgment, an indisputable claim for similar treatment to that given to the stock raiser in the United Kingdom. After all, there is a great distinction between Northern Ireland and Southern 118 Ireland in the status which they occupy in relation to this country. The Taxes which we pay in Ireland are fixed in this country, and, except that we have a Parliament of our own, which controls domestic legislation, I think that we can claim to be as much a portion of the United Kingdom as we were before the Act was passed which inaugurated that Parliament. And I do feel that when we pay the same Taxes as are paid in this country, and when we have representatives of the North of Ireland sitting in the Parliament of this country, there should be no alteration now in the conditions which placed us on a good footing in Ireland in the past.
§ The relaxation of these restrictions upon cattle from Northern Ireland, apart from a similar relaxation in the case of cattle from the Irish Free State, is undoubtedly difficult. It would mean the establishment of a strict surveillance of the frontier between Northern and Southern Ireland, and entail great expense. Otherwise, cattle would come from Southern Ireland and pass through Northern Ireland, and Northern Ireland, by the export of them from her ports, would gain an advantage that would not belong to other parts of Ireland. But that expense would necessarily fall upon the Imperial Exchequer, because it must be recognised that one of the chief results of recent Irish legislation has been to establish for the first time in history a land frontier for the United Kingdom. If the Irish Treaty Bill did anything, it did that, and we must face the consequences of it. the Western frontier of the United Kingdom is no longer the. Atlantic Ocean alone, but, for some two hundred miles, the borders of Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State.
§ So strong are the claims and so encouraging was the reception given by the Noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, then leading this House, to the hope of redress by future legislation expressed by that great authority, Viscount Long of Wraxall, that I cannot believe that. His Majesty's Government will hesitate to take the first opportunity of removing the admitted injustice inflicted by the Importation of Animals Act upon Northern Ireland. Two courses are open to them. The first is to remove the statutory restrictions from the cattle of Northern Ireland alone, and to restore 119 her cattle trade upon the old conditions. This course, as I have said, will entail great expense upon the frontier, besides leaving the injustice done to the Irish Free State by the same Act still unredressed. The second course, is to remove these restrictions from Irish cattle generally, and so to restore that most ancient market to its original basis, a basis upon which it has worked, and worked for so many years, to the entire benefit of the industry of stock raising in both countries.
§ I hope and trust that His Majesty's Government will see the necessity of adopting this second course. It. is not only wise, but just; not only politic, but straightforward. The adoption of such a course will go far to remove from Irish minds the ancient mistrust of British legislation, that belief which has almost grown to the fixity of a creed that England thinks only of itself, and does not consider the interests and prosperity of a country which is allied to it by so many ties.
§ VISCOUNT LONG OF WRAXALL
My Lords, as I took part in the debate last Session, and as the Government were good enough, through my noble friend Lord Salisbury, who was then leading the House, to accept the suggestion I made, perhaps it would be convenient if I were at this stage to offer the few observations which I desire to make. Like the noble Marquess who has opened this debate with such an extremely interesting and so moderate and convincing a speech, the last thing I desire is to do or say anything which would in any way embarrass His Majesty's Government. The part that 1 ask leave to take in this debate is not connected so much with the special Irish difficulty—a local or domestic question—as it is with the position which has been created by the form which the Bill took last year in reference to the Dominions as a whole.
It is impossible to maintain the case that has been advanced in some quarters that the object and intention of the Act of last Session is to treat all the Dominions alike. In the first place, as the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, has pointed out, that is not the case at this moment under the provisions of the Act; and, in the second place, I submit that it would be quite impossible to take 120 up a position of that kind. It is obvious that this country cannot abandon the right she has always enjoyed, and which every Government would, I am sure, stand by, to protect her own industries and the chiefest of them, the industry of agriculture, against the invasion of disease. If she is to maintain and exercise this right it is clear that the measures to be adopted towards the different Dominions must depend on the conditions existing within those Dominions. We all know that in two or three of the Dominions the conditions in regard to the health of cattle are not the same as they were proved to be, and there is every reason to believe they are still, in the Dominion of Canada. Therefore the contention that the Act treats Canada and Ireland alike, on the principle that all the Dominions are to be treated alike, is one that it is impossible to maintain.
The suggestion which I made last Session, and which the Government were good enough to adopt, was that this question of the exclusion of Irish cattle and the other practical difficulty referred to by the noble Marquess, which was covered in the original Bill by Clause 4, should be treated on a slightly different footing. And I think I may claim, with the noble Marquess, that when the last debate occurred the Government fully recognised the dangers and difficulties of the situation. The suggestion was that the question as it concerned Ireland should be referred for discussion to the distinguished statesman who represents, as High Commissioner, the Dominion of Canada in this country that the question of the regulations to be adopted in reference to the other Dominions should be discussed at the coming Imperial Conference and that legislation dealing with the question should be subsequently introduced.
The noble Marquess referred to the fact—I believe it to be a fact—that some promise had been given to the Dominion of Canada in reference to the treatment it was proposed to accord to Ireland, and that, in accordance with that promise, the Government felt bound to adhere to the proposals of the Bill. I can only say that I regret more than I can describe that any such promise should have been given to the Dominion of Canada and, above all, that it should have been given to her without first of 121 all consulting the Government of Northern Ireland and the Government of Southern Ireland. It was conceding something to Canada for which she really had no right to ask.
The result is that we are in what seems to me to be a wholly absurd position to-day in that, after prolonged inquiry and debate in both Houses of the fullest and most comprehensive character, Parliament has passed through all its stages and placed upon the Statute Book an Act to remove the embargo on the cattle coming from one part of the British Empire and has placed deliberately upon another part of the British Empire an embargo which never existed before. To pass an Act with the object of removing restrictions which are objectionable to one part of the Empire and to take advantage of that to impose them, for the first time in your history, on another and even nearer part of the Empire, seems to me to be a policy to which there can be no defence whatever.
I earnestly hope that in approaching this question the Government will not look at it solely from the point of view of the health of our cattle or the supply of our stores, or only from the point of view of Irish sentiment and feeling. There is no doubt—I know it from information which has reached me—that the feeling in Ireland which was referred to by the noble Marquess, that England is prepared at any moment to sacrifice that country to her own requirements, exists very strongly to-day in reference to this question. The noble Marquess did not in any way exaggerate the force of that feeling in that part of Ireland of which he is such a distinguished representative. There can be no justification for the imposition by this country of restrictions of this kind upon Ulster, a Province which has been so loyal and so devoted to Great Britain and the Empire, and for which the least we can do is to give any help we can. Above all, we ought not to offer any obstruction either to her trade or her industries. Therefore, I entirely agree with the noble Marquess that the Irish case is, in itself, a very strong one.
But I think we want the Government to act for another reason. I am quite convinced—I said it last year and I repeat it to-day—that when this arrangement was made as between Canada and Ireland the representatives of Canada had not the 122 Irish case before them. I have the privilege of knowing the present High Commissioner for Canada. I have discussed the whole matter with him on many occasions, and, though I have not discussed this particular question with him, I feel as certain as I can be of anything that if the Government confer upon this Irish question first of all with the representative of the Dominion in this country, and put before him the Irish case and the case for the United Kingdom in all its strength, he and his Government will agree, without doubt or hesitation, to such a change as will leave Ireland in the position she occupied before; that is to say, that the restrictions will not be permanent, but will be imposed only if there is reason to believe that the health of the cattle is unsatisfactory.
I come now to a totally different reason, and one which weighs very greatly with me, in support of early action by the Government after they have had time to think over the discussion in your Lordships' House to-day and to consider what is the best course to take. I have referred to the fact that my recommendation of last Session was to the effect that the settlement of this question should be deferred until the Imperial Conference. From information which has reached many people in this country, including myself, I am sorry to say that there is some doubt, to-day, whether that Imperial Conference will materialise in this coming spring. That is not due to any want of enthusiasm on the part of our Dominions or to any lack of interest in the great Imperial subjects which they will have to discuss: it is due, I am told, solely to the fact that in two of the Dominions there are new Governments which have only just succeeded to office and to all the difficulties that surround new Governments, and that it may be a practical impossibility for their Ministers to leave the seat of government at home and come here for a prolonged stay in the spring of the year.
I hope that this information may turn out to be incorrect, because I most ardently desire that the Imperial Conference shall take place, believing, as I do, that there are great questions awaiting settlement and solution which can only be dealt with in that Conference. I hope, therefore, with all my heart that it will take place. If by any ill chance it.
123 does not, that fact will afford an additional reason for taking action soon with regard to this matter and for not adhering to the suggestion made last year that we should wait until the Conference in April or in May.
As the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, said in his opening remarks, the last thing we desire, or that anybody desires, at this moment, is to embarrass the Government who have but lately taken office. All those who belong to the Party of which I am a member desire to support them with all our force. We believe that they have made a most splendid start in the difficult task of governing this country and the Empire. At the same time, this grievance though it may possibly be described as a minor one is very real, and I hope that the Government will not delay any longer than is absolutely necessary either to meet the case which has been raised by the noble Marquess opposite, or to deal with the case of the other Dominions. It is impossible to leave indefinitely matters as they stand now, seeing that, having dropped the original Clause 4, the Government to-day have made no provision for any of the other Dominions.
We know how strongly they felt this at the time, and I submit that in the interests of the Empire as a whole, and of the trade and business of the Empire, the situation is one which cannot be allowed to continue as it is. Therefore I hope that the Government will see their way, if not to make any definite pronouncement to-day, at all events to give us an assurance that this question shall not only be considered but reviewed in the light of the new facts and of the arguments advanced by the noble Marquess. And I trust that the result may be a solution in the form of an Act of Parliament which, I am sure, will give immense satisfaction and gratification to Ireland and will be received by the Dominions, without any question, as a fair and final settlement of a long-standing difficulty.
§ LORD STRACHIE
My Lords, I understand that the arguments urged by the noble Marquess who asked this Question and the noble Viscount who supported him rest to a large extent upon the presumption that a good deal of harm has been or will be clone to Ireland by this Act of 1922. I would remind your Lordships 124 that the Act of 1922 is not yet in force, because it contains a provision that the Act shall not come into operation until April 1, 1923, unless an Order in Council is passed making it operative. Up to now no such Order has been made, and, as a matter of fact, we are now dealing only with the old conditions under which our flocks and herds have been protected from disease for a long while. The arguments of the noble Marquess really have no substance, and do not support the contention that an injustice is done to Ireland.
The position is this. At the end of 1894 there was a provision under which an order might be made subjecting Irish cattle coming here to detention for six days in quarantine. Ireland used to treat England in exactly the same way. If we had outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease here they would at once stop importation into that country of stock or hay from this country. I remember that when Mr. T. W. Russell was the representative of the Board of Agriculture in Ireland on more than one occasion he told me he at once telegraphed to Ireland when we had foot-and-mouth disease in this country stopping any importation from Great Britain into Ireland. The Government are acting as other Governments have clone under the Act of 1894, by taking precautions to see that foot-and-mouth disease is not spread in this country. There is no doubt a great deal of truth in what the noble Marquess has said that one of the reasons why quarantine is imposed upon Irish cattle is that Irish cattle, unlike English cattle, are moved about in large mobs from one market to another. They may go to half a dozen different markets before they are sold. They may be perfectly free from foot-and-mouth disease, hut, as the noble Marquess said, it may happen that they will come into contact in a market with animals that have the disease, and then may be moved on. It is therefore very necessary to have greater precautions in order to prevent the spread of the disease.
I can assure the noble Marquess that there is not the slightest desire to keep out Irish cattle from this country. Although we, in the West of England, have often run great risks from Irish cattle—those who live near the Bristol market have often had disease brought over—we do not want to keep out Irish cattle, provided proper precautions are 125 taken; in fact, we welcome Irish cattle, not only stores but all kinds of Irish cattle, in this country so long as they are brought in under adequate safeguards. The noble Marquess did not confine himself to Ulster, but spoke of the whole of Ireland. I would ask him whether he considers that at the present moment all parts of Ireland can give that guarantee of inspection and sanitation which is absolutely necessary. I should have thought that he would be the last person to say that the conditions in all parts of Ireland are such, and that they have such firm government, and power of imposing restrictions at this moment in all parts of Ireland, that it is quite possible to give the necessary guarantee to the English Ministry of Agriculture. I consider that until there is a more settled state of things in Ireland it would be running a great risk indeed to have cattle imported without any restrictions, and without those guarantees which I do not think the noble Marquess would contend can be given at the present moment.
I hope that the Government will maintain these regulations, which are simply precautionary, and can do no real harm. There is a danger to agriculturists in the West of England where, I know, the farmers would support me when I say that while they have no wish to keep out Irish cattle they are most anxious that the regulations which have existed for a great many years should not be relaxed. We ask that protection should be given to our flocks and herds in this country by having this very necessary guarantee, and I hope His Majesty's Government will maintain the position that they have hitherto taken up that these restrictions are absolutely necessary.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY OF THE MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES (THE EARL OF ANCASTER)
My Lords, I think my best plan will be first of all to answer the Question that the noble Marquess has put upon the Paper in which he asks whether His Majesty's Government intends at an early date to remove the statutory restrictions upon the importation of cattle from Ireland. My answer to that Question is in the negative. With your Lordships' permission I should like to deal with one or two matters to which the noble Marquess and the noble Viscount, Lord 126 Long of Wraxall, referred. I do not intend to do so at any length, because we had a very protracted debate on this subject only some few months ago. The two noble Lords who spoke about this matter told us that it was not their desire to embarrass the Government in any way. I will give them one very good reason why I think it is impossible for the Government to repeal the legislation which they carried only two months ago, and that reason is that there was a majority of over three hundred in another place for the clause which the two noble Lords now wish to be repealed. I only say that because I think it ought to be an argument that should have some weight with them. It undoubtedly would embarrass His Majesty's Government very considerably indeed if they were to go to another place with a proposal to repeal a clause in a Bill which had only been passed some few months ago. That argument should appeal to noble Lords who do not wish to embarrass the Government.
But there is a stronger argument, and that is one which I think will appeal to the general public. I am certain that it will appeal to those, who have anything to do with agriculture in this country. In the speeches of both noble Lords there seemed to be an idea that this regulation of the six clays detention was an embargo on Trish cattle, but I would point out that a detention of six days' at the place of destination is not an embargo. The two noble Lords also seemed to entertain the idea that the regulation was imposed because we were making a bargain with Canada. Nothing of the kind. What happened was that all our expert advisers at the Ministry of Agriculture were of opinion that this was a very important regulation, not to prevent the introduction of disease into this country but to prevent the spread of disease in this country. When this question was debated some two months ago I do not think the Report of the Departmental Committee was made public but I had some private information—
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
If I may interrupt the noble Earl, I think he is not aware -of what the Attorney-General said in another place. He said that there was an arrangement with the Canadians, made by the late Government, under which it was expressly arranged 127 that whatever provisions of this sort applied to Canadian cattle should apply equally to Irish cattle.
§ THE EARL OF ANCASTER
I do not think that alters the case. It may be a different way of putting it. If I may proceed with my argument, this clause was inserted in the Bill not to prevent the introduction of disease into this country, but to prevent the spread of disease in this country. In this respect we in England—I will not say Scotland, because they always pride themselves upon being free from the disease—are the chief offenders in this matter, for I think we have had more foot-and-mouth disease during the last twelve or twenty-four months than Scotland, Wales, Canada or Ireland. It is for our own protection—and against ourselves if you like—that we have thought it necessary to make these regulations so as to prevent animals being moved about from market to market without proper precautions being taken.
May I now read what the Departmental Committee, which inquired into this subject, said. This is what they state:—The practice which obtained prior to the present outbreak, whereby large numbers of store animals imported from Ireland are moved rapidly from market to market until disposed of, constitutes a very serious danger should foot-and-mouth disease actually occur in a market at winch these animals are exposed. The facts narrated above afford an excellent illustration, to our mind, of the facility with which disease is spread where this movement is not hindered by the operation of restrictive regulations. That these Irish stores were mainly responsible for the spread of disease is not open to doubt. The conditions under which they are dealt with are eminently such as to render them liable to infection and capable of conveying infection from one market to another if infection does, in fact, exist in any market to which they are taken, or in any vehicle in which they are carried. This danger would be no less grave if the animals concerned were other than imported animals, and were similarly dealt with; but as imported stores are normally in the hands of dealers who have no facilities for keeping them, and as home bred stores are mostly sold locally, this must be recognised as a special risk attending the importation of cattle from overseas.And they recommended:We are also of opinion that these regulations should apply to all animals landing from countries outside the jurisdiction of the Ministry.The whole reason why these regulations have been made, and have been made permanent, is to prevent the spread of 128 disease in tins country. If they are repealed by Parliament to-morrow they must be repealed for Canada as well. I think we are perfectly justified—that is, the Ministry of Agriculture in this country—in asking for this protection for the stock of this country.
It is not a question which concerns' agriculturists only it is a question in which the taxpayer is vitally interested. The last disastrous outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease cost the taxpayer nearly a million of money, and when we have this expert advice saying that these regulations should be imposed, and also the support of the Departmental Committee, it would be madness on the part of the Ministry if we did not put out toes into the ground and refuse to budge on the matter. I do not know that I need go into the whole subject this afternoon. The noble Marquess who introduced the Question seemed to plead for the whole of Ireland and then specially for the North of Ireland. The question we have to consider is: Where does the Ministry of Agriculture exercise jurisdiction? They exercise practically no jurisdiction in the Government of Northern Ireland. I believe there is a liaison officer who communicates with the Home Office, but so far as the Ministry of Agriculture is concerned we have no powers at all in Northern Ireland. In Southern Ireland—
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
May I interrupt the noble Earl? I know that he is dealing with agricultural matters and is not thoroughly conversant with the relations between Northern Ireland and this country, but at the present moment there is a certain number of Reserved Services which are supposed to be dealt with by the Council of Ireland. The Council of Ireland is not functioning, and those Services have been taken over by the British Government. That means that as regards the inspection of all cattle coming from Northern Ireland it is open to the British Government to satisfy itself.
§ THE EARL OF ANCASTER
That may be so. All I say is that we, as the Ministry of Agriculture, have no power to issue orders in Northern Ireland.
§ THE EARL OF ANCASTER
Then I stand corrected. The noble Marquess may be right, though I am still doubtful, but if there is an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Northern Ireland I wonder how long it would take for the Ministry of Agriculture here to hear of the outbreak, and of when it occurred?
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
The Diseases of Animals Acts, as far as they are controlled by Government at all, are controlled by the British Government and not by the Government of Northern Ireland.
§ THE EARL OF ANCASTER
I am talking about the Ministry of Agriculture. We have no liaison officer in Northern Ireland. It is carried on through the Home Office, and I maintain that if there was an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Northern Ireland it would be difficult for the Ministry of Agriculture in England to take instant steps to deal with it. I do not wish, however, to press that point because the noble Marquess gave his case away as regards Northern Ireland when he talked about the frontier between Northern and Southern Ireland. It would be very difficult for the Government of Northern Ireland to prevent cattle moving from Southern Ireland into Northern Ireland. I am very ignorant as to what are the powers of the Government of Northern Ireland in these matters, but they would require a strong police force to patrol the whole of the boundary between Northern and Southern Ireland in order to prevent the importation of animals from the South into the North of Ireland. The noble Marquess, indeed, said so in his speech.
The whole object of the regulations is not to prevent the introduction of disease into this country; it is to prevent the spread of disease. In view, therefore, of the Report of the Departmental Committee and of the advice of the experts at the Ministry of Agriculture we have very good reasons for saying that we must have far stronger arguments put forward before we can introduce legislation to repeal what Parliament assented to only two months ago. The noble Marquess hinted that there was some promise given that Southern Ireland would be consulted on this question. I have searched the files carefully and I can find nothing to indicate any promise of that kind. All I 130 can find is some correspondence in which it is stated that the Ministry of Agriculture was strongly of opinion that this restriction at the point of destination was a regulation that ought to be maintained. If the noble Marquess wishes Papers to be produced we shall not decline, of course, to issue any of the correspondence which has taken place with the Free State Government or the Government of Northern Ireland on this matter.
§ THE EARL OF ANCASTER
It is still running in the noble Viscount's mind that this was put on because of the Canadian—
§ VISCOUNT LONG OF WRAXALL
I must interrupt the noble Earl. I never said so. What I did was to refer to the quotation made by the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry. If the noble Earl finds fault with the statement as to the arrangement made he must deal with his own Attorney-General, not with me.
§ THE EARL OF ANCASTER
I can only repeat that this restriction was not imposed on account of any arrangement with the Canadian Government. It already existed, and I hope it is an arrangement which His Majesty's Government will continue for many years to come.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LINCOLNSHIRE
My Lords, does not this debate show the difficulty and danger of compromise? The noble Viscount, Lord Long of Wraxall, is a past-master in the art of compromise. We are in the same position as the Whaddon Chase Hunt would have been if the proposed compromise had been accepted. The whole nation gave a pledge that a certain thing should be done; and it ought to have been done. The noble Viscount now gets up and proposes a, compromise. If the pledge had been carried out, Canadian cattle would have been brought free into this country. There are a great many people who think that this would have been of great benefit to tenant farmers; some people do not think so, but others undoubtedly do. If they had been brought in free, there never would have arisen this difficulty which the noble Marquess has brought forward. 131 Ireland, for good or evil, is now a Colony, and if, therefore, Canadan cattle had been brought in free, in accordance with the old pledge of the Coalition Government, Irish cattle also would have been brought in free, there would have been no necessity for this debate, and the noble Marquess would have had no need to bring forward this grievance, which I am bound to say he has argued with great force and great ability.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
My Lords, I greatly regret having heard the very unsympathetic reply which came from the noble Earl who sits on the front bench. I do not feel that there is any necessity for me to argue the connection between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. I would only say, when it is proposed that Irish cattle should be penalised, that exactly the same argument applies to Scottish cattle; and when we are told that Scottish cattle can frequent English markets without any danger of spreading infection, the same argument applies precisely to Irish cattle. I feel that I should be wanting in my duty to those whom I represent in Northern Ireland if I did not ask your Lordships to go to a Division.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY)
My Lords, I am sorry to hear that my noble friend proposes to go to a Division. Of course, that must be for him to decide. For my part I should like to tell him that I listened to his speech, as I always listen to his speeches, with the greatest sympathy. I thought as I listened to him how very fortunate Ireland is in having in the noble Marquess so able and so courteous a champion. In most of what he said—though I must admit that this does not apply to his conclusion—he commanded my full sympathy and the full sympathy of His Majesty's Government. There is no doubt whatever that we are confronted with a very considerable difficulty. None of us dispute for a moment the prima facie right of Northern Ireland to be treated as an integral part of the United Kingdom. We admit that it is; it is the very essence of the principle upon which we stand and the position which we occupy as a Government at this moment. 132 But it is not a question of the rights of Ulster. The whole thing is a practical point and turns upon practical difficulties.
I do not intend to detain your Lordships long this afternoon, but there was, if I may say so, a very marked change in the line which my noble friend opposite took to-night as compared with the line which was taken by noble friends of his when this matter was first under your Lordships' consideration. On the last occasion, the whole stress of the argument was upon the undoubted rights of Northern Ireland as a part of the United Kingdom. It was asked what right we had to treat Ulster on a different footing from England or Scotland. To that query there is no answer. If it were a mere question of the rights of Northern Ireland, and there were no practical difficulties, there could be no answer. But this afternoon my noble friend was evidently conscious that he could not, for practical reasons, separate Northern Ireland altogether from Southern Ireland, and so he argued, as he had every right to argue, that we were under an obligation in this respect to Southern Ireland also.
I am not speaking for a moment as to the methods which were employed by the late Government in order to carry out their policy. I am not familiar with their methods, and certainly it is no business of mine to defend them. It may very well be that there was a want of consideration on the part of the late Government in not consulting the Government of Southern Ireland as well as in not consulting the Government of Northern Ireland. But I knew nothing about that. When we look at the practical result, however, I am quite sure that not one of your Lordships will say that in the present condition of Southern Ireland it would be possible to come to an arrangement for the proper protection of England against the introduction of cattle disease simply upon the authority of the Government of Southern Ireland. They have no control of Southern Ireland at all. The noble Marquess would, of course, be the first to admit cordially that there are no means whatever of coming to an arrangement with Southern Ireland at this moment. The thing is out of the question, and only requires to be stated to show its absurdity.
133 What inference do we draw from this? It the demand of my noble friend is to be carried out, there must be an efficient land sanitary frontier between Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland. We must be able, that is to say, to treat Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland on a totally different footing, and there must be some means of preventing the distinction being an empty one on account of an inefficient sanitary frontier between the two. Is that possible? I do not pronounce any opinion, for I have no knowledge of the intricacies of the geographical situation in Ireland, nor, indeed, a very close knowledge of the actual political situation in all its details. It was clear, however, that my noble friend Lord Long had himself great doubts whether it were possible. No one could have listened to his speech without realising that it was very doubtful whether it were possible to have an efficient sanitary frontier. This is quite distinct from the question of Canada. The difficulty must remain until we are certain and satisfied that there can be an efficient sanitary frontier between Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland. It is perfectly clear that the Ministry of Agriculture would undertake a most grave responsibility if they removed the protection which they are advised is necessary to the herds in England.
I need not remind your Lordships, for most of you know a great deal better than I do, what a very heavy responsibility rests upon the Ministry of Agriculture in this matter. Our herds in England are of the greatest value, and the extent of the loss, to say nothing of inconvenience, which would be involved by outbreaks of cattle disease in this country is a very formidable matter. When we consider how depressed is the great industry of agriculture at this moment, none of us for a moment could contemplate such a misfortune without the very gravest misgivings. I need not refer to the Report of the Departmental Committee which was mentioned by my noble friend opposite and quoted by another noble Lord. But it is really self-evident that the responsibility is of the gravest kind. If it he true that a sanitary frontier between Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland is very difficult to main- 134 tain, and if it be true that no reliance whatever can be placed upon the Government of Southern Ireland, it follows that, at any rate for the present, there is no case for any change of policy.
The Canadian difficulty is different. That difficulty, in the opinion of my noble friend Lord Long, is susceptible of adjust-merit, and no one in your Lordships' House can speak with greater authority upon such a point than the noble Viscount. It may be that it is capable of adjustment, and, if it be so, that, of course, is a matter which must hereafter be considered when it comes up. For the present, I venture to point out, that it is unquestionable that nothing can be clone. The matter is not pressing, because until Southern Ireland is a little more peaceful the difficulty appears to be insuperable.
I can only repeat what I said on the previous occasion, that we are profoundly sympathetic with Ulster in all its interests and all its desires, and in so far as the safety of our herds will permit it we shall be only too anxious to do all that we can to accept what is dictated by the wishes of Ulster. But, may I repeat, I make no pledge whatever on the part of the Government. The Government must remain in this matter absolutely unpledged. If and when circumstances alter, then we shall, of course, find it our duty to consider the situation in the light of the changed circumstances. In the meantime I can only appeal to my noble friend not to put us to the trouble of a Division, which would give the impression that we were opposed either by conviction or sentiment to the wishes of Ulster.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
listened very carefully to the noble Marquess who asked the Question and I did not hear him move for Papers. Therefore I put no Question to the House. If he desires to move perhaps he will say what Papers he requires.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I thank the noble Marquess for his speech. The speech of the noble Earl held out no hope, but that of the noble. Marquess does hold out hope.
§ House adjourned at twenty minutes past five o'clock.