HL Deb 01 December 1932 vol 86 cc196-9

LORD STRACHIE had given Notice that he would ask the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture what steps the Minister is taking to provide for inspection of Canadian cattle imported under Section 8 of the Ottawa Agreements Act; and move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have put down this Question to the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture in consequence of what has happened under Section 8 of the Ottawa Agreements Act. Up till the passing of that Act these Canadian cattle could be imported into this country only under certain conditions. They had to be imported either for slaughter or to be sterilised, so that there should be no interference with breeding in this country. As the noble Earl no doubt is aware, strong feeling was expressed some years ago at Canadian cattle being allowed to be imported into this country without being slaughtered, and the breeding societies and the Council of the Royal Agricultural Society got a promise which meant that in the future there would be no danger from inferior cattle being brought into this country. The position has now been entirely reversed by the Ottawa Agreements Act, which practically repeals the former Act as regards only sterilised cattle coming in, and allows cattle to come in whether they are suitable or unsuitable for breeding purposes.

The only safeguard under this particular section is that the Minister of Agriculture for the time being may, if he is of opinion they are unsuitable for breeding purpose, order them to be slaughtered. But there is no compulsion that he must do that. It is merely his own opinion, and that means, not the opinion of the Minister probably, but the opinion of his officials, though, of course, he can exercise his opinion whatever his officials may say. The probability, however, is that most Ministers will act upon the advice of their experts. As far as I am aware, the only inspection that takes place of cattle coming into this country is to see whether they need not be sterilised and whether they are free from foot-and-mouth disease. I think the noble Earl will agree that, although the veterinary surgeons are very able men as regards that particular matter, they are not exactly the men who ought to give the Minister advice as to whether the cattle which will now be imported under Section 8 are suitable for breeding purposes or not, and whether they ought to be slaughtered when they come in.

Therefore I think it is very desirable we should know what the Minister in tends to do under this particular section, and what provisions he is going to make in regard to this matter. I hope the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, if he is unable to give me a direct answer, will tell me that some notice will be given in order that we may know what the Minister intends to do, and how he is going to see that Section 8 of the Ottawa Agreements Act is carried out so that the desire of the great agricultural societies and the breeding societies may be met, and animals unsuitable for breeding purposes are not brought into this country.


My Lords, the noble Lord has asked me if I could tell him what steps the Minister is going to take to provide for the inspection of Canadian cattle coming into this country in order to ensure that the country is not flooded by breeding cattle of inferior quality. I hope he will believe me when I say that the Minister is just as anxious on this point as is he, and that we intend to take every step that is possible. I think I shall be able to satisfy the noble Lord by telling him the steps we intend to take ensure that only breeding cattle of good quality are admitted from Canada into this country. Before telling him of the actual steps we are going to take, perhaps I may make it clear to your Lordships that at the present moment this provision of the Ottawa Agreements Act is not in force. It was a bilateral agreement passed on the understanding that Canada would recognise our London quarantine station, and allow imports into Canada of our pedigree stock during periods even when the United Kingdom is not entirely free from foot-and-mouth disease. It is intended, therefore, that the undertaking of Canada to this country and the undertaking of this country to Canada shall be put into force on the same date, and arrangements will shortly, I hope, be concluded for both undertakings to be put into force.

As regards the actual steps that the Minister intends to take, I think I can satisfy the noble Lord very briefly. He evidently has a fear in his mind that we shall use the existing machinery for the inspection of Canadian cattle, which, as we all know, needs greater veterinary knowledge than knowledge of the qualities required for breeding stock. I can assure him that we do not intend to use that machinery, but to use the machinery that is already at the disposal of the Ministry of Agriculture; that is, our live-stock officers, who, I think he will admit, are first class men in judging stock. Indeed, it is really their present job. For the time being we do not expect very great numbers of cattle to be coming into this country, and if we are justified in making that estimate of numbers then I can inform your Lordships that it will not he necessary to increase the staff that we already have at our disposal. When they do come they will probably come in comparatively large shiploads and inspection of them will not be a very difficult or a very long task. That is all the information I can give to the noble Lord, but I think it is what he asked for, and I hope it will satisfy him.


My Lords, I am very much obliged to the noble Earl for his answer. I am glad that he appreciates that it will be necessary to have very careful inspection in the future when the agreement comes into force. I was not aware—it is not shown in the section—that it depended a great deal on what Canada may do. May I venture to say that it is desirable, when Canada agrees and inspection comes into force, that some public notice about it should be given so that we may know what is going on? I beg leave to withdraw.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.