§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Viscount Hailsham.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly:
§ [The EARL OF ONSLOW in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2:
§ General preferences for British Empire.
§ 2.—(1) Neither the duties chargeable under the foregoing provisions of this Act nor the general ad valorem duty nor, subject as hereinafter provided, any additional duty shall be charged in the case of goods which are shown to the satisfaction of the Commissioners to have been consigned from any part of the British Empire and grown, produced or manufactured in any country the Government of which is a party to one of the scheduled Agreements for the time being in force:
§ Provided that if at any time the Treasury are satisfied with respect to any such country that an additional duty chargeable on goods of any particular class or description can, without contravention of any of the scheduled Agreements for the time being in 1254 force, be charged on goods of that class or description which are shown as aforesaid to have been consigned from a part of the British Empire and to have been grown, produced or manufactured in that country, the Treasury may by order direct that, as from such date as may be specified in the order, that duty shall be charged on such goods, either at the full rate or at such lower rate as may be so specified.
§ Any order made under this subsection may be varied or revoked by a subsequent order.
VISCOUNT ELIBANK moved, at the end of Clause 2, to insert the following new subsection:
(8) In the case of grain shown to the satisfaction of the Commissioners to have been grown in Canada, the expression 'consigned' shall for the purposes of this Section and of Section five of the Import Duties Act, 1932, be deemed to mean dispatched from Canada and ultimately delivered into the United Kingdom.
The noble Viscount said: I beg to move the Amendment standing on the Paper in my name. In subsection (1) of Clause 2, it will be found that no additional duty shall be charged in the case of goods which are shown to the satisfaction of the Commissioners to have been consigned from any part of the British Empire and grown, or produced, or manufactured, in any country the Government of which is a party to one of the scheduled Agreements. The effect of this clause, if it remains as it stands, will be to create a very difficult and somewhat curious situation so far as Canadian wheat is concerned. As your Lordships know, most of the wheat in Canada is grown and shipped from the prairies in the central parts of Canada. During the summer months the wheat is assembled in elevators in the western part of Canada, and it is transported down the lakes, via Montreal and Quebec, and through the St. Lawrence, by water to this country and to Europe, but towards the end of November these lakes, and also the St. Lawrence, begin to freeze up, and by the beginning of December they are frozen all over, and so Canada is what you might call an ice-locked country.
§ In order to avoid that situation in the late summer months the wheat which has been assembled in the Canadian elevators is placed on board lake steamers and is transported across the lake to certain ports on the American side, the principal port for that purpose being Buffalo. Those steamers arrive at Buffalo and they 1255 off-load their grain into elevators which contain bonded stores. They do not off-load their grain all at once because these elevators would not be large enough to contain all that grain, but the grain placed in the elevators is taken out of the bonded store, is then transferred in bond to train, and sent down to the United States Atlantic ports, where it is picked up by British steamers which have gone over with passenger freights in the winter and carry this grain back to this country and to Europe at very low freights indeed. As the elevators at Buffalo are depleted the grain steamers which have been lying round the elevators go alongside them, the ice having been broken up for the purpose, and discharge further supplies of grain into the elevators; and so you have a constant succession of grain from steamer to elevator, elevator to train, and so on down to the coast, and on to here.
§ What is the alternative to that? The alternative is for the grain to be taken during those winter months from the elevators in these Western parts of Canada and carried overland to St. John, New Brunswick, or to Halifax—a very long train haulage indeed, and one which, according to the grain dealers in this country and in the Western States, is a prohibitive one. This clause as it stands to-day will mean that there will be two classes of grain upon the Liverpool Corn Exchange. There will be grain which comes out from Montreal, Quebec, St. John, and Halifax, which will receive the 2s. preferential duty, and therefore come in free of charge in that respect; on the other hand, there will be a large amount of grain which will necessarily, owing to the climatic conditions which I have described, have to come through these American ports, Buffalo and so on, and will arrive in this country—exactly the same grain, but subject to a 2s. duty. Consequently, in Liverpool you will have your American-borne Canadian grain costing you 2s. more than your Canadian-borne Canadian grain of exactly the same type.
§ There is another point and that is the question of what is called the "futures" market. That is a very delicate market indeed, and has to be treated with great circumspection. There are some people who say that the markets would be very much better if there were no "futures" 1256 market at all. As it happens, about eight or ten weeks ago, when I was in Canada, there came into my hands a Report of a Commission or Committee which had been appointed by the Canadian Government (or perhaps by one of the Provincial Governments of Canada) reporting upon the whole situation of "futures" from the point of view of gambling, and from the point of view of the advantages or disadvantages it caused to the trade as a whole. The conclusions come to by this Committee were very interesting, because the Committee summed up by stating that, taking it all in all, "futures" was an exceedingly useful institution in the grain market, and, instead of having an unsteadying, it had a steadying influence on the world market price generally. By the action, or rather inaction, of this clause this question of "futures" is going to be considerably affected. I believe that this whole question is one of some difficulty. I know the Government must find it difficult to decide what they ought to do about it. So far as Canada is concerned, I think perhaps it has become almost a question of principle as to whether all grain grown in Canada which is to be subject to the preferential duty should pass out through Canadian ports, or whether it should be allowed to pass out of American ports.
§ So far as this country is concerned, and I believe we have to regard the matter from this country's point of view when we are considering this Bill to-day, I think it is a question of procedure rather than principle. What we have told the Canadian Government is that we will grant them a preference of 2s. on all Canadian wheat which arrives in this country, and therefore if the Customs authority can satisfy themselves in any way that the wheat arriving here is Canadian grain, then, I think, as a matter of procedure, as a matter of carrying out the obligations of the Agreement, we ought to make such provisions as will enable that wheat to obtain the 2s. preferential duty. There is another subsection in this clause which deals with the port of Beira as affecting the goods coming from the Rhodesias and Nyasaland. Under that subsection goods are actually re-consigned from the port of Beira under bond as is suggested in this other case; but the chances of those goods 1257 being changed are in my opinion even greater than might be the chances in the case which I am quoting, and if it is possible, as is done under this clause, to have Customs officers in the service of the Governments of Southern and Northern Rhodesia or New Zealand signing certificates that the particular produce going through Beira has been grown and produced in those particular countries, I submit it is just as easy to have Customs officers belonging to the Canadian Government located in the American ports and signing certificates that this Canadian wheat is the produce of Canada.
§ There is one other point I wish to make before moving this Amendment, and that relates to British shipping. British shipping is going through very serious difficulties; indeed there is no shipping in the world which has such difficulties to contend with. The shipping of certain other countries is subsidised by their Governments, whilst our shipping has to fight its way through unaided and unsubsidised. At present British ships which ply between Great Britain, Europe and the United States ports in winter carry a very light passenger traffic, and consequently they have been accustomed for many years since this Canadian wheat trade has grown up, to become dependent in winter upon the transport of this grain from these Atlantic ports back to Europe to help them through the difficult winter period. If this measure is allowed to pass as it is to-day that shipping will be very seriously injured. In another place one of the Members for the City of London, Mr. E. C. Grenfell, has put the case of shipping in regard to a similar Amendment, which was moved in another place, in the most eloquent and feeling terms, and I think that he made a case which was very largely unanswerable. Those are the points which I wish to lay before your Lordships in moving this Amendment. I know that the Government have a difficulty in considering this Amendment, but I hope they will not regard it as an Amendment in principle but as an Amendment in procedure in order to confirm a principle which has been embodied in the Ottawa Agreement. I beg to move.
Page 6, line 16, at end insert the said new subsection.—(Viscount Elibank.)
§ LORD SELSDON
This is almost the first occasion I can remember when I have taken a different view of a material question from my noble friend who sits near me, but I desire to ask your Lordships to attend to a few considerations which I think may move you to disregard what I would venture to describe as a very attractive piece of special pleading which the noble Viscount has just addressed to your Lordships' House. I call it special pleading because it really is special pleading. The general rule about the application of preference has been perfectly well known and well understood through a long series of years. I remember when I was at the Board of Trade we were constantly having cases in which it came up. The general rule has always been that, in having regard to the application of preference to any consignment, you must have regard in the first place to the domicile of the bill of lading (the origin of the bill of lading), and preference has always been applied—I think this is strictly true—only to goods shipped on a through bill of lading, with the particular exception which is referred to in this subsection—that is to say, the case of Northern and Southern Rhodesia, which in fact have no ports of their own and have their outlet for trade by way of Beira. Therefore the rule has always been that preference should attach to goods only when they are consigned to a through bill of lading.
Your Lordships will appreciate the importance of adhering as far as possible to that rule. The moment you begin to make exceptions and variations you land yourselves into difficulties. My noble friend ought to make out a, very strong case indeed before he induces you to depart from what has been hitherto the general rule. Has he made out in fact such a case? His case is that he is extremely anxious as to the dislocation in the normal grain trade which may be caused by the abandonment or the partial abandonment of the storage and shipment of Canadian grain by way of United States ports. I know the difficulty well; I have known it for many years. I do not attempt to suggest to my noble friend that he should do anything so unprofitable as to look at old speeches of mine; indeed it is unprofitable to look at one's old speeches; but if he refers to the OFFICIAL REPORT of February 19, 1907 1259 —twenty-five years ago—he will find a speech of mine on this subject directed to precisely this difficulty. The point on which that difficulty then arose was at the head of the great lakes, and was directed to the traffic through Port Arthur and Fort William on the one hand and Duluth on the other.
Of course there will be a certain amount of dislocation, just how much it is difficult to say, but the dislocation will not be as large, I think, as your Lordships might have understood from what my noble friend said. It has always been difficult exactly to identify how much grain which has been shipped out of United States ports is, in fact, Canadian grain, but the latest figures, which your Lordships will find in the Canadian Year Book for this year, relate to 1931. It there appears that there were shipped from Canada to the United States for consumption in the United States 7,300,000 bushels. There were shipped from Canada to the United Kingdom via United States ports, 43,452,000 bushels, and there were shipped to the United Kingdom via Canadian ports, 105,007,000 bushels. It is clear therefore that it is only a minor portion of the total shipments from Canada to the United Kingdom which would in any event be subject to dislocation under this clause. When I say that the practice would be subject to dislocation, it is only fair to add that there have been in the past, more than once, some strong and bitter complaints as to the delay which has taken place in the shipment of Canadian grain when travelling via United States railways and United States ports. I think I am also right in saying—the noble Viscount will know if I am right or wrong—that there have in the past been some complaints from the Canadian Government, and some suggestion that in the process of shipment from the American elevators there has been some mixing of American wheat with Canadian wheat.
My noble friend says there are going to be two kinds of wheat dealt with in the Liverpool market in future, the wheat which comes direct via Canadian ports and the wheat which comes via American ports. He says some must necessarily come via United States ports. I am not by any means convinced of the necessity of that, and those who are in a much better position than I am to know are not 1260 convinced of the necessity either. I am told on the highest authority that the Canadian railways can handle all the Canadian grain for the United Kingdom ports without resort to United States ports during the winter months. According to the figures given to me the total Canadian crop this year is estimated at 430,000,000 bushels and there were actually moving, according to last week's figures, about 230,000,000 bushels. The total elevator storage capacity in Canada is something like 414,000,000 bushels, so that the total elevator storage capacity in Canada is very nearly equal to the whole of this year's Canadian crop.
You may say, of course, that that does not really affect this question and that what matters is the elevator storage capacity at points from which this particular wheat may be wanted to move in the winter. Therefore I would ask you to consider some further figures which relate to the elevator storage capacity in Lower Canada. I have obtained them during the week-end from the highest possible authority I could consult in the matter, and I think your Lordships may take them as being correct. At the head of the Great Lakes, that is to say, at Fort William and Port Arthur—Fort William being on the Canadian Pacific Railway and Port Arthur being on the Canadian National Railway—there is elevator storage capacity for 92,847,000 bushels. Then, coming down the St. Lawrence waterway, there is elevator storage capacity for 46,625,000 bushels, all at points of contact with the Canadian railways. Further down still, at Montreal, there is elevator storage capacity for 16,312,000 bushels. At other points further down the St. Lawrence there is storage for 6,000,000 bushels. Finally, when you come to the terminal ports, there is elevator storage capacity at St. John for 1,500,000 bushels and at Halifax for 2,000,000. That makes a total elevator storage capacity in Lower Canada of 165,284,000 bushels, or two-fifths of the whole of this year's crop.
Therefore I say to your Lordships that if you consider these figures you will see, at all events prima facie, the strongest justification for the statement I made just now—and which, as I said, I made on the highest authority I could get—that the Canadian railways can handle all Canadian wheat sent to the United 1261 Kingdom this winter without having to resort to United States ports. That being so, the special case which my noble friend has asked you to accept falls, and you are driven back on the general rule to which I submit we ought to adhere—that is, that preference should only attach to consignments shipped on through bills of lading.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My noble friend Lord Selsdon has put the case against this Amendment very powerfully, but I want to add a few words on behalf of His Majesty's Government because I am sorry to have to say to my noble friend Viscount Elibank that it is quite impossible for the Government to accept this proposal. In the first place, as my noble friend Lord Selsdon has pointed out, ever since there has been a provision as to imperial Preference it has been a cardinal feature of that preference that the goods which are the subject of the preference are to be consigned direct from the British Empire to the United Kingdom. Incidentally, a similar provision exists in respect of the preference which is granted to this country by Canada, by which Canada provides that in order to have the benefit of the preference United Kingdom goods must be sent direct from a British port, and unless that condition is fulfilled the preference is lost. We are now asked to make a very big breach in that universal rule.
May I interrupt the noble and learned Viscount for a moment? I have already pointed out that in one subsection of this Bill you have made a very big breach—in the case of Beira for goods from Rhodesia and Nyasaland.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
I had not forgotten that, and I was coining to it presently. Unfortunately it was necessary to make an exception there for a reason which is not applicable to Canada. Secondly, as my noble friend Lord Selsdon said, there is no evidence that there is any such necessity for this Amendment as my noble friend Viscount Elibank would have you believe. My noble friend Lord Selsdon quoted American figures. It is not possible to be quite certain of the exact quantity of Canadian wheat which reaches this country on re-consignment. The fact that it is extraordinarily difficult to get 1262 those figures is one reason why I should be very reluctant in any event to accept this Amendment, because it would impose upon the Customs a very grave burden if they had to find out these facts. But assuming that the declarations made by importers are to be relied upon, we find that last year, in 1931, of the Canadian wheat imported into this country directly or indirectly more than 90 per cent. was sent direct. Therefore less than 10 per cent. would be affected by the proposal of my noble friend Viscount Elibank, which would be about 2 per cent. of the total wheat imported into this country. With regard to that, as my noble friend Lord Selsdon pointed out, it seems pretty clear that there is ample storage accommodation available in Canada, and, of course, there is also very considerable storage accommodation available in England. As far as the Government are concerned we would very much prefer that the storage accommodation available in Canada and in the United Kingdom should be used for this wheat to the advantage of the people of Great Britain and Canada, rather than that it should go to the benefit of our American friends in Buffalo.
Then my noble friend suggested that it was a very expensive thing to send wheat by St. John and Halifax. But in fact a very considerable quantity does go that way at this moment, and in addition to the trade at those two ports there is nowadays a very considerable trade which saves the long railway haul and takes the much shorter railway haul to Vancouver, and goes out by the Pacific coast and round through the Canal. That is a very good route from the point of view of British shipping, for which my noble friend is so anxious, and it is at present a means of exit which is being used in a large and increasing measure by Canadian wheat. Your Lordships will appreciate that Vancouver is only about twenty-four hours from some of the great wheat Provinces of Canada, whereas the east coast is perhaps four times as far away and even Buffalo is three times as far away.
My noble friend Viscount Elibank cited the case of Beira, and he said that there you had an analogy. There is really no analogy. Let me remind your Lordships that Nyasaland and North and South Rhodesia are landlocked. They 1263 have no means of access to the sea. They have no ports of their own. The only port through which there are reasonable facilities is the Port of Beira. Accordingly arrangements were made long since, and are now operative, under which the Portuguese Government—no doubt to their own advantage because it encourages trade—allow a Rhodesian Customs administration to be set up in Beira, and it is not a case, as my noble friend seemed to think, of our establishing such a Customs for the purpose of this clause, which indeed we have no power to do. There is an arrangement with Portugal by which the Rhodesians keep a Customs staff in Beira and all we have had to do is to arrange that a member of that staff shall certify as to the origin of the Rhodesian produce. There was no alternative, because there is no storage accommodation anywhere else and no other practicable means of getting this produce out of Central Africa.
My noble friend says: "Oh, but Canada could do the same at Buffalo." At any rate they have not done it and I do not think it would be so easy to persuade the United States to allow a foreign country to set up a Customs administration in their territory to facilitate the foreign country gaining an advantage for their produce over the produce of the United States when it got over here. I think there might be great difficulties. At any rate they have not been overcome at present, there is no such arrangement in existence, and it is not in our power to make any such arrangement. Therefore the analogy of Beira is not a true analogy.
Finally, it would be a matter in regard to which, in Canada, there is very great difference of opinion. There are those who would like the relaxation for which my noble friend asks and equally those who would strongly oppose it, and there has been no suggestion from the Canadian Government that they desire any such amendment. Mr. Bennett explained the position in the Canadian Parliament and gave no intimation that he desired any alteration. It is not true to say that without this subsection all wheat that goes from Canada loses the preference if it passes through the United States. That is not the position. Canadian wheat can be shipped to this country through the United States and still main- 1264 tain a preference provided it is sent off on a through consignment from Canada. I am sorry to have taken up so much of your Lordships' time, but the Amendment is of some little importance and, in the view of the Government, it is quite impossible to accept it. I am afraid I must ask my noble friend not to press it or else ask your Lordships to reject it.
If I may be allowed the courtesy of a few words before withdrawing my Amendment, I would like to say that I am not at all sorry that I raised the subject to-day. As the noble and learned Viscount has said, it is a matter of very great importance and one that I think should have been ventilated in your Lordships' House. It is a question of principle so far as Canada is concerned and we have now learned from the noble and learned Viscount that there is a question of principle involved so far as this country is concerned. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 2 agreed to.
§ Clauses 3 to 6 agreed to.
§ Clause 7:
§ Regulation of importation of certain frozen and chilled meat.
§ 7.—(1) The Board of Trade after consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, may by Order regulate the importation into the United Kingdom of frozen mutton, frozen lamb, frozen beef, and chilled beef, in accordance with the provisions of the Agreements set out in Part II and Part III of the First Schedule to this Act.
§ LORD PHILLIMORE moved, in subsection (1), to substitute "shall" for "may." The noble Lord said: This clause deals with the regulation of the importations of certain meat into the United Kingdom, and I trust that your Lordships' attention and interest are not already glutted with this question as, unfortunately, our meat market is with the meat. As I understand it this Bill contains a series of principles and a certain amount of practical application of those principles. I am certainly not here to quarrel with the principles contained in this Bill. Least of all am I prepared to quarrel with those principles which affect the agriculture of the Dominions and our own agriculture. This 1265 is, therefore, not in my opinion an Amendment, except technically speaking, to the Bill that I am bringing forward, but an enforcement and interpretation of the principles laid down in the Bill. This clause lays down that the Board of Trade may regulate the importation into the United Kingdom of frozen mutton, frozen Iamb, frozen beef and chilled beef, in accordance with provisions contained in the First Schedule. And it goes on to say in the usual phrases that any Order made under this section may contain such provisions as appear to be necessary to the Board of Trade.
If your Lordships turn to the Schedules you will find in Schedule H on page 53 various principles laid down, and paragraph 4 says, in terms:
The policy of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom in relation to meat production is, first, to secure development of home production, and, secondly, to give to the Dominions an expanding share of imports into the United Kingdom.
Well and good. No one from these Benches is likely to quarrel with that policy, and equally no one on these Benches is prepared to quarrel with the application of preference to the Dominions for the export of their agricultural products. But whereas on that head various practical decisions were arrived at at Ottawa and are now in the Bill, analogous provisions for the protection of our own home live-stock industry were not included. I do not say that was unreasonable in view of the circumstances, and I do say that we are infinitely grateful to those who secured the principles which have been laid down; but the effect on our live-stock industry of the Ottawa Agreements as they stand in the Bill has not been to secure the interests of the home producer.
If I may trouble your Lordships with it for a moment, the Agricultural Economics Research Institute at Oxford have published a, résumé of the effects on home agriculture of the Ottawa Agreements, and on this subject they say:
When the second objective is considered—securing the development of home production—the proposals do not bear much promise for British agriculture. Total imported supplies will only be decreased by possibly three per cent.
That is from a very impartial and very well-informed source, and I do not suppose that the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, would be prepared to say that
that was not, approximately at any rate, accurate. Very well; if home production was not, by practical measures, protected by this Agreement, you may well say: "But the Government have in the last week stepped in and filled the gap, and applied practical measures to relieve the home live-stock industry." That I believe to be perfectly true, and I am very grateful to them for it. But if that is the case, then it only confesses that a gap was there, and makes it only the more necessary that the gap should be filled. And whereas we have at the present moment a Government which sympathises with the home live-stock industry and with agriculture in general and is prepared to take the necessary measures, I his Agreement is to stand, we hope, for at least five years and possibly for very much longer, and the Agreement is quite clear as to what is to be done by His Majesty's Government for the Dominions, and quite vague as to what is to be done by His Majesty's Government for the home industry.
If I may take just one case, will your Lordships look at paragraph 5 of Schedule H to the United Kingdom-Australian Agreement, which is in Part II of the First Schedule to the Bill? That paragraph reads:
His Majesty's Government in the Commonwealth of Australia agrees to limit the export of frozen mutton and lamb to the United Kingdom for the year 1933…in consideration of the United Kingdom Government
carrying out the provisions of sub-paragraphs (a), (b) and (c). In other words, we pledge ourselves quite definitely to take the necessary steps to protect Dominion agriculture; we do not pledge ourselves to take the necessary steps to protect home agriculture. It is for that reason that the insertion of the word "shall" for the word "may" should, in my humble opinion, be an Amendment which our own Front Bench might accept, without feeling that anything has been put into the Agreement which either could be considered as being to the detriment of the Dominions or, indeed, as being anything which is not already implicitly contained in the Agreement. I beg to move.
Page 10, line 17, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").—(Lord Phillimore.)
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
I am sorry if I disappoint my noble friend Lord Phillimore, but I am afraid that this Amendment is one which could not possibly be accepted. I am not quite sure, if my noble friend will forgive my saying so, that he has fully appreciated what the exact purpose of Clause 7 of the Bill is. Your Lordships will understand that under an arrangement which was made between this country and Australia and between this country and New Zealand, which is set out in Schedule H on page 53 of the Bill as printed, certain arrangements were made with those two Dominions for limiting the import of meat into this country. We agreed that a consultation should be held as early as possible in the coming year in order to arrive, if we could, at a common scheme of limitation which should ensure a reasonable price both for British homegrown products and also for Dominion products; because your Lordships will appreciate that there is no difference in object between the Dominion producer and the home producer in this matter. The present glut (to use the expression commonly used) of meat has reached such dimensions that no one is able to sell meat at a profit in the British market. That is just as true of the Dominion producer as it is of the home producer. There were actual cases quoted to me when I was in Ottawa in which the Dominion producer got less than nothing for what he had sent here because the cost of sending it and selling it was more than the gross price which he received. Of course you cannot go on like that. Similarly your Lordships, who know the subject of agriculture probably better than any other body in the world, know very well that at present prices the home producer in this country cannot produce at a profit; he cannot sell at the prices which the market at present will give him without losing money; and accordingly the plan is that we shall have a meeting early next year in which we hope to reach some satisfactory scheme which will so limit the supplies reaching the market as to bring prices back to a reasonable level.
Meanwhile, and pending such a meeting, it was urgently necessary to do something to limit foreign importation into this country, which was at any rate gravely accentuating the over-supply from which we are all suffering; and a 1268 scheme was got out, which is set out at the bottom of page 54 of the Bill, under which there was a progressive limitation on the imports from foreign countries, which at the end of the period reaches as much as 35 per cent.—a pretty drastic limitation. My noble friend Lord Phillimore said that the fact that we have since made a wider plan for more drastic reductions showed that there was a gap. In a sense that is true. It showed that the matter has got worse since Ottawa. The position when we met at Ottawa in July, although it was then grave enough, was not nearly as acute as it has since become, and accordingly we have since, as your Lordships know, been able to enter into negotiations, which look like being crowned with success, with foreign countries and with the Dominions, for a far more drastic scheme of regulation in the immediate future than the Agreement provided.
My noble friend Lord Phillimore wants to alter Clause 7, which at present provides that:The Board of Trade.…may by Order regulate the importation into the United Kingdom of frozen mutton, frozen lamb, frozen beef, and chilled beef, in accordance with the provisions of the Agreements set out in Part II and Part III of the First Schedule to this Act.That is, in accordance with the Agreement to which I have just drawn attention. We hope that it will not be necessary to proceed by Order at all. We do not want to have to pass a compulsory Order regulating the importation into the United Kingdom in accordance with the scheme set up at the bottom of page 54 of the Bill as printed. That is the only form of Order which we could make in compliance with this Agreement. If we made any Order different from that, it would not be in accordance with the provisions of the Agreement. But what we hope to do, and what we believe we are doing, is to produce a temporary agreement which is going a great deal further than the Agreement, and therefore the effect of my noble friend's Amendment, though I do not think the intention of it, would be that he would compel the Board of Trade to pass an Order which would limit the importation of these meats into this country to an extent far less than we are able to achieve without an Order. We want the power to make an Order in case there should be any recalcitrant body which refused to come into such a 1269 scheme, but we want, if we can, to regulate supplies by voluntary agreement rather than to regulate imports by compulsory Order. I hope that that will satisfy your Lordships, and perhaps even my noble friend Lord Phillimore, that the Amendment is one which ought not to be pressed.
I will detain your Lordships for not more than two minutes, but I would like to call the attention of the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Hailsham, whilst thanking him for his courtesy, to the fact that Schedule H, which is part of the First Schedule of this Act and is therefore specifically referred to in Clause 7, subsection (1), contains within itself a paragraph which says thatThe policy of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom in relation to meat production is, first, to secure development of home production.…I must confess that it was in my mind—and that is why my other Amendment specifically refers to this point—that in making mandatory the exercise of the powers mentioned in the first clause, I was making mandatory upon His Majesty's Government the carrying out of paragraph 4 of Schedule H, that they should first secure the development of home production. No doubt I am very stupid, but I fail to understand that, even if this were made mandatory on His Majesty's Government, a voluntary arrangement would be in any way detrimental by way of additional support to a mandatory regulation. However, I am so satisfied that the noble and learned Viscount means to attain the objects which we both seek that I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD PHILLIMORE had on the Paper an Amendment to add to subsection (1) "such Order shall in all cases apply the principles laid down in paragraph 4 of Schedule H of Part II of the First Schedule to this Act." The noble Lord said: This is consequential, therefore I do not move it.
§ Clause 7 agreed to.
§ Clause 8:
§ Amendment of law as to importation of Canadian cattle.
§ 8.—(1) The provisions of Section one of the Importation of Animals Act, 1922 1270 (Session 2) (which provides for the landing of Canadian store cattle in Great Britain without being required to be slaughtered) shall apply to all Canadian cattle as they apply to Canadian store cattle, so, however, that the Minister may require any such cattle to be slaughtered within the landing place if, in his opinion, they could be used for breeding and are not suitable for that purpose; and accordingly the provisions of the said Act set out in the first column of Part I of the Third Schedule to this Act shall have effect subject to the amendments set out in the second column of that Part of that Schedule.
§ LORD STRACHIE moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "may" and insert "shall." The noble Lord said: I shall have to go a little into ancient history, but very shortly indeed, as regards this question of the importation of Canadian cattle. Up to 1922 no Canadian cattle could come in, except for the purpose of slaughter. Then there was a great deal of agitation in the Dominion, and they were able to show us that they had a perfectly clean bill of health, and that there was no foot-and-mouth disease there or in America, and that the great Continent was free. The Dominion came to the Government in 1922 and said that as there was no foot-and-mouth disease in America it was unfair that they should be unable to send their store cattle into this country except to be slaughtered. The procedure which was then suggested was adopted, only with certain regulations and provisions, in order that the breeders in this country might be absolutely protected.
§ They were absolutely protected, because in the Bill of 1922 it was provided that no Canadian cattle could be imported unless they were sterilised, so as to be unable to be used for breeding purposes, or any other purpose except as material for the butcher. That was done on the recommendation and advice of, and I suspect after very strong pressure from, the Royal Agricultural Society and all the great breeding societies, which said it was most undesirable that we should have every kind of cattle brought into this country—cattle which was unfit for breeding and, if admitted, would entail very great danger of the quality of our herds being deteriorated. The whole idea in these days is to do everything we can to improve our herds of cattle. We know what has been done in Ireland by premiums, and in the matter of bulls, so that they turn out most admirable cattle, 1271 which used to be brought over and sold in our markets at high prices. The breeding societies were satisfied that at that time they had attained their object.
What is now to happen under this Bill? In that part of Clause 8 to which my Amendment applies it says:
The provisions of Section one of the Importation of Animals Act, 1922 (Session 2) (which provides for the landing of Canadian store cattle in Great Britain without being required to be slaughtered) shall apply to all Canadian cattle as they apply to Canadian store cattle, so, however, that the Minister may require any such cattle to be slaughtered within the landing place if, in his opinion, they could be used for breeding and are not suitable for that purpose.…
All I am asking the Committee to do, and I cannot help thinking it would be unreasonable for the Government not to agree to it, is to substitute "shall" for "may." If it is said the animals "may" be slaughtered if in the opinion of the Minister they are unsuitable for breeding purposes, why should it not be compulsory on the Minister to have them slaughtered? The clause gives an option. Although the Minister considers they are unsuitable for breeding, he may admit them and not order them to be slaughtered. I may be told that the present Minister for Agriculture is the last person in the world to allow cattle unsuitable for breeding purposes to be imported into this country, but it is the way of all Governments to imagine that they are going on for ever. You cannot tell who may be the next Minister. He may be a person who may take the view that there should be no hindrance to the admission of any kind of cattle, and that his great and primary duty is to consider the interests of the Dominions and not those of British breeders.
§ We have already in this Bill had a little taste of that, even with this Government, and to a very large extent agriculturists will be very little considered indeed in this Bill. So much was that so that such pressure was put upon the Government by the agricultural interests in this country that they had to modify the Bill, and to say that they would increase the restrictions. It is therefore clear that the Ottawa Agreements gave too great advantages to the Dominions, to the detriment of the farmers of this country. It is not necessary for me to labour the question whether the farmers 1272 are in a parlous condition or not. That has practically been admitted on all sides. All I am asking is that if the Minister is satisfied that these cattle are unsuitable for breeding purposes, he shall then be obliged to have them slaughtered. It seems to me not unreasonable. Although I understand that the Government intend to oppose this Amendment, I cannot see why they wish to make this clause optional, not only for the present Minister but for all Ministers of the future, who may take an entirely different view from the majority of those who sit on the Government Benches, who I am sure wish to support the view of the Royal Agricultural Society and of the breeders in this country, that we ought not to have any kind of riff-raff cattle sent into this country. I beg to move.
Page 10, line 36, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").—(Lord Strachie.)
I wish to support this Amendment. It is a very important matter and has been very carefully argued by the noble Lord who moved it. I think it is one on which the Government might very well make a small concession to our farmers and stock breeders, who want to be absolutely sure that their herds will be adequately protected not only by this Government but by any other Government. Surely if we do not accept this Amendment we are defeating our own abject. Last year we passed the Improvement of Livestock (Licensing of Bulls) Bill, which operates in Scotland, with the whole object of improving our herds. We have a standing example of what can be done in Ireland, where everyone who is familiar with store cattle knows the enormous strides which have been made in the improvement of cattle. I suggest that this is a very reasonable request, which His Majesty's Government might favourably consider. I know perfectly well that it is more and more the wish of all Governments to centralise authority, so that the Department shall be the judge and not the people who are interested, and I think this clause is merely a concession to bureaucracy, which always wishes to have the whole of the power. This matter is one to which we all wish that consideration should be given by the Government. The Amendment would be regarded as a 1273 very considerable concession to stock breeders in this country, who, after all, do require all the encouragement they can get.
§ LORD ERNLE
I should like, if I may, to add my appeal to that of the two noble Lords who have just spoken. I will not go over their arguments. The arguments are very well known to all persons who are interested in the breeding of cattle. But we have had the greatest difficulty in inducing farmers, often at their own expense, to scrap scrub bulls because they were unsuitable for the purpose of raising the general standard of breeds in this country. They have now loyally accepted the principle, and the work is going forward. I cannot help thinking that if this option is left to allow Canadian cattle to come into this country, practically for breeding purposes, it would be a disaster to the steps which are being taken for the improvement of breeds.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
I could not help thinking as I listened to the speeches, and especially to the closing words of my noble friend Lord Ernle, that there has been a little misconception both as to what the clause does and as to what the Amendment does. The clause does not give an option to Canadian cattle to be brought into this country. My noble friend Lord Lovat seemed to think that the purpose of the clause was to allow bad cattle to come in from Canada for breeding purposes, but that is not the purpose of the clause. May I explain exactly what the clause does and how it came about? I think your Lordships will then realise why the wording which we have is the right wording, and, indeed, is the only possible wording if this Bill is to become law.
What happened is this. As your Lordships know, there was in old days an absolute prohibition on Canadian cattle coming into this country except when they were slaughtered at the port of arrival. That was bitterly resented by Canadians, who regarded it as being an undeserved slur upon the quality of Canadian cattle. A Commission was set up to investigate how far it was true that there was any real risk to the herds of this country if Canadian cattle were allowed to come in. That Commission reported in 1921, and said that there was no risk, and, in fact, such information 1274 as we have been able to get from careful investigation and inquiry seems to show that the herds of the Dominion of Canada at this moment—as they certainly have for some years past—enjoy a greater freedom from disease, especially the more dangerous diseases, such as rinderpest, foot-and-mouth disease, pleuro-pneumonia, than those of any other country in the world.
That being so, in 1922 an Act was passed which allowed Canadian store cattle to come into this country, but did not allow any breeding cattle to come into this country. They had to be only store cattle and incapable of being used for breeding purposes before they were allowed into the United Kingdom. That provision has operated for the last ten years, and, so far as disease is concerned, nobody has suggested that Canadian cattle have been introducing disease into the United Kingdom. The Canadians say—and I can at least understand their saying it—that it is a very undeserved imputation upon Canadian cattle that, whereas cattle from other parts of the world, notably from Ireland—I admit, of course, not at present, owing to the temporary arrangement arising out of the dispute over the Land Annuities—were allowed to come in for breeding purposes, you did not allow any cattle to come in from Canada except with these special precautions.
Accordingly, they made a great point of asking us to make the concession of putting the Canadian cattle on the same footing as Irish. On the other hand, we stipulated that if we were to do that we should get certain advantages with regard to the importation of our pedigree cattle into Canada, which our stock breeders on their side regarded as important for them. An arrangement was made under which we would let Canadian cattle come into this country and be used for breeding if they, for their part, would relax the precautions and restrictions as to the importation of pedigree cattle from this side. But in the course of that discussion—and I venture to think that your Lordships would all of you agree with what we said—we said that if we allow Canadian cattle to come into this country for breeding purposes we must be allowed, if we see fit, to stop any particular animals being sent in for breed- 1275 ing purposes which we do not regard as suitable, because we do not wish the quality of our herds to be lowered by bringing in unsuitable cattle. Accordingly, the Canadians agreed that, if the Minister thought any particular cattle which came in were unsuitable for breeding purposes, we should then be at liberty to order those particular cattle to be slaughtered.
That was the bargain which we made and that is the bargain which is recorded in this clause:The provisions of Section one of the Importation of Animals Act, 1922 (Session 2) (which provides for the landing of Canadian store cattle in Great Britain without being required to be slaughtered) shall apply to all Canadian cattle as they apply to Canadian store cattle,"—that lets them all in—so, however, that the Minister may require any such cattle to be slaughtered within the landing place if, in his opinion, they could be used for breeding and are not suitable for that purpose…That textually reproduces the bargain which we made. Noble Lords say that that in some way is going to lower the quality of our herds because it is only "may require." But if you put in "shall" require you have still gotif, in his opinion"—that is, the Minister's opinion—they could be used for breeding….So that you are in just the same position, because the imaginary Minister of whom the noble Lord, Lord Strachie, is so frightened, who wants the Dominions to be benefited, and who will let any cattle in, will not form the opinion that they are unsuitable for breeding.
Therefore the "shall" is quite useless as a precaution, and I cannot imagine, and I really do not think your Lordships will seriously propose, that any Minister of Agriculture in any Government, whatever his political opinions might be, would come to the conclusion that Dominion cattle of a quality unsuitable for breeding, which would lower the standard of our herds, although he thinks that they are going to lower the standard of our herds, ought still to be let into this country. It is inconceivable that he would come to such a conclusion. The Amendment therefore is unnecessary, because it is inconceivable that a Minister would seek to take so unreasonable an attitude; it is undesirable because it is 1276 inconsistent with the Agreement entered into with Canada; and it really would have no effect except to enable the Canadians to say: "You have not carried out your bargain; this Bill does not carry out the Ottawa Agreement, and we for our part shall not carry out ours and shall not let in your pedigree cattle as we have at present promised to do." I must say that is not a contingency which your Lordships would desire to bring about. For the reasons I have given I do hope that your Lordships will understand that the clause has not got the terrors in it which my noble friend Lord Ernle was inclined to think, and that the Government ought to be supported in maintaining the words as they stand.
§ LORD STRACHIE
By the leave of the House may I say that the noble and learned Viscount did not tell us what are these great benefits which are to be conferred upon pedigree stock? It would be very interesting if we had been told, but I do not think that very much matters. What really matters is this. In plain English, when the Minister is actually satisfied that in his opinion these cattle ought to be slaughtered because they are unsuitable for breeding, why should the Minister have an option not to slaughter them? I put a plain and simple question to the Leader of the House; he has never given any answer to that except to say: "You can always trust not only the present Minister"— I agree with that—"but all Ministers." I would ask whether he would be quite content in the future to trust all Ministers in all questions, because it really comes to that.
I can assure him there is a very strong feeling that we may have Ministers who would consider the Dominions first. We know very well that when it is a case of feeding our Army with British beef the Minister of Agriculture is repudiated. I have good reason to believe that that was because the Dominions Minister was regarded as much more important than the Minister for Agriculture. The former objected to it on behalf of the Dominions and therefore it was turned down. I believe that so far as the Ministry of Agriculture is concerned it would be forcing an open door, but when you have a much more powerful Minister, supported by a Cabinet, stating that in the 1277 interests of the Dominions we should not feed our Army with British beef, even for six months of the year, then it is not done. You may also have a weak Minster who would have pressure put upon him from outside. The answer given by the noble Viscount is unsatisfactory. If you say the Minister will always slaughter, why should you not say that he must do so, and that he should have no option? I will adhere to my Amendment and divide the Committee upon it.
May I say without disrespect that we have not up to the present moment regarded "shall" and "may" as interchangeable terms? Those who were members of the Advisory Committee on Agriculture fully discussed this matter, and had all the facts put before them. We were told that what the Canadian Government objected to was, as has been pointed out, a differentiation between Ireland and Canada. When cattle came over from Canada, on account of the risk of disease and not because of the quality of the cattle, they had to be accompanied the whole way by a veterinary surgeon, and go through all sorts of formalities. I am sure all who know anything about the breeding of cattle in Canada know that they are free from tuberculosis, that as a class they are immune from that disease; but whether they are good cattle for breeding is a quite different matter. They are big, raw-boned cattle, and we do not want them in this country where we are doing our best to improve our breed of cattle.
In the matter of not having a veterinary surgeon on board I think we ought to meet the Canadians in every way. The only question is whether these cattle are desirable for breeding or not. The noble Lord opposite knows, everyone must know, that the Minister for Agriculture does not inspect these cattle. He has various inspectors at the port of entry, and it is on the report of those inspectors that he decides whether the cattle shall be admitted or not. If the word "shall" is used, when he gets a report from his recognised inspectors it will then be his duty to stop the cattle from coming in. There will be no question of his exercising his discretion. It is the man on the spot who gives a definite report who really decides the matter. I submit that the noble Lord 1278 should give way on the question of risk. It is only on the question of suitability for breeding that it seems a backward step to let in inferior cattle.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
I do not want to make another speech. I have made my answer, or tried to do so. The noble Lord, Lord Strachie, made a suggestion, which I must deal with, in regard to British beef for the Forces. It has nothing to do with the argument, but I should like to assure him that he is entirely misinformed. As the Secretary of State for War I know why British beef was not supplied to the Forces, and if and when it becomes relevant I shall explain why. It was not owing to any pressure of any kind from the Dominions. I should like to make that clear. The reason I cannot agree to this Amendment is that, rightly or wrongly, we have made a bargain which we believe protects the British agriculturist. Your Lordships will appreciate that if the Minister forms an opinion to exercise the power he is given, he may require the cattle to be slaughtered so as to keep up the standard. To go further than that is to do something which we did not ask the Canadians to agree to, and therefore is not in accordance with the bargain made at Ottawa. If we are wrong I am sorry, but I do not think we are. We could not possibly accept this Amendment because it would be departing from the Ottawa Agreements, which, after all, are the very things that we are asking the House to carry out.
§ LORD STRACHIE
May I add one word? The noble Viscount the Leader of the House talks about a bargain. Does he mean to say the bargain with Canada was that, though the Minister may be quite satisfied these animals are unsuitable for breeding and ought to be slaughtered, he should have the option not to slaughter them? I cannot believe the Canadian Government would be so unreasonable as to say it was not right that there should be an obligation on the Minister in this country to slaughter cattle which in his opinion were unsuitable for breeding purposes. It seems an extraordinary statement that a bargain was made of that kind. I cannot believe it, and if we had the Canadians here I think that they would voluntarily agree to this alteration as they have voluntarily agreed to other alterations asked for by agriculturists.
§ On Question, Whether the word "may" shall stand part of the clause?
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ Clause 8 agreed to.
§ Remaining clauses agreed to.
§ Schedules agreed to.
§ Bill reported without amendment.