§ * THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE (Mr. WALTER LONG,) Liverpool, West Derby
moved the Third Reading of this Bill.
§ MR. JAMES STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the question to add the words "upon this day three months." He said that there was a characteristic of this Bill for which he desired to oppose it. The Bill transferred a power from the House of Commons to the House of Lords. At present the position was this. The Board of Agriculture, if they saw fit, might permit the importation of cattle from countries which they were satisfied were free from disease. That position had existed for a number of years and as the President of the Board sat in the House of Commons, the control of the administration of the Department was in the hands of the House of Commons, and consequently the question of the admission of foreign cattle was practically now in the hands of the House of Commons. He did not think the House of Commons had exercised its control in such an improper or unsuitable manner that it should be deprived of it, but it was now proposed to abolish by Act of Parliament the power of the Board of Agriculture and the control of the House of Commons and not a single head of foreign cattle could be admitted after the passing of this Bill, unless the Act was repealed. The consent of the House of Lords would have to be obtained to the repeal of the Act, and hence foreign cattle could never again be admitted without the consent of the House of Lords. This was a type of Measure which was becoming much too common. It was a type which was characteristic of many of the Measures introduced by the present 1613 Government and by the last Conservative Government. It was necessary to look at the Bill as part of a system whereby powers were being transferred from the House of Commons to the House of Lords. Take the Bill in whose obsequies they had just been engaged. That Measure proposed, among other things, to transfer the control of the taxes from the House of Commons to the House of Lords, because it was enacted that no more money was to be granted for education, and that enactment could not be repealed without the consent of the House of Lords. The Agricultural Rating Bill had exactly the same characteristic. Under that Bill the obligation was imposed upon this House of giving part of the taxes to a certain object. Originally that object was a perpetual object, and although it had since been limited in point of time, it was not on that ground that the Government gave way; and they proposed to make permanent in another form, and at another period the same condition of things. Thus they had three Measures brought forward in the present Session, one limiting the power of the House in giving the taxes, another limiting the power of the House by compelling it to give the taxes, and a third, the Bill now before the House, which took away from the House the power which it now possessed in respect of the admission of foreign cattle, and made it necessary that the House of Lords must consent to the repeal of the Act before such cattle could be admitted into this country. In these circumstances he thought it was time the House should begin to look to the preservation of its own authority. But he could go further, and could trace the rise of this method in their legislation further back. The commencement of the system which culminated in this Bill commenced during the Tory Administration of 1886–92. By the County Councils Act of 1888—an admirable Measure in other respects—a number of grants which had been made by the House of Commons on its own authority, year after year, and whose supervision therefore was in hands of the House, were consolidated into a sum to be given out of the Probate Duty by Act of Parliament, and consequently the power to dispose of that part of the taxes was taken out of the hands of the House, and the power of ceasing 1614 so to dispose of them was placed in the hands of the House of Lords, without whose consent the Act could not be repealed. The Coercion Act of 1887 was the first Measure in which this tendency was manifested. Whereas all previous Acts of the kind were made terminable, that Act was made perpetual, and thus the power to put an end to coercion in Ireland was taken out of the hands of the House of Commons and placed in the hands of the House of Lords. The principle was also to be found in the Act passed by the same Government for increasing the Navy. A certain amount was to be given for increasing the Navy year by year for a long term of years, and that was voted by Act of Parliament, so that money which hitherto had been given by the House of Commons alone was taken out of the control of the House completely for a long period of years. The present was a very definite instance of the transference of powers from the House of Commons to the House of Lords, because there was nothing else in the Bill. The Measure simply said that henceforth, until it was repealed, no cattle should be admitted from foreign countries. At present the President of the Board of Agriculture, acting on the recommendation of his advisers and on his own authority and responsibility to the House of Commons, like all other Ministers, had discretionary power to prohibit the importation of foreign animals; and no sufficient reason had been advanced against that method. This was a case of a Tory Government having got a majority in both Houses, taking the opportunity of settling something which had hitherto been under the control of the House of Commons by Act of Parliament, so that it should be necessary to secure a majority in both places before a reversal or alteration of that policy could take place. That was not a proper position in which to place the House of Commons. It was a very dangerous position, and he hoped the Debate would be the means of calling the attention of the country to this tendency in legislation. They had heard frequently during the past ten years from the present Prime Minister and others of his way of thinking, statements to the effect that the House of Commons was not an adequate or satisfactory representation of the will of the people. 1615 It had even been said that the House of Lords was a better representative than the transient House of Commons of the permanent will of the people; and they had been told that representative institutions were on their trial. They had heard many ominous statements of that kind from members of what he might call the ruling family. That was a serious menace and danger to the House of Commons. In the great Reform Bill of 1832, the point was not really so much the extension of the suffrage and the redistribution of seats as the breaking of the power of the House of Lords over the legislation of this country. From that date down to ten or a dozen years ago the tendency of legislation was to increase rather than diminish the powers of the House of Commons. Now that tendency had been turned, and he had given specific instances of great importance in which, under the regime of the Party now in power, that change had come markedly to the front. Were they going to turn their backs upon themselves? If they were going to remove power from the House of Commons to the House of Lords, let them do it with their eyes open, and let the country see what was being done. It was in order to call attention markedly to the point that he brought forward his Motion for the rejection of the Bill. The Act of 1894 was a consolidating Act, but it was the immediate descendant of the Importation of Foreign Cattle Act of 1878, which in its turn was the immediate descendant of the Act of 1869. Before 1869 this matter had practically escaped the attention of the Legislature, but in 1869 an Act was introduced which left to the Privy Council and the House of Commons the question of the importation of foreign cattle. In 1878 a remarkable thing occurred. A Bill to amend the Act of 1869 was introduced by a Tory Government in the House of Lords. It would have prohibited by Act of Parliament the bringing in of foreign cattle into this country; but while the Bill was going through the House of Lords the administration was left to deal with cattle from Canada and the United States. In the House of Commons, with a Tory majority similar to the present, the Bill was hotly contested, the Opposition being led by Mr. W. E. Forster. Time after time 1616 Mr. Forster pointed out the impropriety and wrong of limiting by Act of Parliament the introduction of foreign cattle into this country. When the Bill was referred to a Select Committee, it was altered into practically the same condition as the law now stood. Was the House of Commons now to so far change its attitude on this question as to pass a Bill which it would not accept in 1878? The only explanation of such action would be that there was a weakening tendency to stand up for the powers and privileges of the House of Commons as opposed to the House of Lords. The policy was not to curtail the powers of the House of Lords, but to prevent the powers of the House of Commons from being curtailed. In his judgment the Leaders of his Party had been slack in opposing the powers of the House of Lords; and he now called on Liberal as well as Conservative Members to support him in his protest. He was not pleading a Radical cause, but he was pleading the cause of the House of Commons and the retention of the powers which it at present possessed. The House ought to be most jealous in allowing any powers to go out of its hands which it at present possessed. He concluded by moving that the Bill be read a Third time that day six months.
§ * MR. FREDERICK CAWLEY (Lancashire, Prestwich)
protested as representing a large working class constituency against this Bill. In his opinion it would not affect the poorer class of meat that was imported, but his constituents wished to eat English meat, and not foreign. They had sufficient knowledge of political economy to know that it was altogether wrong to tax the raw material and let the finished article in free. He objected not only on the ground that the Bill was against the interests of his constituency but of the country as a whole; in fact against the whole body of farming interests. The President of the Board of Agriculture would agree that cattle could be reared cheaper in Canada than this country, and that this country, being the market for all feeding stuffs, could feed cattle more cheaply than foreign countries. By the policy which this Bill would make permanent they would foster a trade which the Colonies could do better than we could at the expense of a trade which we could do better 1617 than they. It was hardly necessary to say that such a policy was against all ideas of political economy, and against all ideas of common sense. The right hon. Gentleman might say he was supported by the opinion of different agricultural societies of this country. He did not wish to cast reflection on Members of the different agricultural societies, but the right hon. Gentleman would admit that a great number of Members of these different societies were not so much agriculturists as pedigree stock breeders. It was a well-known fact that many men of means went into pedigree-stock raising, and allied themselves with agricultural societies more as a hobby and in the same way as some men did with yachting and racing than as agriculturists. He was of opinion that neither the Royal Agricultural Society nor the other agricultural societies quoted were entitled to speak as agriculturists from a rent-paying and living-getting point of view. No adequate reason had been given for taking away an elastic power from the right hon. Gentleman or his successor. In the case of plague, such as visited this country in 1865, they might find that though there were fat pastures there were no cattle to stock them, whilst there might be thousands of lean cattle in the colonies which, owing to this Bill, they would be unable to bring over. He opposed this Bill because it was protective in its character, and against the interests of the working class communities, who wished to consume English-fed meat and not foreign-fed meat; secondly, that it was unjust, and sought to protect one class of farming industry at the expense of another; and, thirdly, that it sought to take away from the Board of Agriculture a power which, in case of possible contingencies, it was eminently desirable that they should possess. He concluded by seconding the Amendment.
§ COLONEL MILWARD (Warwick, Stratford-on-Avon)
said he should not have risen but for the statement of the hon. Member for Shoreditch with regard to the Minister for Agriculture, and asked whether the Committee would not be able to control the Minister in the way the hon. Member thought he ought if he sat in the House of Lords. Was it not more reasonable that the Minister for Agriculture should sit in the House 1618 where almost all were agriculturists, and the Postmaster General sit in this House? There was an entire fallacy underlying the contention of the hon. Member, and it was, besides, quite unconstitutional, because Ministers were responsible to both Houses.
§ * MR. R. J. PRICE (Norfolk, E.)
thought the hon. Member had not appreciated the point. In whichever House the Minister for Agriculture sat, this House held the purse strings, and it was a distinct curtailment of its power to put this question beyond the reach of a discussion by this House on the Estimates. He did not feel justified in allowing the Third Reading to pass without expressing his sense of the great injury it would be to the constituency he had the honour to represent. The opponents of the Bill had been treated in a curt manner by the Government. The Secretary of State for the Colonies had never sat on the Treasury Bench through the whole of these Debates although the question was one in which the Dominion of Canada was most vitally interested. They had had no satisfaction at all out of the Board of Agriculture, they had not got it nor were likely to get it. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to think that the diagnoses of his Veterinary Department were beyond reproach, but the fact was, unless that Department was entirely re-organised, we should be the laughing-stock of all civilised humanity. It was useless to try to prevent the Bill from becoming law. Nevertheless, it was going to be the last straw that breaks the camel's back. He could only indulge the hope that even now there would be those on the opposite side of the House who would speak up and try to prevent this great injustice being done to a certain portion of the agricultural interest. Sooner or later it would be found that as they removed one of the elements of competition, they would heighten prices. Protection was at the root of this Measure, as it was of most of the Measures for agricultural relief proposed by this Government.
§ MR. J. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
heartily endorsed the remarks of his hon. Friend the Member for Shoreditch. His argument was not quite understood by the hon. Gentlemen opposite. Of course the responsibility of the Minister for Agriculture was the same in whichever 1619 House he sat, but this was essentially a question for the House of Commons, because it was a question of administration. It was not a question which ought to be put in a permanent enactment. The Government of the day ought to be watched from time to time, to see that they used the administrative powers entrusted to them in a proper way, and in the general interests of the country. Now, the House of Commons was essentially the guardians of administration, and the reason why it had the financial control and exercised it over the salaries of Ministers was that it was the guardian of the administration of the country. A more superfluous and wanton piece of legislation had never been introduced into this House. What were the facts? During the last few years there had been suspicion of pleuro-pneumonia existing in other countries from which cattle were being imported into this country. Under the existing law the head of the Board of Agriculture had the right to interdict importation in suspected cattle, and that right had been used with the utmost firmness not only by the right hon. Gentleman now the President of the Local Government Board, but also by his hon. Friend now Lord Burghclere, and the House had always supported the action of the Executive in that regard. No reason had ever been given why the House should cease to trust the Executive. From beginning to end of the Debates no reason had been shown why it should abrogate its control over administrative matters. No reason had been given why it should pass this wanton and unnecessary Bill. He would point out what the difference was between putting the matter under legislation and leaving it under administration, and how serious was the evil which the passing of it would inflict. It would inflict injury upon the agriculturists of some important counties in England and in Scotland. In those counties, although the cattle breeders had not received any Canadian cattle for some time, still they lived in the hope that they would be able to resume a remunerative business. That hope would be destroyed by this Bill. Let him take another instance. As long as this matter rested on administration, the President of the Board of Agriculture had full powers to prohibit the 1620 importation of cattle from any suspected district—and he used his power. The right hon. Gentleman did not prohibit importation from a country which was known to be perfectly healthy and from which no danger could arise. That was the case with Iceland. That country sent to England and Scotland 40,000 sheep every year, and by that trade it had been able to support itself. That importation would be stopped by this Bill. Was it right that the great machine of British legislation, moving on in its own course should overturn and destroy the prosperity of a neighbouring and innocent country? ["Hear, hear!"] Lastly, he took the case of Canada. We were always talking of our desire to conciliate our colonies, and we were now contemplating methods by which the colonies might be brought into trade relations with ourselves. At the very moment that schemes were propounded for linking the colonies to ourselves, it was proposed to inflict upon one of our greatest colonies a very severe blow by cutting off a very important branch of her trade. Neither he nor any of his hon. Friends desired to subject our herds to unnecessary risk, but they believed the present safeguards were ample, and they were strongly opposed to transferring their rights to the House of Lords. He hoped his hon. Friend would be warmly supported in his opposition to the present Motion.
§ On the return of Mr. SPEAKER, after the usual interval,
§ MR. C. E. SCHWANN (Manchester, N.)
said he was glad that his hon. Friend the Member for Shoreditch had insisted upon the constitutional aspect of this question, and had drawn the attention of the House and of the country to the practice which was insidiously but constantly being followed by the Conservative Party whenever it was in Office, to diminish the power of the House by handing over matters hitherto under its control to the discussion and control of the House of Lords. This Bill diminished the powers not only of the House of Commons, but of the people. The Members of the House were under the control of the constituencies, but in the serene atmosphere of the House of Lords, public opinion was 1621 never felt, and the Members looked after their own interests without regard to the interests of the great masses of the population. Ho most strongly objected to the Government filching away these powers to hand them over to an irresponsible body, at the other end of the passage. Consternation filled many Members when the House of Lords was given power over the repeal of a perpetual Coercion Bill, for it was felt that the Irish landlords in that House would never consent to such a proposal; and it was generally felt that the House of Commons should have retained its full control over expenditure in connection with naval defence. They all knew where the inspiration came from. It came from the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and if that inspiration continued, as no doubt it would, they would have all financial matters, little by little, abstracted from the House of Commons—at any rate the other House would be entrusted with equal control with ourselves. He trusted, however, that the House of Commons would maintain its own liberties and powers, and, at the same time, the liberties and powers of the people. He was afraid that the House, containing as it did a large majority of Conservative Members, would probably pass this Bill, and add still more to the power of the House of Lords, but the day would come, and he trusted would quickly come, when they would sweep away this bastard Burleighism for ever. He was not at all surprised that this Bill had been proposed by the present Government. It was a landlord Government, and it was only natural that they should propose Bills in the interest of that class. The Agricultural Rating Bill was of the same kidney as the present Measure. The hon. Member for Stockport said in the most distinct terms that these two Bills were absolutely the children of class legislation, and that in these Bills the interests of the urban population had been entirely lost sight of, and he should oppose them with all his power.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Member is referring to a speech made in a Debate on another Bill and that is out of order.
§ MR. SCHWANN
bowed to the Speaker's ruling. He had only to say that the hon. Member for Stockport's 1622 language in the other Bill was precisely to the same effect as the language he used with regard to the Measure now before the House. It seemed to him that the exhibition they had had that afternoon on the part of the Government showed that their rapacity was greater than their capacity, and while willing to foster one special section of the British public, the agriculturists, they were neglecting distinctly the interests of the urban population, and representing as he did a large centre of industry in the North, he protested in the name of his constituents and of Lancashire against the Third Reading of this Bill. He could assure the Government that the people of Lancashire looked upon the Bill with the greatest distaste and aversion, believing as they did that it would materially raise the price of meat. While he had to complain on that head, he had also to point out that Lancashire was in intimate business relationship with Canada and it was obvious that if they did not receive cattle from Canada, she, in turn, would not be able to buy the same quantity of cotton and other goods in England. He was afraid it was a foregone conclusion that the Bill would be passed, but he entered his earnest protest against it on the part of the labouring population of Lancashire.
§ * MR. R. SOUTTAR (Dumfriesshire)
as representing a county deeply interested in this subject, should not like the Bill to pass without a single word of protest on his part. He gave the President of the Board of Agriculture every credit for absolute sincerity in regard to the Bill. He believed the Government thought it was going to do a great deal of good, but he, on his part, was equally convinced they were making a mistake, and that the Bill would do much injury without effecting any corresponding good. The Bill, in the first instance, would alienate the colony of Canada. They had already belittled Canada in the eyes of the whole world by saying she was an infected country, and then declined to receive any cattle from her shores. At the same time they must know that instead of being an infected country, the cattle of Canada were far purer and of better health than the cattle of their own country. As regarded the city in which they stood, it was well known that pleuro-pneumonia—concerning which 1623 only doubtful cases had been found in Canada—was always present, and they were now going to injure Canada by destroying a trade which had been built up with a good deal of pains and some expenditure. It might seem a slight matter to thus offend the colony of Canada. It was a slight matter which alienated the hearts of their American colonies a century ago. It was only a question of taxation upon a few chests of tea that lost them their American colonies, and he should not be surprised, knowing the temper of many Canadians, if the United States were to diplomatically offer to receive Canadian cattle upon free terms, if the hearts of their colonists in Canada were won from the Mother Country and eventually transferred to the United States. In the second place the Bill would do a great injustice to the gallant little island of Iceland. The county he represented took most of the sheep that came from Iceland, and whilst he recognised, after what had been stated by the Law Officers of the Government, the impossibility of excepting that island from the operation of the Bill, it was an unfortunate thing that this Measure, which was not going to do any good to themselves, was going to ruin that country. In the last place he would point out that the Bill would not benefit either the landlord or the farmer. If he thought it would he would gladly give it his support. Its effect would be to increase the importation of dead meat to such an extent that prices would ultimately fall, and he believed that would result in exceeding great injury to the farmer, and would rob him of the share he previously enjoyed in connection with the fattening of cattle unless more enlightenment was shown. He looked upon the future of British agriculture in a very pessimistic way. He thought the effect of this Measure would be to cheapen meat, and he believed that cheap meat was, for the moment, the darkest cloud upon the horizon of British agriculture. They had had cheapness all through the winter, ever since live cattle were shut out of the country, and the cheapness of meat would some day soon be almost parallel with the cheapness of bread, and would simply mean that the stock-feeder, whom this Bill was intended to benefit, would 1624 soon be in the unfortunate position in which the wheat-grower stood at present. Look at the way in which the importation of dead meat had increased. In 1894 the importation of fresh beef was 470,616 cwts., in 1896, 630,247 cwts. In 1894 the importation of fresh mutton amounted to 380,732 cwts., and in 1896, 736,717 cwts., so that in two years the increase in this particular trade had risen from 50 to 100 per cent. When they considered that this was only a very small portion of the dead meat trade, it was idle to think of checking the torrent of such trade streaming into this country by any such Measure as this. He believed hon. Members on the other side were under an utter misapprehension with regard to the fancies of the British public. They had got the notion that the British public would buy a British article if they could get it rather than a foreign article. There could not be a greater mistake. Would any hon. Gentleman order the best British wine? Would he order the best British cigar if he could get a mild Havana? and would not his good lady prefer a bonnet from Paris rather than London? The thing was absolutely absurd. The British public was not easily gulled, and quality and cheapness were the only things it cared about. He believed agriculture was in for a great deal of trouble, and he thought that trouble was all the greater because it was perfectly evident that the accredited friends of the farmer on the other side of the House either did not or would not understand where the trouble lay. He believed the trouble of British agriculture lay not in low prices but in low production. Their land was producing 30, 40, 50, and even 60 per cent. less than it ought to produce, and that was simply because the farmer had no security whatever. He had no security of tenure——
§ * MR. SOUTTAR
regretted that a powerful Government like this, which was so much trusted by the farmers, would not introduce a Bill which would remedy the evils under which that class were suffering, and thus give them a chance. This Bill would just for a moment tickle and delude their fancy, 1625 but he believed it would ultimately prove a dismal failure, and in no respect improve their condition.
§ * MR. ALEXANDER URE (Linlithgow)
asked what the reason was for the introduction of the Bill, which appeared to him to introduce the principle of rigidity, where formerly there was elasticity, and which removed from the region of administration into the region of legislative enactment a topic which was pre-eminently one for administration. The only defence he had heard from the Treasury Bench was that it seemed desirable in the future that the British breeder should have an opportunity of conducting his business under more fixed and stable condtions. But the British cattle trade was not subject to any greater fluctuations or disturbance than other trades in the country. If they asked the corn merchant what determined the rise and fall in prices he would probably say he could not tell. It depended on caprice and speculative activity in spheres beyond his ken. Could it possibly be said that the British cattle-breeder was affected by any such fluctuating conditions? No one would suggest that he was affected by the caprice of a Minister. He admitted the capacity and knowledge of the Minister for Agriculture, but by this Bill he was going to abdicate his functions. Hon Members opposite had always disclaimed the idea of Protection. He accepted their disclaimer, but upon what ground could they possibly justify the Bill? In former times the Minister of Agriculture was called upon, day by day, to decide whether this or that country might send its cattle into Great Britain. Under the Bill, he had no longer to decide this question. If the reduction of his salary were moved in Committee, on the pertinent and cogent ground that by this Bill, of which he was sponsor, he had deprived himself of the opportunity of exercising the most important function of his office, he would find it difficult to go into the Lobby against the proposal. He, therefore, heartily supported the Amendment. It appeared to him that the Bill was wholly unjustified. It was constitutionally bad, because unquestionably for the future the House of Commons would lose its control over the Minister for Agriculture in this important matter, 1626 and a Bill would need to be passed through Parliament to restore that elasticity which it was so desirable to have in this Department, and remove the rigidity they themselves had impressed upon this very important part of the duties of the Minister of Agriculture. He heartily supported his hon. Friend's Amendment, and protested in the name of his constituency against this Bill becoming law.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.W.)
denied that this Bill was only supported by agriculturists who were well-to-do. His experience of agricultural societies was that they were composed chiefly of farmers who were divisible into two classes—those who had been ruined and those who were going to be. [Laughter.] It certainly was not because they were rich men that they were unanimously in favour of the Bill. He could not understand why hon. Members opposite opposed the Bill. Last year the Minister of Agriculture was Mr. Herbert Gardner, now Lord Burghclere, and although in Essex they never considered Mr. Gardner a prophet as far as agricultural matters went, or that he had a wide acquaintance of the Department over which he presided, yet he always put his foot down over this question, and took a strong negative position in spite of the remarks and votes of his friends on the same side. The supporters of the Bill were asked why they tried to keep lean cattle off rich pastures. Hon. Members opposite could buy as many lean kine as they liked and take them to the north and fatten them wherever they pleased. They would thus revive distressed agriculturists in Essex, and help the farmers of the north.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
said Metropolitan Members objected to the Bill largely on the ground that they believed the consumer was likely to suffer by it and was more likely to do so than if elasticity was maintained. Then there was a considerable trade in cattle to the port of London, and the prohibition under this Bill would diminish what was a drooping trade. The hon. Member opposite said the late Minister of Agriculture was as strong in maintaining these regulations as his predecessor. That was one of the reasons Liberal Members felt quite justified in opposing this Bill. No 1627 question of danger could or would arise, for the Board of Agriculture would resist any pressure from this or that section of agriculturists or traders outside in the interests of the majority, and maintain the restrictions where they should be maintained. When they had a system that worked well they ought to be content. After all, the Minister of Agriculture was there to carry out the work of his Department; and he must say that he agreed with his hon. Friend behind him, that if they were to go on at this rate with regard to the duties of the Minister of Agriculture, his Department might be transferred to the Department to which it previously belonged. It would not be necessary to have a separate Department. What they wanted to know was why exactly that Bill had been introduced at all. They had had a certain amount of elasticity, and they had protection from the importation of foreign diseased cattle. Where, then, was the necessity for this Bill, if these restrictions had been carefully carried out? He did not desire to blame the present or past Boards of Agriculture. He did not desire to prejudge that question. It was quite obvious that it was a question of considerable doubt, but it was remarkable that when it was shown that the Canadian cattle were free from disease, the Government should decline to allow Canadian cattle to come in. He was glad that the Attorney General had come into the House, for he wished to refer to the case of Iceland. Whatever might have happened up to the present moment, up to a short time ago Iceland was entirely free from disease, and many thousands of sheep were imported into this country every year. He thought that was an argument against a cast-iron Bill applicable to varying conditions and various countries. He condemned any such cast-iron system interfering with the course of Canadian trade. If this was not Protection, it was certainly very close to the word. ["Hear, hear!"] They were not able to see the economic results of the Bill, and therefore he asked that the Bill should only run for a certain number of years. He did not see why the principle should not be adopted. It had been adopted in the Government Rating Bill for a period 1628 of five years. It was on that ground that he asked that the Bill should be limited to a certain period. The Bill was largely aimed at Canadian cattle. ["No, no!"] With regard to other countries there was no question, and therefore he maintained that the country which would suffer most in the future would be the Dominion of Canada. It might be quite necessary to shut out Canadian cattle, but after what they had heard from the Colonial Secretary about bringing the colonies together, he could not but think it unfortunate that one of the first proposals of the Government should be to aim at their trade. He therefore protested against the passing of this Bill.
§ MR. F. S. STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eye)
said it was surely most undesirable that the question of the duration of what was an administrative Act should be placed in the hands of another place which was not representative. All the Amendments in the Committee stage of the Bill had been rejected, and the Bill was reported without Amendment to the House. The hon. Member for S.E. Essex spoke for the eastern counties, but there was great divergence of opinion there. Also, feeling in Scotland was most antagonistic. The views and interests of feeders ought to be considered as well as those of breeders, and the views of the graziers of the eastern counties, of those who wished to buy cattle and to pasture them, had not been sufficiently taken into account. The immediate effect of the Measure would probably be to raise prices, and the ultimate effect would be to encourage the dead meat trade. The Bill did not introduce any new protection against the importation of disease from abroad; it only enacted regulations already enforced by the Department, and it rendered impossible the repeal of them by the Board of Agriculture, even if it could be proved that there was no necessity for their further continuance. The opponents of the Bill wished to place more confidence in the President of the Board of Agriculture than he placed in himself. All that was desired was that it should be left to him or his successors and their expert advisers, to say when it was necessary that the existing regulations should be enforced, and when 1629 they could with safety be relaxed. What was objected to was that, by passing a Bill to deprive the Department of its discretion, that discretion should practically be vested in the other House because the prohibitory impost could not be repealed without its concurrence, and there was a shrewd suspicion that the other House would not be guided by the consideration whether disease was prevalent in Canada or not, but it would be guided by its own Protectionist sentiments. And yet there was no connection between the protection which their Lordships would favour, and the protection of cattle from disease. [Ministerial cheers.] They were prepared to trust the Department and its expert advisers even against the experts of Canada; but they were not prepared to trust the House of Lords to repeal the Act if it was found to be unnecessary. If Canada was free from disease it was desirable that Canadian store cattle should be admitted into this country. If Canadian cattle were excluded, there was a suspicion that in time the exclusion would be extended to Ireland; there was really no logical reason why it should not be. In Norfolk, and in certain parts of Suffolk, there was the strongest feeling against this Bill. Those counties had formerly done a considerable trade in the fattening of store cattle from Canada, and they were much afraid the restoration of the trade would be rendered impossible even when Canadian cattle were perfectly free from disease. He regretted that the President of the Board of Agriculture had considered the supposed interests of breeders as opposed to those of feeders. If the anticipated impetus was given to the dead meat trade, the effect upon the breeders would be greater than they imagined, and they would find they had been mistaken in supporting the Measure.
§ MR. ARTHUR JEFFREYS (Hants, Basingstoke)
said there were 52 counties in England and Wales, and only one of them, Norfolk, really opposed the Bill. The county of Suffolk did not altogether oppose it. It was really too ridiculous to think that England and Wales were to be prevented passing the Bill because only one county opposed it. It was a selfish policy on the part of Norfolk to desire to run the risk of admitting disease simply in order that its farmers might 1630 make a little more profit. In such high repute were our flocks and herds that buyers came from all parts of the world, and last year cattle and sheep worth a quarter of a million were exported. If the existing regulations were relaxed and the health of our flocks and herds endangered, great injury would be done to the whole farming population of these islands. There was a conflict of opinion as to whether the Bill would raise prices or not; but the farmers, almost to a man, wished the Bill to pass. As to the cattle trade of London, all cattle had been slaughtered on landing for the last four years. He was in favour of helping the trade of Canada in every way possible; but he understood it would be just as advantageous to Canada to fatten cattle herself as to send them here to be fattened. The House of Lords would not occupy a position in regard to this Bill different from that it occupied in regard to any other Bill which became an Act; for no Act could be repealed except by another. Therefore, the objection offered to this Bill would apply to any Bill.
§ MR. JEFFREYS
contended that that was the change that was wanted, but the House of Lords had no more to do with it than the House of Commons; the agriculturists of the country asked Parliament to pass this Bill. It was a selfish policy on the part of Gentlemen from Suffolk and Norfolk to ask them not to pass this Bill, and he would impress upon the House that the great majority of the farmers in England and Wales, and also, he believed, the majority of farmers in Scotland, and the whole of Ireland, demanded this Bill.
§ SIR JOHN KINLOCH (Perthshire, E.)
said this Bill would be a fatal blow to agricultural interests in Scotland. He represented a district where the feeding of cattle had been carried on for a number of years, it was the one great industry of the district. The farmers on the east coast of Scotland had been the leading farmers of this country; when the time of agricultural depression came these men did not let their farms go derelict—but they saw at once that the only hope for agriculture, so far as they were concerned was the feeding of cattle. 1631 They found, however, that the breeders of cattle could not supply the raw material at the price required, and, therefore, they went to foreign countries, and especially to Canada. The Canadian trade helped them immensely, and made the difference to them between profit and loss. For three or four years they had been without that trade, and they had felt the terrible depression which followed the taking away of their raw material; but they had always lived in the hope that after three or four years experience had proved that there was no disease in the cattle, the Board of Agriculture would have admitted Canadian cattle into this country again. Instead of that, however, they were going to make a permanent law that these cattle should not be permitted to enter the country. These men were the chief farmers in Scotland, and this Bill would not only be detrimental to their interests but would strike at one of the most important industries in the Kingdom, for the best beef in London came from Scotland. Surely in these times of depression it was worth while running a little risk, for the system of scheduling that Mr. Gardner used was a perfect system. The men who had crack herds, though they had done great good in breeding in this country, were not the men whom they depended upon for getting the store cattle. The men they depended on were their own small farmers who turned out half-a-dozen or a dozen cattle a year. He would gladly see this Bill buried in the same coffin with the Education Bill.
§ MR. GEORGE WHITELEY (Stockport)
very much regretted that the Government had not seen their way to introduce some Amendment into this Bill. It was almost heartbreaking that in the first Session of Parliament, with a majority of 150, they should find nearly the whole of their time devoted to Measures inimical to the interests of the towns. [Opposition cheers.] Those Bills which were of primary importance had been subordinated to class Measures which were urged on by the county and landed interest. There was more danger of our own flocks and herds communicating infection to imported cattle than there was of imported cattle at present communicating disease to our own cattle. [Opposition cheers and Ministerial laughter.] He noticed that there was a good 1632 deal of rinderpest in Buluwayo, and he would suggest that the President of the Board of Agriculture should take his bovine Bill and poleaxe policy over to Buluwayo, where it might do some good. [Laughter.] In this country it would be very injurious to the major part of the community. Members on that side of the House representing borough constituencies would be expected in the autumn to hold public meetings and to laud and magnify the policy and acts of their Government; but were they to praise a Bill for raising the price of meat, or to praise a Government for raising their rates to 6s. or 7s. in the pound in order to reduce county rates? [Opposition cheers.] He was convinced that if this kind of legislation was going to obtain in their Party, very soon they would receive their punishment; and he believed at the present time if they were to go to the country they would not obtain one-half of the borough support which they now had. [Opposition cheers.] He looked upon this policy as a suicidal one, and thought that a homogeneous Party, such as theirs was at the beginning of that Session, ought to have turned out legislation for the benefit of the whole community. He should vote against the Third Reading of the Bill.
§ MR. PAULTON
said the speech of the hon. Member was a very valuable contribution to the Debate. He thought that hon. Gentlemen opposite, when they addressed their constituencies in the recess, and found that the chief things they had to discuss were dead Bills and dead meat, would have some difficulty in justifying the glowing prophesies which were made at the last Election. The hon. Member for East Fife was greeted with a derisive cheer from hon. Gentlemen opposite when he said that it was perhaps worth while to run the risk of some contagion than to face the more serious danger that would arise from the prohibition of the importation of live cattle altogether. But that was exactly the opinion of the Legislature in 1878, when the cattle plague was rife in England. The then Government brought in a Bill very much on the lines of the present Bill, but were compelled by the opinion of such authorities as the Duke of Richmond to withdraw the clause prohibiting the importation of live cattle on the ground that there was more 1633 danger in that policy than in the risk of contagion. He believed the effect of the Bill would be to greatly injure, if not to entirely destroy, the trade in English fed meat. Even at present the trade in foreign and colonial meat was increasing enormously, and preparations were being made to further develop it. People were finding in an increasing degree that they could obtain at much less cost meat very nearly as good, if not equally as good, as English fed meat, with the result that the demand for the home grown article was decreasing. Another objection he had to the Bill was that it was legislation of a protective character. They were face to face with a growing feeling in favour of protection in many parts of the world, and especially in America and France, and the Bill would undoubtedly furnish the advocates of protection in those countries with the argument that England, the great leader in the Free Trade movement, was going back on her Free Trade principles, and would thus have the disastrous effect of encouraging a retrograde movement. For those reasons he must support the Motion for the rejection of the Bill.
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY (Shropshire, Newport)
said the representative of the Colonies in the late Government had deprecated the Bill in the strongest terms because it would have a bad effect in the Colonies by interfering with their trade in the exportation of meat, and the hon. Gentleman who had last spoken had attacked the Bill because it would have a directly opposite effect.
§ MR. PAULTON
I beg my hon. and gallant Friend's pardon, but he forgets to differentiate between the dead meat trade and the live meat trade of New Zealand and Canada.
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY
said the hon. Gentleman who represented the Colonies in the late Government was hard on the Measure because it would interfere with the trade of the Colonies. But the Gentlemen opposite said that it would have precisely the opposite effect. Although one hon. Member was referring to the live cattle trade and the other to the dead meat trade, their arguments went to show that the same action would tend to benefit and to injure the Colonies. It was as well to be outspoken on this question and he wished to say, that in his opinion, the hon. 1634 Member for Stockport was utterly and thoroughly mistaken in the unfortunate action which he had taken in regard to this Bill on that and on former occasions. The fact was that the arguments of the hon. Gentlemen and those of the Party opposite were eventually destructive of each other, because while one said that it would increase the price of meat to the consumer the other said it would cheapen the price, and while one said that it would benefit the Colonies the other said that it would injure them. Hon. Members opposite appeared to take a most tender interest in the welfare of hon. Members on the Government side of the House and in those of their constituents, but he thought that they would do well to leave the hon. Members on the Government side of the House to take care of themselves seeing that they were perfectly competent to look after their own interests and those of their constituents. What were the real objections to the Bill. Hon. Members opposite seemed never to be able to speak about agricultural subjects without dragging into the discussion Protection and the House of Lords. Surely, hon. Members should confine themselves to practical suggestions with regard to this very practical Measure. This Bill had nothing to do with Protection and it did not propose to hand over any additional power to the House of Lords. The Measure was an absolutely straightforward one, intended for the relief of that part of the population of this country which was engaged in producing meat. They believed that the immunity of our flocks and herds from disease was absolutely necessary to secure the food supply of the country. Hon. Members opposite did not appear to recollect the desolation in our farms that was produced by the cattle plague some years ago, which brought so many farmers to utter ruin. Hon. Members opposite appeared to think it worth while to run what they called a little risk rather than to absolutely exclude cattle disease. As regarded the House of Lords he supposed that such a body would naturally be anxious to do the best they could for the agricultural community. In his view it was rather foolish to laugh and sneer at such a body as the House of Lords when they were doing their best to secure the farmers of the country 1635 from ruin. He would recommend hon. Members opposite when they went down to their constituencies, not to proclaim too loudly that they had opposed this Measure on grounds that were utterly idle and unsupportable.
§ MR. T. R. LEUTY (Leeds, E.)
said that he would endeavour as far as possible to spare the already too lacerated feelings of hon. Members opposite. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Agriculture had expressed his readiness to standing his own responsibilities in this matter, but the right hon. Gentleman appeared to be willing to take upon himself also the responsibility of his successor in office, and to deprive the latter of the power of opening or closing the ports of the kingdom to foreign cattle as circumstances might direct. The present Government with its great majority appeared to have set itself to work to do that which the late Government had failed in doing, namely, to fill up the cup of the House of Lords.
§ MR. LEUTY
said that he begged pardon if he had gone too far, but he thought that the Government had intended by this Measure to fill up the cup of the House of Lords, so that when another election, having a different result from the last, took place, the House of Lords would have the power of preventing the then Minister of Agriculture from exercising any discretion with regard to opening or closing our ports to foreign cattle. The present Government, therefore, were attempting to throw the power of opening or closing our ports to foreign cattle into the hands of a body in which their Party had a permanent majority of ten to one. He did not regard that as fair Party warfare. Hon. Members opposite had talked as if this was a question merely of cattle disease. But was that the case. The predecessors of the right hon. Gentleman han never opened the ports of 1636 the country to foreign cattle in a manner that had been disastrous to the country. The stockowner in this country was very adequately protected against the introduction of disease under the general law. He himself had sat upon a Committee which had the duty of drawing a cordon round an infected farm, ordering the slaughter of all the beasts on it, and paying fancy compensation to the owner. And this was in addition to the protection afforded by the orders of the Board of Agriculture. If the supply of cattle were interfered with, as this Bill proposed, it was impossible to say what would be the effect on the markets; and as to the effect on the Colonies, and especially Canada, history proved that a very small Measure might produce a great amount of ill-feeling. Canada resented this Measure, especially from Gentlemen who boasted of their Imperial instincts, and the fact was, that an Imperialism, which simply consisted of forcing its will on other people, was really a disintegrating force. Any effect the Bill might have was ten times more likely to be disastrous than beneficial.
§ * MR. WALTER LONG
said that every argument which had been adduced that evening had been used already, and no fresh reasons had been brought forward against the House reading a Third time a Bill which had been read a Second time and passed through Committee without amendment. Perhaps he ought to except the contention that it was an unconstitutional act on the part of Her Majesty's Government to place in the hands of the Houses of Parliament a duty which ought to attach to a Department. From the beginning to the end of these Debates he had endeavoured to prove that the main reason why the Government thought it necessary to introduce this legislation was the difficulty of administering the law as it stood at present. Hon. Gentlemen opposite reminded supporters of the Bill of their duty to their constituents, and certainly those hon. Gentlemen were well 1637 qualified by recent experience to give advice about appeals to the country. But the Government and their supporters must be the judges of what was right for those whom they represented. They believed the Bill was in the best interests of the agricultural community, and that the country would not regard it as inimical to the interests of the urban communities. As to the gloomy forecast of the hon. Member for Linlithgow, to whose speech every one had listened with interest and pleasure, he should contemplate without misgiving any attack on the Board of Agriculture for the passing of this Bill. The hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets had appealed to the Government to attempt in another place to set some limitation on the operation of the Bill, because, he said, no one could know what the effect of the Bill would be. One of the objects of the Government in introducing this Measure was to remove this power from the discretion of the Department. They desired to make it absolutely certain in future that disease should not be introduced into this country. Hon. Gentlemen opposite said this Bill would have disastrous results not only in the agricultural community, but also in the urban communities. For his part he could not understand why those direful results should accrue, when it was remembered that this Bill only sought to make permanent what was the practice at present and had been the practice for four years. ["Hear, hear!"] It had been said that the Bill would raise the price of meat, but nobody had ventured to show by the quotation of prices that there was any foundation for that suggestion. His hon. Friend opposite had urged that in 1878 the position of things with regard to cattle disease in this country was far worse than it was at present. It was quite true that in 1878, when legislation was passed on this subject, that the condition of things with regard to disease in this country was worse than at present, and one of the arguments used at that time was 1638 that they ought not to impose restrictions of this kind on imports until this country was cleared of disease. They had not done that, perhaps, but disease had been reduced to a minimum; and that better state of things had only been brought about by a very great expenditure of money and enormous inconvenience and suffering to the British farmer. The British farmer was therefore entitled to ask that, whether the imports came from the colonies or from foreign countries, he should not be called upon to run the risk of disease after the severe restrictions that had been imposed on him. He believed that Canada had already recovered from any injury done her by the imposition of these restrictions. From information he had received he had reason to believe that Canada was already entering on a new trade with France, and two ships previously used in the trade with this country had been taken off that and were now engaged in the trade between Canada and France. Nothing this country did need necessarily interfere with the trade between Canada and other countries. All the Government could do was to protect this country, which happened, as an island, to lend itself better to protection. He wondered whether hon. Gentlemen who attacked the Government realised what a very large industry the cattle industry in this country was. In the year 1895 there were nearly 11,000,000 cattle and 30,000,000 sheep in this country, and the value of the former might be put at £96,750,000, and of the latter at £29,750,000. Beside those figures, the importations of cattle, whether from Canada or any other part of the world, sunk into insignificance. He very much regretted that the Government should do anything to interfere with the trade of Norfolk or the Scottish counties, to which allusion had been made. They appreciated the fact that some temporary injury might be done to those who were dependent on Canadian store cattle; but it was a misconception 1639 to suggest that injury, if any, would be done by the passing of this Bill. If there was any injury, the farmers so placed had been suffering from it for four years, and there was no reasonable prospect of any restrictions being taken off. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had spoken in the highest terms of the professional advisers of the Board of Agriculture—commendation which was thoroughly deserved. Those Gentlemen were of opinion that this policy was necessary, and they heartily supported it. The hon. Member seemed to think that the sole duty of the Board of Agriculture and its professional advisers was to look after the health of foreign cattle; but there was a duty calling for attention with regard to the health of cattle at home. What they had advised with regard to pleuro-pneumonia and sheep scab was that it was almost impossible to detect either of those diseases at certain stages in the living animal, and this made it impossible for them adequately to undertake the responsibility of advising whether or not the restrictions on importation should be taken off. The Government did not desire that anything should be done which would be injurious to Canada or other colonies, and he believed hon. Gentlemen were exaggerating the effects of the Bill. They had a duty, however, to perform to the agriculturists at home, and thus the House was asked to read the Bill a Third time. [Cheers.]
§ MR. DENIS KILBRIDE (Galway, N.)
admitted the difficulty of administering the law as at present arranged. The difficulty arose principally in connection with the proper centreing of the infected area, but the right hon. Gentleman had not told the House how the passing of this Bill would relieve the Board of Agriculture of this difficulty. Before an animal came from Canada pleuro-pneumonia existed in these islands; and after foreign and colonial cattle were excluded pleuro-pneumonia would not be eradicated. In his opinion, the great 1640 difficulty was the want of continuity in administration. When the Conservatives were in office, they were inclined for Protection on one side or the other; when the Liberals got into power, they were in favour of Free Trade. He admitted that feeders would find it to be almost impossible to calculate beforehand with reference to their business; but he intended to support the Bill. Feeders depended on the small farmers for the supply of their store cattle. He represented a large number of small farmers in Ireland, and they sent over large supplies of store stock here. He was not supporting the Bill on its merits. [Laughter.] Who was? He was supporting the Bill because it helped his constituency; and the agricultural Members opposite were supporting it for similar reasons. During the Debates, hon. Members who represented breeding constituencies supported the Bill; while Members representing feeding constituencies opposed it. He had heard it stated in the course of this Debate that the Bill would destroy the trade in home fed meat. It would undoubtedly affect the trade in home fed meat very seriously, and if he were an Englishman, having a large concern for the future welfare and prosperity in this country he wonld have opposed the Bill, on the ground that these store cattle would, by the operations of the Measure, be kept out of the country, the feeding of which would largely enrich England. What did they get by having store cattle fed abroad instead of on this side of the water. The agriculturists would lose considerably, for it was always an advantage to the agriculturist to have the feeding of these cattle. How were tillage farmers to get on in the future? How long were they going to produce grain crops, if the feeders of cattle owing to the price of store were going to give up feeding? Could they carry on agricultural operations for an unlimited number of years with success by artificial manure alone? They all knew 1641 that that would very quickly use up the land in Norfolk, and every other such constituency. As he was not an Englishman he was not concerned with this question, but if hon. Members wished to have the land of Norfolk and Forfar and other districts on the landlords' hands as they were in Essex, that was their business and he was not concerned in it, except in so far as that a couple of years hence it might afford him useful arguments for the reduction of rent in Ireland. Some hon. Gentlemen said this was Protection. Yes, it was Protection only in one direction. Foreign meat would be allowed into this country as usual. He always understood Protectionists were in favour of allowing the raw material in free and the Protection should be for the manufactured article. But here they were giving protection to the raw material while they allowed the manufactured article to enter the country free. The President of the Board of Agriculture in his speech had said that the Unionist policy was to foster the trade of different portions of the British empire. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that two or three ships had been specially built some years ago for the purpose of carrying on the cattle trade between this country and Canada, and that they were still engaged in the cattle trade. Were they in the British cattle trade? No; they were in the French cattle trade. That was an unfortunate admission for the Unionist Party to have to make. If they wanted to annihilate Canada this would be a good way for doing it. It appeared to him that France, at the present day, was a better friend of Canada than Great Britain, for while the Mother Country prohibited the importation of store cattle from Canada, and went as far as she could in imposing protection against the Colonies, France, on the other hand was doing what she could to stimulate trade with the Colonies. The hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Whiteley) who 1642 eloquently and ably represented a large manufacturing constituency knew that the English money given for Canadian cattle would, in a great measure, be used for buying goods manufactured by large towns like Stockport, and, therefore, the mill hands of this country would benefit directly by this trade in Canadian cattle. Apparently that did not concern the President of the Board of Agriculture who was not concerned for the mill hands of England but rather for those of France. He did not believe that cattle, perfectly healthy when put on board ship at Montreal, would arrive here affected with contagious pleuro-pneumonia, though they might catch ordinary pleuro-pneumonia. No; the protection which the English farmer was supposed to have asked for was not against contagious pleuro; it was protection against Canadian competition. It was because it was protection against Canadian competition that he was in favour of the Bill. [Laughter.] The more they kept Canadian cattle out the better he was pleased. He knew that if Canadian cattle and cattle from the States were freely allowed into this country, Irish store cattle would drop £2 a head next November, and if that should happen the farmers in the rearing county of Galway would not be able to pay their rack rents at all. He wanted to keep them in their homes and so he was in favour of the Bill. The Bill would not affect the consumer one bit, because he believed that if Canadian store cattle were freely allowed into this country, the home grown beef would still be the superior article and still command the superior price. If the effect of this Bill was to kill all the large farmers of Forfarshire, and Leicester and Norfolk—that was Englishmen's business. It was no business of his. He washed his hands of the murderers. He supported the Bill because he believed it was in the interests of the small farmers of the West of Ireland.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON (Dundee)
said that his constituency were of opinion that they would be deeply and injuriously affected by this Bill. They had expended large sums in improving their farms, which would be rendered useless by the passing of this Bill. The county of Forfar, as well as the entire agricultural and urban population of Scotland, were unanimous in condemning this Measure. He had listened very carefully to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, but he must say that he found no argument in it in favour of the Bill. Two sets of arguments had been put forward, one dealt with Protection, and the other with the House of Lords, but neither of them dealt with the different aspects of the Bill which was under the consideration of the House. The working people of Scotland thought that the effect of the Bill would be to increase the price of meat. On the other hand, hon. Gentlemen opposite appeared to think that the effect of the Measure would be to reduce the price of meat. He did not pretend to sit in judgment upon the question, but he ventured to cite an authority that would be accepted beyond all doubt by hon. Members opposite. It was nearly 20 years ago when a similar question to that now under discussion was raised in that House, and there was then a strong conflict of opinion as to whether the result of prohibiting the importation of live cattle would raise or lower the price of meat. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies then pointed out that a rise of 1d. a pound in the price of meat meant the imposition of a tax of £5,000 upon the inhabitants of this country, and he added that he was not prepared to run the risk of adopting any policy that might impose such a tax upon the country.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
said that the words of the right hon. Gentleman were 1644 applicable to the present state of things. He did not pretend to say which view of the matter was correct, especially when the hon. Member for Stockport and the hon Member for Dumfries took exactly opposite views. With regard to the constitutional question the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Agriculture had said that this Bill would become law in the ordinary course of things with the consent of the House of Lords. But this was not an ordinary Bill. Any Minister of any Department was liable to account for his action to the House of Commons, but if this Bill were passed the Minister for Agriculture could not take action, but would be bound by the Statute and would be no longer responsible to that House for closing the ports of the country to foreign cattle. To take a particular function from the domain of administration, and put it into an Act of Parliament, the Act giving no new power at all, and thus to make the consent of the House of Lords necessary to the repeal of that Act was thereby to give to the House of Lords that which it was not entitled to by the constitution—namely, a veto upon an Act of Administration. ["Hear, hear!"] That was a point which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture had neither appreciated nor answered. He was again going to make a quotation from an authority which hon. Gentlemen opposite would not dispute. This authority, speaking of the House of Lords, said:—So long as they are prepared on future occasions to reduce themselves to a nullity whenever it is desired for them to do so, no one will care to attack them. But it is quite certain that with the House of Commons growing more democratic and more in sympathy with the people every year, the interference of the Lords—the hostile action, in other words, of a Chamber which possesses a permanent anti-popular majority—will not be tolerated with the same equanimity as heretofore. The country, indeed, would not allow any Government possessing its confidence to suffer such a thing, and the condition on which alike Ministers and the hereditary and the aristocratic branches of the Legislature exist, will be that the latter abstains from asserting itself.1645 He took this from a book which appeared about 10 years ago, and it bore the imprimatur of the present Secretary for the Colonies. He should very much like to know whether the Secretary for the Colonies stood by those opinions at the present time. There was no part of the legislative work of the Government this Session which could not be condemned by previous utterances of more than one of its Members. So long as the present Government were in power there would, perhaps, be no difficulty; but with the advent to power of another Party and Government—an event which seemed to have been brought appreciably nearer through the proceedings of this week—[laughter]—then they would have, or might have, the very conflict with the House of Lords which the Secretary for the Colonies in his wiser days declared that the country would not tolerate. That argument had been placed before the President of the Board of Agriculture by several hon. Members, but he had not replied to it. ["Hear, hear!"] He thought also that the right hon. Gentleman, and those of his supporters who had spoken, had not sufficiently recognised the significant protests against the Bill which had been made on both sides of the House by English and Scotch Members alike. He was not at liberty to discuss the general policy of the Government, but following the observations which had been made by the hon. Member for Stockport, he might perhaps be allowed to say that the policy of the Government this Session had been chiefly of a twofold character—one being the clerical policy, which had just failed—[laughter]—and the other the landlord policy which still awaited the judgment of the House. In the present Bill they had the first instalment of the landlord policy, and there were two more instalments in development of it to come. This Bill, however, was the poorest, the meanest, and the most miserable of the instalments of that policy, and it was utterly bad in 1646 principle. In the interests, therefore, of his own constituents, and of the public generally, he should vote against the Third Reading.
§ MR. J. C. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
said he hoped that the speech of the hon. Member for Galway had at any rate cleared their minds of cant in regard to this Bill. For his own part, while he was a free-trader in principle and belief, he had no hesitation in saying that he should support this Bill in the interests of his constituency. Most Members acted now on this principle in all matters that came before the House. ["Hear, hear!" and laughter.] He voted for the Bill in the interests of his constituents, because a large portion of them were small farmers and all of them were engaged in the breeding and rearing of young stock which they supplied to the English and Scotch markets. The hon. Member for Dundee seemed to have vexed his mind a great deal too much over the constitutional aspect of the question. He had referred to the Secretary for the Colonies, but surely he could not have forgotten that Canada was one of the great colonies of the Empire, and that the right hon. Gentleman was bound in regard to this Bill and every other Bill that came before the House, to consider the interests of the Dominion as well as the interests of this country and his own constituents. When the Secretary for the Colonies supported the Third Reading of the Bill he would, no doubt, be able to explain to his constituents the fact that he had voted for a Bill in the interests of the landlord class. [Laughter.]
§ MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanark, Partick)
considered that, in the interests of the country, there should be free competition in the supply of cattle so long as the source of supply was healthy. In Scotland, at any rate, they felt it was a great misfortune that any attempt should be made to permanently exclude cattle from a healthy source. He did not like this Bill at all. [Opposition cheers.] He had voted against it before 1647 and should vote against it now. He thought it was very unfortunate that at this time, when they were wishful of establishing some sort of a Zollverein in which the colonies should be included, they should tell them that, however clear the proof might be that there was no disease in their country, they would not allow them to import any cattle into England. He regretted very much, in the interests of the feeders and consumers of this country, that the Government had not seen their way to limit the operation of the Bill to a few years. He believed they would have acted wisely in pursuing that course.
§ * CAPTAIN PIRIE (Aberdeen, N.)
said the live-cattle carrying trade of Aberdeen would be completely ruined by this Bill, and he would respectfully ask the Government, seeing that they were ready to advocate compensation for so many things, whether they would consider the advisability of giving compensation to those whose business would be destroyed by their Measure. ["Hear, hear!"] The title of the Bill was a false name to delude the public, for the Bill had only one object—Protection. As representing an urban working constituency, he entered his emphatic protest against a Measure which was for the benefit of one class only, and which would increase the price of food for the working population.
§ MR. JOHN COLVILLE (Lanarkshire, N.E.)
also entered his protest against the Bill. At the last election his constituents were assured that the return of the Conservatives meant better wages and trade for the people; but this Bill would simply increase the cost of living for the working classes. It was an attempt to favour the class which was now in power.
§ MR. BATTY LANGLEY (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
said that a great many of the agricultural unions of this country would never have supported this Measure, if they had not thought it was the first step towards Protection. The Bill protected the home breeder against the foreign breeder, and its object was to keep up the price of store cattle. There were thousands of acres of land in Rutland and Northamptonshire which were not fit for breeding store cattle. It was almost impossible to breed young stock there. The beasts must be three or four 1648 years old before they began to fatten. It was necessary that the grazier should buy store stock in the cheapest market; but if any Measure was passed which would tend to increase the price of store stock, they would damage not only the grazier, but the landlord. There was land in Rutlandshire which let at £3 and £3 10s. an acre. If the price of store cattle was increased they would diminish the value of that land. If disease broke out they would have to go cap in hand to Parliament to repeal the Law, and cap in hand to the House of Lords to allow foreign cattle to come in to eat English grass and enable landlords to get their rents. He protested against this Measure, believing it was a first step towards protection, and was introduced as a sop to the landlords on the one hand and the agricultural interest on the other.
§ DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)
said the Bill would raise the price of store cattle, and the margin of profit that farmers in the north were now deriving from the feeding of cattle would be "squeezed out" and abolished. He believed the Bill was well meant, but the future would prove it to have been a mistake. This Bill would give great relief in Ireland, and he believed it would be of advantage both to Ireland and Great Britain. As to dear meat, after all they they should pay attention to their constituents and give to them what they demanded. He would do that even if it raised the price of meat in England. [An HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member for Tottenham Court Road [laughter] cheered him. All he had to say in connection with the Measure was that he hoped the Government would be as wise in their generation as they had been with regard to two other matters which they had had under their consideration.
§ MR. J. W. LOGAN (Leicester, Harborough)
who rose amidst cries of "Divide," said he hoped hon. Members would allow those who represented agricultural constituencies to say a word with regard to the Bill. His object in rising was to ask hon. Gentlemen opposite what it was that this Bill proposed to do? It was intended for the advantage of agriculture. Would that do anything for the agricultural labourer? Would it fulfil the promises given to 1649 them at the General Election? His objection to the Bill was that it would not do anything in any degree whatever for the agricultural labourers. But he had a much stronger objection. He objected to the Bill on the ground that it was a perfectly unnecessary Measure. The Board of Agriculture at the present moment possessed every power that they would possess when that Bill was passed. The Board had now a discretionary power which they could exercise to prevent the importation into this country of animals that were infected with disease. He objected to the Bill, because it would stereotype and make permanent the powers now at the discretion of the Board of Agriculture. He hoped the country would note that it was intended to render it impossible for the House ever to repeal the law without the permission of the House of Lords. They knew that hon. Gentlemen opposite would not be anxious to repeal it; but whenever they crossed over to the other side of the House they would be powerless, in consequence of the other Chamber. This Bill would bring about that condition of things. The Bill tried to interfere with the natural order of things. [Cries of "Divide!"] Sufficient store cattle could not be raised. [A laugh.] Hon. Gentlemen laughed at that statement. Let them go down into the county he represented—Leicestershire—and try to raise store cattle. ["Hear, hear!"] They would find it impossible to do so. In Canada land was taken by farmers in large tracts; indeed, they could buy the freehold there for what they would pay in rent here. The Bill was trying to reverse the natural order of things and it would fail. He could understand the Irish Members supporting the Measure, because they believed it would benefit their constituents; but, if it were to do that, it would do it by raising the price of store cattle. If it were to do that in England and Scotland, someone must suffer. Who would suffer? An hon. Friend near him said "The consumer." Whatever prices the farmers gave for store cattle in the spring, the prices they would get for them in the autumn would be ruled by the prices in the dead meat market, for the result of the Measure would be to increase the supply of dead meat in this country. After the Measure had been in operation a short 1650 time, the supply of dead meat would be more regular, and the English farmer would find himself in a worse condition than before. The men in Canada, who would otherwise be engaged in supplying this country with store cattle, would turn their attention to supplying it with dead meat and to fattening cattle in Canada for that purpose. No doubt the President of the Board of Agriculture honestly thought he was doing good, but he would ruin the grazing interests of this country.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 232 Noes, 75.—(Division List, No. 256.)
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read the Third time, and passed.