§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY OF THE MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES (THE EARL OF ANCASTER)
My Lords, the reason for 134 this Bill is the unfortunate outbreak of foot and mouth disease which has occurred during the last, few months and which, as most of your Lordships are aware, has unhappily thrown a very considerable charge upon the country. The Bill is intended to suspend the limitation imposed by Section 10 of the Diseases of Animals Act, 1894, upon the amount of money which may be provided by Parliament towards defraying the cost of stamping out foot and mouth disease. Under that section the amount of money which may be paid by the Ministry in any one financial year is£140,000. This Bill proposes that the limitation of£140,000 shall not apply to moneys provided in the financial year which ended on March 31 last. I may say that the money has already been provided in another place, and this is only a Bill to give legislative effect to that Resolution. We hope that the disease is now well in hand, and although the country is not entirely free from outbreaks of foot and mouth disease, their number has been diminishing every week. Last week, according to the latest return, the number was ten, and the week before twelve. These figures show a very satisfactory fall from the highest total of 280 outbreaks in one week.
Unfortunately, in addition to this money, I am afraid that a certain amount will fall upon the local rates. Of the sum of£140,000 stipulated under the original Act,£40,000 was for stamping out swine fever. Therefore, only£100,000 is left for dealing with foot and mouth disease. During the last thirty-two years the expense which has fallen on the Local Taxation Account has averaged only some£9,000 a year, and it is of course a most unfortunate thing that such a heavy burden should come this year. We still believe that the policy we have adopted of slaughtering is the right one to pursue in order to exterminate the disease, and I only hope that your Lordships will think the money well spent in this direction. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.— (The Earl of Ancaster.)
§ LORD STRACHIE
My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Earl whether he can give us any idea what the amount will be that will fall upon the local rates. He said that the Bill would not entirely relieve the local ratepayer of any charges, but he gave no indication of what the charge was 135 likely to be. I have heard various estimates ranging from a halfpenny to a penny in the£. While we are now on the question of animal diseases, I should also like to ask if he has had any communication from the Central Chamber of Agriculture as to whether this outbreak of foot and mouth disease came from Ireland or not. I was not present at the last meeting of the Central Chamber, but I have noticed a statement made there by Lord Dewhurst that according to his information the outbreak had been traced directly to Ireland, and that they had communicated with the Department on the subject.
Therefore, I would ask the noble Earl whether he has had any communication from the Central Chamber; whether he is absolutely satisfied that the disease did not come from Ireland; whether the Department are satisfied that the arrangements now made by the Irish Free State for detecting any outbreak of the disease is efficient; whether the system of control of disease of animals exercised before by the Irish Board of Agriculture is now being exercised by another staff of officials; what arrangements are made by the Irish Free State to control outbreaks of disease in that country; and, further, whether the Department is satisfied that all precautions are being taken in Ireland to prevent any disease being imported into this country.
I think it is all the more necessary that precautions should be taken in this matter because I notice that an Order has been laid upon the Tables of both Houses, permitting the importation of one hundred Friesian cattle into this country from South Africa. Of course, they will come in under quarantine, but when we have had this tremendous outbreak of disease the agriculturists in this country are thoroughly frightened. Moreover, the dairying interest is being carried on under great difficulties, as the noble Earl knows, and it seems rather a curious time to choose for admitting these hundred cattle from South Africa. I suppose the noble Earl is quite satisfied that there is no foot and mouth disease, or any other cattle disease, in South Africa, and that he is aware that his predecessor said that only Friesian cattle would be imported that had a record of 1,000 gallons of milk a year, and therefore were the finest animals. I should like to have some assurance on these matters.
§ THE EARL OF ANCASTER
My Lords, the noble Lord has asked a great many questions, which I will try to answer as well as I can. As regards expenditure, I think it is fairly clear that the vote out of the Local Taxation Account this year will eat up the whole£100,000, and, in addition to that, by the permission given by this Bill Parliament has voted another£400,000. It may please the noble Lord to know that it was done by a dummy Vote, and that the money will be found by savings in other directions. It has been estimated that the total cost will be something in the nature of£1,000,000—we think it will be less—and that will leave another£500,000 to come upon the rates. I cannot say how much in the£ it will put on the rates, but I cannot conceive that it would be anything like a halfpenny or even a farthing in the£.
I do not know that it has any bearing actually upon this Bill, but the noble Lord asked a question with regard to the position in Ireland. I believe that at one time ninety-nine farmers out of every hundred were fully convinced that this outbreak came from Ireland. Of course, human knowledge is always liable to err—there is no certainly about anything—but I have attended a great many meetings at which the whole matter was discussed, and I have heard a great deal of evidence, but I have never heard a single piece of solid evidence showing that this outbreak originated in Ireland. On the contrary, there is a good deal of evidence that there can be no foot and mouth disease in Ireland. During the whole of this period fat cattle have been coming into this country from Ireland. They are brought into this country and remain in the lairages for from twenty-four to forty-eight hours. A period of nearly five days elapses between the time they leave Ireland until they are slaughtered, and it is an astonishing thing, if foot and mouth disease exists in Ireland and has been there for the last three or four months, that it is not now raging throughout the country. Not one of these fat cattle imported into this country has shown any signs of foot and mouth disease. That is a very striking proof, even if none other were forthcoming, that there was no foot and mouth disease in Ireland.
The noble Lord also asked me about the means that we have of ascertaining the state of health of cattle in Ireland at the present time. I am afraid he must give 137 me Notice of that question. As a matter of fact, I believe that at the present moment the officials who acted previously to the Treaty are still acting as regards that question.
The noble Lord then referred to the question of the Friesian cattle which have been imported from South Africa. They have been imported because many people in this country believe that these Friesian cattle are enormous milk yielders, and though, unfortunately, the producers of milk in this country are not in a very good position at present, and there is a rather heated controversy raging, at the same time I do not think it would be wise for the Ministry of Agriculture to prevent the introduction of a strain of good milking herds into this country. It was strongly urged upon us that the Friesian cattle in this country required a new strain of blood. Every care was taken that these Friesian cows and bulls brought from South Africa were of the very highest milking strains, and therefore likely to produce the greatest milk-yielding progeny. Full precautions have also been taken as regards quarantine. I think the cattle are placed in quarantine before they leave South Africa; they are a long time in quarantine on the ship; and they have another period of quarantine on reaching this country. I can assure the noble Lord that all our scientific advisers have stretched the point as far as they could possibly go in order to make it absolutely certain that these animals shall not bring cattle plague or other disease into this country.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a.
§ THE EARL OF ANCASTER
My Lords, this Bill has been certified by the Speaker as a Money Bill, and I hope that your Lordships will dispense with the Committee stage in the ordinary way. I move that the Bill be now committed.
§ Moved, That the Bill be committed.—(The Earl of Amager.)
§ On Question, Committee negatived.