2.—(1) Imported cattle which have been moved to an authorised market shall at all times while therein be kept separate from all animals other than imported cattle, and shall not, if part only of a market is authorised for the purposes of this Schedule, be permitted, while any such other animals are in the market, to enter any part of the market other than the authorised part.
I beg to move, at the end of paragraph 2 (2), to insert the words "except with the permission of the local authority."
I explained in Committee last night what the object of this Amendment was. It is simply this: When a market is authorised for the purpose of accommodating imported cattle — and the Schedule as it stands provides that it shall not be used for any other purpose-—there is no limit of time, and it may beheld that, if once a market is used for that purpose, it shall remain for all time, or, at any rate, during the currency of the licence, impossible to use it again for other cattle. I cannot imagine that that was really the intention, and it is represented to me by people who are engaged in the practical handling of cattle in these markets, that if it were read as I have suggested, it would be a very serious encumbrance and inconvenience, without serving any useful purpose at all. The Attorney - General promised that the Minister would consider it overnight, and that the result would be announced today. I am inclined to think that the result he is prepared to give the House will go a long way to meet the point.
As, I think, the hon. Member who moved the Amendment considered it possible, there has been some misunderstanding. about the expression "authorised market." A market, or part of a market, will only be treated as an authorised market while it is being so used. On other days it may be used for animals which are not imported animals, but while it is being used for imported animals, there must, under paragraph 1 of Regulation 2, be kept separate from other animals. Therefore, other animals must not be moved into the part used for imported cattle, whether with the authority of the local authority or not. The separation of imported cattle from other animals while the market is in progress is, we all admit, eminently necessary from the administrative point of view. I hope, after the explanation I have given, the hon. Member will see his way to withdraw the Amendment.
That being the view taken by the Minister, no doubt on eminent legal advice, with regard to this provision in the Schedule, it is undoubtedly unnecessary that the words I am suggesting should be inserted. I presume the Minister, in carrying out these provisions, will act in accordance with the statement which he has just given as to the meaning of the Schedule. I, therefore, ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
I should like the attention of the House for a little while, because I feel so strongly both the inequity and inadvisability of this Measure, that I do not desire the Third Reading to go through without a final protest. I put aquestion to the right
hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture to-day, and he has been kind enough to supply me with a copy of the answer, which I will read to the House. My question was:
To ask the Minister of Agriculture what were the terms of the express arrangement with the Canadians referred to by the Attorney-General in last night's Debate whereby whatever provision on this side apply to Canadian cattle should apply equally to Irish cattle; also what was the date of this arrangement, Will the right hon. Gentleman produce to the House the terms of that arrangement?
The reply was:
Sir R. SANDERS: At the first meeting of the Conference with the Canadian Ministers on 14th October last, in reply to a question from the Canadian representatives as to whether in regard to the six days' detention after landing all cattle would be treated alike, Sir Arthur Boscawen said: 'We treat you exactly the same,' and Mr. Winston Churchill aded, 'There will be no discrimination.' The same subject was considered amongst others by a Committee of experts on the 16th October, who reported that the Canadian representatives did not regard the regulation of movement of imported animals as a matter on which they were entitled to express any view, so long as such Regulations applied to all imported cattle.
The first observation that I make on this, to me, extraordinary answer is this, that apparently the Gentlemen authorised to decide this question, both for England and Ireland, were Sir Arthur Boscawen and Mr. Winston Churchill. I would ask the House, who authorised these gentlemen to speak for Ireland? I am reminded in this connection of the fact that these Olympian deities of the Treasury Bench are temporarily in the dust by the verdict of their countrymen. But their countrymen had the opportunity of deciding upon their policy, and Ireland has not had the opportunity of even expressing an opinion upon it. They decided the question behind the back of Ireland. Ireland was left with a mere protest against their action, with less voice in the matter than the electors of the one small town of Taunton and the one great city of Dundee. Here you have this position brought about by these two gentlemen, neither of whom, with all due respect, are wanting in self-confidence, in the might of their temporary and passing position, making a decree in respect to the cattle trade of Ireland that will have the far-reaching effects which have been stated.
I must also take objection to the gross misrepresentation as to the position, not merely of Canada towards Ireland, but of Ireland towards Canada. The right hon. Gentleman said, and said correctly, that we have no quarrel with Canada or with Canadian cattle. In fact, so strongly do I sympathise, as I have always sympathised, not entirely with Canada alone, but in the necessity of supplying the cheapest beef for the masses of our people of this country that at some political risk I did not vote against the Resolution passed in the last Parliament against the importation of cattle. I was pressed, I may say, by all the interests of my own country. I was pressed still more by my sympathy with my own country and countrymen. I was pressed still more strongly to vote against the Eesolution for the importation of Canadian cattle. But as a Free Trader I could not but regard the supply of cheap food to the people as in the very best interests of the nation and the duty of the Government to attend to, and I declined to vote. I think that was as far as I could go to show what I felt on the subject and perhaps shows the risk I ran in declaring that I was as much as anyone in favour of the importation of Canadian cattle. Therefore I decline indignantly to be gibbeted as an enemy either of Canada or of the importation of Canadian cattle. My attitude was quite different. It was this—I do not want to use epigrams, because the subject is too serious for them—I say that in freeing Canada you have no right to manacle Ireland. That is the whole position. Also I contest entirely the position that exactly the same kind of administration can under all circumstances, times, and seasons be applied to Canada and to Ireland.
Actually the situation between the two countries is not the same antithetical position as between the States and Canada. Three thousand miles separate Canada from England; it is a six days' journey. Three hours, sometimes two, is the length of the journey from Ireland to England. As a matter of fact, in this matter Ireland and England can be regarded as one, because of their contiguity. My hon. Friend opposite, replying to an argument put forward that there is a border between the United States and Canada of 3,000 miles, points out that there is also a border between the six Northern Counties of Ireland and the Free State. To put that forward is putting forward a grotesque example. It shows a lack of all sense of proportion in comparing a frontier of 3,000 miles between the United States and Canada with a few miles of frontier between Northern and Southern Ireland.
I hope so too, but that is not the point here. Does anybody suppose that because the six counties are in the territorial position they are that the Government, present or future, of the South will enter into a tariff warfare irrespective of the position in the North? No, that is not the real issue. We are not dealing with Canada alone. Canada has no warmer friend in the world or in her own Dominions than I. I count her the greatest, the brightest jewel in the Imperial Crown. She has the greatest possibilities and has one of the best Governments in the world. But her neighbour is the United States with this 3,000 miles of frontier. Does anyone say there is not a greater chance of disease being imported from the United States into Canada over these 3,000 miles of frontier than there is disease being taken from Ireland which is surrounded by the sea 1 Therefore, conditions arise that make it impossible to deal with Canada in exactly the same way as Ireland. That is what we are insisting upon. Canada herself does not want to maintain a position which is unfair to Ireland. In the first place there is the greatest sympathy for Ireland in Canada. There are a great many Irish people there. Every Canadian I have met has indignantly repudiated the idea that they wanted to interfere with the cattle trade of Ireland. I therefore am entitled to say that the prohibition of this iron Bill, the insistence that under all conditions there shall be exactly the same treatment of the cattle trade in Ireland and in Canada, is against geographical and economic facts. There might, for instance, be a great outbreak of disease in Canada while Ireland might be perfectly healthy. Yet if the right hon. Gentleman were compelled to take measures against Canada, would he feel himself compelled to take the same measures against Ireland which was free from disease?
This brings me to the point which I think is the weakness and absurdity of this whole Bill. What are the grounds of this Bill? Not even my right hon. Friend who represents so sternly, and I am afraid I must say sometimes so selfishly, the agricultural interests of England in this House—did he say that Ireland was a country especially cursed with disease On the contrary, as everyone knows, and as statistics prove, Ireland has one of the cleanest bills of health of any country in the world, better than America, better than Canada, better than England—[HON. MEMBERS: "No !"]— from the cattle point of view. I do not say there is a great deal of disease in Canada, but I say there is even less disease in Ireland than in Canada. What does that mean? The right hon. Gentleman in his speech says it is not Irish cattle that are diseased. They come to this country beautiful and clean. They do not come to this country diseased, and therefore you must be protected. From whom? From clean Ireland, so far as disease is concerned. You must be protected from what—dirty England?
Everybody who spoke from the English side on this question has missed two points, the magnitude and importance of the Irish cattle trade. The staple industry of Ireland, its whole economic position and existence depend upon the cattle trade. I have figures hero, but I will not weary the House by quoting them. As a matter of fact England, so far as her meat supply is concerned, is more dependent upon Ireland than on the rest of the world. In face of that, not as a definite measure dealing with a definite policy, this question of the Irish cattle trade is brought in as a side wind and an afterthought. This whole question of the cattle trade is mixed up with the question of this Bill, which does not, in essence, deal with anything but with the Regulations of the importation of Canadian cattle. I do not like to dwell upon the political consequences of the. action of the Government, because if I dwelt too much on these consequences it might not be very helpful. But nobody can deny, who has defended this Bill—he cannot but admit— that you must establish some sore position between the united people of Ireland and England. In conclusion, I would again protest against the action of the Government as being against everything, in relation to the improvement of those relations, that I have ever said or done during my time in this House.
During the discussion on Clause 4 an hon. Member on the back bench opposite inquired whether any representation had been made from any of our Overseas Dominions in regard to this Bill, and whether any assurance had been given that similar conditions would appertain to all our various Dominions. At that time the Minister of Agriculture promised to make certain inquiries, and it was suggested by one hon. Member that, if it was found on inquiry that such assurances had been given, then this Clause would be reinstated. I would like to know whether the right hon. Gentleman has made any inquiries in this respect. We were told that these conditions applied to each and every one of the Dominions, but the House has since carried an Amendment which amplifies the term "British Dominions" and makes it include all the possessions of His Majesty, including Crown Colonies and India as well.
It is a very serious matter if those assurances have been given, and copies of this Bill transmitted to the Dominions, that this House should afterwards delete that Clause. I consider that is a gross breach of faith, and hon. Members who supported the Clause last night are justified in saying that the Minister should reinstate this Clause. We were told that it was not a question of practical politics to bring cattle from Australia or New Zealand to this country, but even in that case, including the Dominions in this Measure would not have done any harm. I think this Bill has been clumsily drafted. It refers to cattle and animals. I would like to know if that means bloodstock horses are to be kept out of this country. You have had many examples of what Australian blood-stock was, and I want to know if stock of that kind can be kept out under this Bill.
The hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. O'Connor) objected to the inclusion of Ireland in this Bill, and I am objecting on behalf of Australia to the exclusion of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and other places. I understand that an undertaking was given bo Mr. Hughes at the time of the Conference that the same conditions would obtain, and I have been informed that General Smuts in the Legislature of South Africa made a statement to a similar effect. I think it is an extraordinary position, that because a few hon. Members have raised this point the Government did not stand to their guns. Personally I was very disappointed, and 1 did not vote for the deletion of the Clause. It is a rather remarkable thing that whilst we are endeavouring here to introduce legislation which will have the effect of keeping Australian stock out of this country, the Australian Government have just put into effect the Bounty Bill, which provides a bounty of 10s. per head for every head of cattle shipped to this country.
A good deal has been said about the farmer and the producer, but I think only one hon. Member has referred to the consumer. You want cheap meat in this country. In Australia you can get the best of cattle at about £2 or £3 per head, but when improvements have been made in transport. I am assured by practical men, that it will be possible to bring cattle over to this country from Australia at a reasonable rate. Under these circumstances I do not think I need say anything more except to appeal to the good sense of this House, and in view of the explanation I have given, I hope that the Government will consent to reinstate this Clause, and I am sure if the Minister of Agriculture decides to do so he will have the support of the majority of the Members of this House.
I would like, very briefly, to express my disapproval of the Measure we are now considering. The speech we have just heard only illustrates what a bog the Government get into when they attempt to interfere with the good legislation they have passed years ago, because this is one of the samples of good Conservative legislation and now this Government have begun to repeal it. I am sorry for the Minister of Agriculture because he has got a legacy of this kind from the late Government, Lord Ernie and Lord Long. It is no good anyone saying in the future after this Bill has passed, that the safeguards for the prevention of disease coming into this country will be as effective as they were in the past. I know that the cattle have to be slaughtered and therefore there is not the same danger of spreading disease, but in future there will be that danger unless the regulations are carried out much better than any Government Department can be expected to carry out anything.
I have been twitted, being a Free Trader, with being a Protectionist because I am afraid of preventing disease. I would like to point out that I am not a Free Trader in cattle disease. No one has more strongly stood up against the doctrine that farmers can ever expect any protection from the point of view of protecting themselves against competition in the staple articles of their produce. The consumers of food number 20 to I when compared with the producers, and therefore contend that 20 people ought not to be taxed for the benefit of one person. Some of us in this House have had real experience of the very severe agricultural crisis with which we are now faced, and the farmer to-day is suffering most severely from an unprecedented drop in prices.
I should like to argue that point. It is one of the grave difficulties which agriculturists have to contend with, that the price paid for produce to the producer is so much less than the price paid by the. consumer. I could argue that point here and I have argued it in my constituency, and I believe that through rates and taxes, increased railway rates, coal bills and other expenses, the consumer pays 2d. per loaf in indirect taxation. That, however, is not germane to my argument at this moment. We have been told that this Bill will not affect the price of meat, and I do not think it will. I believe this Measure was engineered by an agitation in the early part of the year and-1 do not believe it will affect the price of meat.
I also doubt whether many more Canadian cattle will be brought over here as a result of this Measure. We have had Commission after Commission on this subject. This Measure is firmly founded on the Report of the Commission on the Importation of Store Cattle, but it is a rather remarkable fact that on that Commission there was not a single agricultural representative. They were all lawyers, accountants, and all sorts of other professions, but there was not a single agricultural representative. I very much regret that on another Commission there are to be three economists to inquire into agricultural subjects, and you will have these three people squatting on a manure heap cogitating as to how agriculture is to be made profitable.
I know that we have to accept this Measure which has been read a Second time by an overwhelming majority. Whenever we have brought an Amendment forward, overwhelming majorities have crushed us, and, therefore, we have to accept this Bill. I am sorry that my right hon. Friend could not accept my Amendment last night, because it would have afforded something like equality of treatment to British and Canadian cattle. It may be argued that it was a slur on their cattle that they should not be admitted into this country as live cattle for stock purposes. I think it is a slur on British cattle that they cannot be admitted into Canada, and I am sorry that the Ministry of Agriculture did not secure that. Nevertheless, we have to accept this Bill because an overwhelming majority of the House has declared itself in favour of it, and although I have to bow to the majority, I still maintain my objections to this Measure.
We have listened to a very able and eloquent speech from the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. O'Connor). Those of us who are new Members know sufficient about the hon. Member's connection with Irish matters during the last four or five decades to induce us to weigh very carefully any propositions which he puts before this House with regard to Irish affairs. With reference to the matter now before the House, I cannot help thinking, although a young Member of Parliament, that the hon. Member for the Scotland Division has missed the real point in regard to the restrictions which it is proposed to place upon Irish cattle.
I think the hon. Member certainly has made a strong point against the Government in his assertion that the first deliberations on this subject took place without any representative of Ireland being consulted at the conference. It seems to me an amazing thing that a Bill which will have a very far-reaching influence upon the future of the livestock industry in this country, should be considered at a conference without Ireland having an opportunity of having something to say concerning the actual administrative proposals which are incorporated in this Measure. On that point I am entirely in sympathy with the hon. Member for the Scotland division and the hon. Members who represent the Ulster divisions in this House. It does not follow, however, that because they were not given an opportunity to state their case and express their opinions at the Conference that we can now accept their plea, on the basic principle of it, to the effect that they are entitled to preferential treatment in regard to the necessary precautions to be taken against the spread of foot-and-mouth disease in regard to cattle imported from other Dominions of the British Empire. I observed the hon. Gentleman said that when the matter was before the House in July last he had such a strong feeling with regard to the general position of consumers in this matter that he did not vote for the embargo to be retained. I am quite sure he was right when he indicated that strong pressure was brought to bear upon him from Irish sources to vote for the retention of the embargo, but Liverpool had a very strong interest indeed in favour of the embargo being removed. I have been on deputation after deputation to successive Ministers of Agriculture, on behalf of consumers and local authorities in recent years, in regard to the removal of the embargo, and at these, Liverpool and Birkenhead have been represented again and again, and have claimed unity especially with regard to the desire of the inhabitants for the removal of the embargo. My hon. Friend also referred to the difficulties which might arise because of the length of frontier between the United States of America and the Dominion of Canada, and to what might happen in the case of an outbreak of disease in Canada, Ireland retaining a clean bill of health, if these restrictions Were kept on. I think what he said cast rather a reflection, not so much on Canadian cattle perhaps, as on the efficiency of the administration which has always been maintained by the Canadian Government to ensure a clean bill of health in that Dominion. If there were anything in the argument put up with regard to the danger arising from length of the frontier, surely there would have been some evidence of weakness in the system during the last 30 years. But, as was admitted by an hon. Member yesterday, they have had a wonderful bill of health in Canada for the last 30 years— a bill of health which compares most favourably with the Irish bill of health. It was amazing to hear the hon. Member for the Scotland Division claiming in the House to-day that the Irish cattle, in the matter of health, were superior to Canadian cattle. There is not a tittle of evidence to bear out that statement.
There is another point I would like to mention. It has been said that the period of six days' detention which is laid down in this Bill—only for animals which are not sold—will cause a lot of inconvenience. Even if there is, at the outset, some little difficulty with regard to holding up the cattle for six days, after the first week's working there would be no such difficulty. We have heard a great deal about the trouble experienced by unemployed workmen in obtaining their benefits at the Employment Exchanges owing to the choking of machinery caused by gaps. That we have been informed always gradually rights itself, and after the first few days things go on smoothly. The same argument can be applied with regard to interference with the Irish cattle trade by the detention laid down under this Bill, and I do not think one can too strongly emphasise the point made, both on the Second Reading and in Committee, with regard to the alternative unless these wise, precautionary methods are now adopted. I was very glad to hear an hon. Member dwell on the consumers' position in this Debate. Some of us are Co-operative members, and we say it is in the true interest of the consumers, both as regards health and prices, that these precautions should be taken. Last year we incurred an expenditure of £1,000,000 in order to stamp out an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, and it has been pointed out that that was not the whole of the expenditure. An hon. Gentleman asked just now whether we had a true appreciation of the present agricultural depression. I would remind him that the Co-operative Societies in this country are farming nearly 100,000 acres of land—
Yes, that may be so, but at any rate we know something about the matter. We know what we are talking about. We understand these subjects from beginning to end, from the first purchase of raw material and production to the distribution of the goods to the public. The £1,000,000 to which I have referred comes, in the first place, out of the taxpayers' pockets, but inevitably it is a charge on the consumer. We lost hundreds of pounds on many of our farms during the recent outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease because we were unable to obtain the full value of the animals that were slaughtered, and where they were isolated we also were considerable losers. The loss sustained by the society in this respect naturally became a charge on the consumer, but when we are asked to consider what will be the cost to the consumer of this detention, I say it cannot compare with the ultimate charge to the consumer of stamping out a wide-spread epidemic of foot-and-mouth disease.
I want also to say with regard to the point made by the right hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert), with regard to free trade in disease, that such a suggestion—and I say this with great respect—comes very ill from a representative of British agriculture. The Canadian cattle show a bill of health which is infinitely superior to the bill of health of cattle in this country. There are many of us who are not satisfied that the Government or the agricultural community have ever taken effective steps to make our cattle as healthy as they ought to be. Let me remind hon. Members of the attitude of many Members of the present Government during the last 12 months. They had one of the finest opportunities they could possibly have had of dealing effectively with disease in British herds by putting into operation the provisions of the Milk and Dairies Act, 1915. The operation of that Act was suspended on the ground of the cost to the taxpayer. The Act included the necessary provisions for making a real attempt to rid our own cattle of disease, but it was calmly put on one side on the ground that we could not spend money on inspection and on preventive measures. The right hon. Member for South Molton expressed an opinion that this Bill could never have any effect on the price of meat. We have had various cases put forward by those who are opposed to the removal of the embargo. They tell us on one hand that in any case Canada will only be able to send a limited supply of cattle, and it cannot, therefore, produce any great decrease in prices. On the other hand, they have persistently opposed the removal of the embargo, not merely on the ground of disease, but in order to restrict the importation of cattle into this country and to enhance the price of British cattle. One has never known which horse they are going to ride in this connection.
I cannot understand my right hon. Friend's reference to the composition of the Royal Commission. He said that on this Royal Commission, which brought in the report upon which the present Bill is based, not only the agricultural community, but consumers' organisations desired to be represented. That is true. I asked that the Co-operative movement of the United Kingdom should be represented at the same time as the agricultural community, but the answer I got was that the composition of the Commission must be strictly judicial in character. The whole proceedings were strictly judicial. The Commission was presided over by one of the most eminent judges of this country. The agricultural community had every opportunity of putting forward evidence, and they had the assistance of eminent counsel in so doing. The evidence was weighed up by a strictly judicial tribunal, whose report is the basis of the Bill we are considering to-day. The only other point I want to refer to is the question of reciprocity. Surely it is a strange thing for us to hear the doctrine of reciprocity put forward by the right hon. Member for South Molton—almost as strange as hearing him express very grave regret at a Conservative Government bringing in a Bill to interfere with very good Conservative legislation. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman has not transferred his allegiance and affection to the Government benches opposite.
At any rate, the right hon. Gentleman was advocating one of their fundamental principles. On the Second Reading, on the Committee stage, and on the Report stage, the opponents of the removal of the embargo have been defeated again and again in the Division Lobby. They now have no case left at all. At least the consumers of this country are going to get something like justice under this Measure. It was amazing to some of us that the Minister of Agriculture so suddenly gave way to pressure last night and agreed to omit Clause 4 from this Bill. The cause of that action has been already very ably stated by an hon. Member below the Gangway, but I want to repeat what I said last night, that the opponents of the removal of the embargo were warning the Government, all the time during the controversy last July, that if it gave way on the question and thus offered a fair measure of justice to Canada, all the other Dominions would demand the same measure of justice. Yet when the Government take them at their word the same hon. Members are not satisfied, although they used that argument in the earlier stages of the controversy on this question in order to prevent justice being done to Canada. I suggest to the Minister that it would not be a sign of weakness, but of great strength, and even, shall I say, of statesmanship of high Imperial value, if he would reconsider the point now, and, by putting that Clause back in the Bill while the Bill is before the other House, do justice to the Dominions, to whom the Government gave a specific pledge. There is another point that I want to bring to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman, in the hope that he will make a note of it and have an Amendment moved in another place. I refer now to Clause 7 of the amended Bill. That Clause at present reads:
Before any Order is made under the preceding provisions of this Act a draft of the Order shall … be laid before each House of Parliament"—
and so on. It seems to me that it would defeat the real object of a saving Clause of this character, which reserves to this House the right of raising questions upon Orders made by the Minister under a Measure like this, if that saving Clause is only going to refer to Orders made under preceding Clauses, There is power, under this Bill, to make other
Orders under later Clauses, and those who believe that there never should be government by Regulation or by Government Department, but that government should always be finally in the hands of this House and subject to its approval and direction, consider that Bills should not provide that only a section of the Orders made under them shall be laid before the House, but that all Orders made by a Minister for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of a particular Bill should be tabled before this House, and the statutory period given during which objections can be raised. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will take into consideration the advisability of deleting the word "preceding," and will concede that Amendment to us when the Bill is being considered in another place.
Finally, may I say that some of us who have been fighting on this question week in and week out, year in and year out, feel that we have at last come to something like a satisfactory solution of the difficulty? If there is one thing that we desire, it is that there should not be any political controversy with Ireland over the matter which has been raised in this House yesterday and to-day. I cannot too strongly emphasise that in this matter the Canadian Government cannot be charged, as they have been both yesterday and to-day, with interfering with domestic legislation in this country. The Canadian Government—and I have this from the most; authentic source—never did ask that a restriction should be placed upon Irish cattle. All that they asked, and they have been asking it for nearly 30 years, was that, when cattle from Canada were admitted once more into this country, they should be admitted on the same grounds and with no other restrictions than were placed upon Irish cattle, or upon any other cattle imported into this country. Surely that is no disability to Ireland. The putting into the Bill of the precautions at present laid down simply arises out of the Report of the Committee presided over by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Prety man) who has already made such an able statement on the necessity for taking proper precautions for dealing with the carrying of foot-and-mouth disease. I want to suggest that, if there is freedom from disease—a clean bill of health—in this country and Ireland, then the detention period of six days shall be removed by Order; but that, if it is removed, it shall be removed, not merely from Irish cattle—and this is where our Irish Friends have been wrong in these Debates, both yesterday and to-day; they would not go half way and accept the Amendment offered to them by the Government—but that, when that period is removed, it shall be removed simultaneously from Canadian cattle as well as Irish.
Those of us who have been supporting the Government in this Measure have been doing so in the belief that it is in the best interests, not only of agriculture in this country, but of the country generally. The question of safety has entered very largely into the minds of a good many hon. Members, and proposals have been made rigorously to exclude from this country animals that have certain diseases. With every desire in this direction, I am in hearty sympathy and would support any Measure taken by the Government in another Bill to deal with the question of tuberculosis and other diseases that are prevalent in our own herds at home. We want to have the children and the people of the country generally protected from tuberculosis as far as it is possible to do so by legislation and by carrying out proposals that would be helpful in that direction. As regards the six days' detention, the only thing that I would suggest is that the recent serious outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease was really, after all, a part of the aftermath of war, and we are all hopeful that foot-and-mouth disease, and any other of those dire diseases that afflict the animal world, will not revisit us for a long time. If we get back to normal times—I do not know how long or how soon that may be—I have no doubt that one of the first things the Minister of Agriculture will be pressed to do will be to obliterate the six days' detention that is referred to in this Bill. If it is possible, in the judgment of those advising the Ministry, to say that this six days' detention is not necessary for the prevention of disease, the sooner it is deleted the better for both importer and exporter.
A good many of the objections that are being made to the Bill are simply a case of turning molehills into mountains. The arguments that have been used sometimes about no cattle coming from Canada, and then, in the same breath, that so many cattle would come from Canada that breeding would practically stop in this country, will not, I think, prevail, and will not stand examination by those who know this trade intimately. The Government has shown itself, exceedingly anxious to deal with the question of tuberculosis in different breeds. It will be remembered that the testing station at Pirbright was established at very considerable cost, but I have not heard of anything being done at Pirbright for a very long time. I am quite sure that the establishment of a station in the South of England, where, and where only, all cattle, whether from Scotland or not, should be tested, was wrong; but what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) desires, namely, the same treatment from Canada that we give to Canada, and vice versâ, in the case of breeding animals, is absolutely right. If I were finding serious fault with this Bill, it would be with Clause 2, which deals with breeding animals. The arguments used yesterday did not distinguish between breeding animals and store animals. This Clause deals with breeding animals, and, if I understand it correctly, the testing in the case of breeding animals is to be done in Canada. The tuberculin test is to be applied in Canada within 30 days of shipment. I should like to point out that that does not apply in any other country, so far as I know. The test is not made by the exporters, but by the importers. A good many people do not understand that, if the tuberculin test is applied to an animal and it is tested again within a week, it will never react, no matter how badly it may have gone down on the first occasion. It is necessary that the animal should be detained for 30 days, in order to ensure that it has not been faked before being tested. That ought to be done on this side. If breeders in Great Britain export pure-bred stock to the Argentine, although that stock may have an irreproachable tuberculin chart, the animals are always detained in quarantine for 30 days and then tested for tuberculosis; and very often a number of them go down. If they do not stand the test on the other side, they are immediately slaughtered. We have no protection on this side when we take breeding animals from Canada that have been tested in Canada and on a second test in this country are found to fail. Therefore, I respectfully suggest to the Minister that he should reconsider the position in regard to Clause 2, and, if necessary, in another place, have the safeguards inserted that are applied by other countries which receive our purebred stock, and make them the same as those other countries consider to be necessary. With the exception of Clause 2, I have great pleasure of supporting the Third Reading of the Bill.
I desire to say only a very few words on the Third reading, because I think every point of interest in the Bill has been pretty well discussed in its earlier stages. The Minister has had rather a difficult task in dealing with a complex Bill. It is rather unfortunate that, in this Bill, the question of the removal of the embargo on Canadian cattle has been mixed up with the question of restrictions against disease. The two things are really entirely separate, and it would have avoided great confusion, and saved some of the time of the House, if the two had been dealt with separately. I imagine that a Bill will probably be introduced to deal with some of the recommendations of the Committee for reducing the risk of foot-and-mouth disease, and this question of restrictions could have been dealt with then. If we had confined ourselves to the question of the removal of the embargo, the matter would have been comparatively simple. I need not repeat that the agricultural industry in this country generally, with certain exceptions, does look upon it with some alarm, particularly because it affects agriculture in its tenderest point, namely, the stock-raising industry. The stock-raising industry in agriculture is now about the only little bit of the structure which may be said to be floating at all; nearly everything else is submerged. I noticed that the hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. A. V. Alexander) mentioned that he had had great experience of farming, and was concerned in the very large agricultural operations of a co-operative society; and he went on to say that those operations were carried right through from production to consumption. I congratulate him on that being so. It certainly gives him a very wide range of knowledge, and it also gives a very wide range over which profits may be secured, so that some of the profits which can be obtained in the later stages of that process can be used to defray the losses which, as the hon. Member admits, have, been incurred on the farming. The unfortunate agriculturist, however, has to incur the losses without having the advantage of the further stages which provide the profit by which those losses may be covered.
I do not think that that follows. There is, as a matter of fact, in the district in which I live, the largest farmers' co-operative association in England, with a turnover of £500,000. That is quite a different thing. That is not carrying the process as far as actually selling to the consumer. I do not suppose the hon. Member would quite like that competition.
I do not want to pursue the subject, but the unfortunate farmer has not that financial advantage. What we who represent agriculture have tried to do is to loyally accept the national decision that has been given, and see that it shall be carried out with the least possible damage to the agricultural interest, and on the whole that is now how the Bill stands. As it will leave the House it will do the least possible damage to agriculture consistently with carrying out the principle of permitting Canadian cattle into the country. I do not think it is much use prophesying. Some may say we shall have a large influx, others may say we shall have none at all. We shall see. I do not think there will be any very large influx. A great deal depends on what happens on the Canadian border. One of the most potent influences which induced Canada to press for this legislation was the fact that the United States applies a very heavy duty upon the export of cattle from Canada to her natural market over the United States boundary, and if in the course of political movements, which are often pretty rapid in the matter of tariffs on the United States side of the boundary, that tariff were materially reduced, there is very little doubt that trade would flow back again and very few cattle would come to this country, For that reason I certainly hope, for the stability of our food supply, we shall not become very largely dependent upon this supply of Canadian cattle. As we hope to secure an increased supply of British-bred meat, it is very desirable—I know hon. Members who represent the co-operative movement agree with me—that that meat, and other agricultural produce as well, when sold, should be distinguishable from other meat and produce which are not British. I asked the Minister if he could give us an assurance, before the House parted with the Bill, that some Measure on the lines of the Merchandise Marks Bill, introduced in the last Session of the last Parliament, should be brought forward next Session. I ask him now how far he is able to give me such an assurance. I think it is the general feeling throughout the country and the House that one of the ways in which agriculture may be helped—and everyone realises how badly it needs help—is to get the advantage of equality in what it puts on the market. This is one of the things which is most necessary, and I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to give some assurance that the matter will be favourably considered and that we may hope to see such a Bill.
Of course, my hon. and gallant Friend heard what I said yesterday when I asked my right hon. Friend whether any communication had taken place between the Dominions and the Government on the matter. He was not aware of any at that time. I am not aware now what the position is as to that, but I do not go back from the view I then expressed, that whatever those negotiations may have been, it would be extremely dangerous, in the interests of British agriculture and the health of our flocks and herds, to place in the hands of a Minister absolute power by regulation to admit stock from any part of the world which was under the British flag. It is a very large order. Perhaps the strongest plank in the Canadian case, and the one that was most strongly urged, was the absolute immunity, over a long period of years, of Canadian cattle from any form of virulent disease, and I do not think, had that not been the case, this Bill would ever have been introduced. Does anyone suggest that if cattle in Canada had been subject to blackwater, rinderpest and other such diseases as prevail in South Africa, and other diseases in other parts of the Dominions, the Bill would have been introduced and passed? I do not know what engagements the Government may have entered into.
Certainly, but I am not responsible for the pledges. I am responsible to see that agriculture and the country generally get what we think to be right, fair and just and in its interest. If pledges are given by any Government which, in my opinion, if implemented, would' bring Measures into operation which would be detrimental to the national interests and to those of agriculture, I can only regret it and I should oppose those Measures on their merits. It is for the Government to consider their pledges and not for me. I am speaking only on the merits, and I certainly say when the Government gives pledges those pledges should be honoured, but also before they are given they and their consequences should be very carefully considered. It is very unfortunate if this House is placed in a position of having to do something which it knows to be wrong because an ill-considered pledge was given without due consideration of the consequences which might follow at some subsequent date. On the merits I am strongly opposed to any extension of this addition of imported cattle beyond the limits already included in the Bill.
The right hon. Gentleman assumes that if Clause 4 had remained in the Bill it would have rested with the Minister by regulation to admit cattle from South Africa with blackwater, rinderpest and other diseases. That is an entire misrepresentation of the Clause— [HON. MEMBERS: "He did not say that!"]—No Order of the Minister would be effective unless and until it were approved by both Houses of Parliament.
The effect of an Order if approved would be to place cattle coming from one of the other Dominions in the same position as cattle coming from Canada. An Order might be issued which would lie on the Table for 21 days, and would require the approval of both Houses of Parliament. I am quoting the Attorney-General.
I wish to make a very earnest appeal to the Minister to have this considered in another place. He gave a promise last night in these words:
If the Committee will allow ms to leave this Clause over to Report I will undertake to communicate with the Colonial Office, find out exactly what has passed between us and the Colonies, and if I find that there is no really vital reason why the Clause should be kept in I will be quite ready to have it removed on Report."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th December, 1922; col. 2539, Vol. 159.]
That appeal was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelmsford and that reply was given. Another appeal was made later that the Clause should be dropped now and reinstated upon Report, or reconsidered —I presume reconsidered in another place. May I make an earnest appeal to the right hon. Gentleman now to have that reconsidered? The deletion of this Clause will cause very serious disappointment in the other Dominions. They have been waiting for many years for this very provision. They knew it was impossible to get this while the embargo remained on Canadian cattle, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelmsford and his friends have used the argument that if any concession were made to the other Dominions it would be used as a lever by the Canadians for getting the embargo removed from Canada. There has been a desire on the part of many in New Zealand and Australia, but more especially in New Zealand, to export breeding cattle to this country. Other Dominions have been waiting for this legislation and the Government were well advised to introduce Clause 4. They not only fulfilled pledges, but they fulfilled the expectations of the other Dominions in putting in that Clause, and the right hon. Gentleman was far too hasty and, to use the words which he used at that Box a little while ago, far too weak in making the. concessions he made last night. If he had left Clause 4 in and had it reconsidered to-day, or if he will now have it reconsidered in another place, I feel sure there will be a strong desire on the part of many that that Clause should be retained.
If the Clause is not there, it means that South Africa and Australia and New Zealand are in the same position as Canada has always been up to the passing of the Bill. Supposing it were in, there is ample provision for preventing any injustice being done to the breeders of this country by the danger incurred through importing from an infected country. If the Clause were in, New Zealand could appeal to have it applied to her. In New Zealand they have never in their whole history had any epidemic disease among their stock at all. It does not exist to-day, and it has never been there. They have had tuberculosis, but it has been practically stamped out by the vigilance of their Department and their veterinary surgeons. They have a class of stock which we have not got here. They have an entirely new breed of sheep, the Corriedale, which is very valuable. They are being exported, and they are very greatly valued and highly prized in South America. They have improved many breeds of stock. They have improved the Frisian cow and they have some wonderful records of butter fat. I know of one Frisian cow which has already produced 1,145 lbs. of butter fat in 365 days. We can greatly improve the breeding here, because the breeders in every country are constantly looking for new strains, which are essential to keep up the high standard. The Clause is permissive, and not mandatory, and if it had been in it would have been possible for New Zealand to apply to have an Order laid on the Table for 21 days, and if upon inquiry New Zealand was absolutely free from any of those diseases which would be a danger to us it would not, of course, become law. The argument of my hon. Friend is that because it would be dangerous to introduce cattle from South Africa, where they have had rinderpest, the other Dominions should be penalised. If Clause 4 were reinserted in the House of Lords it would enable any one of these Dominions to make a direct appeal. As the Clause is permissive, it is within the power of this House to prevent its becoming law if the House thought fit, and it is also within the power of this House to allow any one of these Dominions to supply breeding stock if they wish. Those Dominions would never export stores. The hon. Member for North Islington (Sir Newton Moore) said he had made inquiries, and that stores might be brought here from those distant Dominions. It is impossible. It is not worth while bringing store beasts from Australia and keeping them at sea for six weeks or two months in order to fatten them here and to make ten or twelve pounds on them.
I should like to be on that cattle boat if I happened to be in a hurry. Australia and New Zealand have been waiting and looking for this Clause, and it is a very serious thing, and will create, very grave discontent against the party opposite, who have always stood for Imperialism and for trade with the Dominions. The Prime Minister has made that one of the most important planks in his platform, especially trade with our Dominions, but when the opportunity occurs, the party which has supported that argument, and the party which supports the Prime Minister, deletes this Clause, and denies these Dominions the advantage that has been given to Canada. I feel very strongly about this, and I was extremely surprised when the Minister of Agriculture so weakly conceded to the clamour from the benches behind him. It was quite obvious that he had not seriously considered the question. It was obvious that he was not in possession of the facts. When he promised that he would make inquiries of the Colonial Office, and would reintroduce the Clause on Report if it was thought advisable, my hopes rose. I trust that he will seriously reconsider the matter and see if he cannot reintroduce the Clause in another place.
I am very pleased that this Bill has reached the stage of the Third Reading, and I hope that it will soon pass into law. It has been a very great pleasure to me to listen to this Debate, if for no other reason than to realise the educative value of this House, especially applied to some of my hon. Friends on the opposite benches. The right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman), in common with many of his colleagues, strenuously opposed the importation of Canadian cattle, and it is very sweet to hear him advocating the Third Reading to-day. I remember the time when there were only about three of us on this side of the House who stood up for the principle of importing Canadian cattle, and it is a great pleasure to me to find that this subject has reached its present stage. I have recently paid a visit to Canada and have visited such important agricultural centres as Winnipeg, Calgary, and Edmonton. During the time that I was in Canada we had many opportunities of hearing expressions of public opinion, and only on one occasion did I hear the word cattle used, and then the speaker, a farmer, said that he thought there would be very little advantage to Canada in this matter, because their market lay in the direction of the United States. It is, however, very gratifying, so far as the feelings of Canada are concerned, that the stigma in regard to Canadian cattle has been removed.
The extraordinary arguments that have been used on the opposite benches, especially with regard to diseases in other animals that might possibly have come in under Clause 4, have been most interesting. What is known as red-water fever in the South has become black-water fever in the House of Commons. Other diseases have been mentioned, but they are entirely peculiar to that country, and, as far as I know, are not in any way susceptible of being carried here. I do not think they are infectious in any degree. These diseases have been argued as a reason for the abolition of Clause 4. I am sorry that that Clause has been deleted, and I hope it will be restored, because immediately you leave the door open for the admission of Canadian cattle, it will follow as a natural consequence that the other Dominions would like to have the same privilege. When I voted in favour of the removal of the embargo, I did so with a certain amount of fear, representing an agricultural constituency, but when I visited my constituency, I found that the representatives on the Council of Agriculture in England did not really represent the feelings of the constituency, because some old graziers there remembered, with a great deal of pleasure, the great value of Canadian cattle when they were imported 30 years ago. It would have been argument which some of my hon. Friends from Ireland would have hardly relished, if I told them that these graziers said that Canadian cattle do very much better on English pastures than Irish cattle, and that they may make very excellent meat, and very cheap meat. It will not only remove the stigma that was put on Canadian cattle, but will remove a breach of faith on the part of the legislators of this country when this Bill becomes law and Canadian cattle can be imported into this country. I hope that other cattle, properly inspected —because there is no reason why they cannot be properly inspected—will be permitted to come into the country. If we needed an illustration of the advisability of bringing over cattle from the Dominions, it was provided by the shipment of cattle from South Africa recently, which realised such extraordinary prices. That is an illustration that the traders of this country welcome the opportunity of improving the strain of cattle in this country.
I appeal to the Minister of Agriculture to reconsider very carefully the question of omitting Clause 4. I do not wish to increase any danger to the herds in England, but I do feel, after the arguments that we have heard, that this is a very serious question, and I think the Clause might be reinserted in another place. I appeal to the Minister of Agriculture to see that the imported animals should be branded in some way perfectly distinct. In the desperate state of English agriculture at the present time, it ought to get the most legitimate and thorough protection that we can give it, just as we give protection to distressed industries under the Safeguarding of Industries Act. This is practically the same thing. The agricultural Members are in a very small minority, only representing about one-sixth of the House, but I realise that other hon. Members sympathise very deeply with the state of agriculture, and it is on these grounds that I appeal for sympathetic consideration in connection with this Bill.
I suppose no other Member has ever exported or sold more store cattle from Irish farms than I. I do not think this Bill will deal a deadly blow at those of us who endeavour to sell Irish store cattle in this country. It will make it more difficult and rather more expensive. There will be certain delays and certain small expenses, but in the main it will afford a greater measure of protection to the English breeder. The English breeder will have better protection as against the Irish breeder, and the English breeder ought to have that protection. No people from the South of Ireland in this House can speak with authority for the Free State, although the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. O'Connor) and the hon. Member for Fermanagh and Tyrone (Mr. Harbison), who ran in double harness with a Sinn Feiner at the last election, spoke with a certain delegated authority for the Free State, and they spoke with a very sad lack of humour.
The Free State has taken, under protest, the status of an Overseas Dominion, They want to be foreigners in that respect, and they consider this Government is a foreign Government, but when we come to the cattle of the Free State, they want their cattle to be considered, not as imported foreign cattle, but as animals from the United Kingdom. Speaking as a resident in the South of Ireland and a citizen of the Free State, it seems to me that this Bill is a forerunner of many Bills which are going to place the Irish Free State, quite rightly, in exactly the same position as a Dominion Government, no more and no less. I confess, therefore, that I was very much concerned at Question Time when the hon. Member for the Scotland Division asked the Minister of Agriculture who represented the Free State and who spoke for the South of Ireland in the negotiations with the Dominion of Canada. My right hon. Friend said that the Free State was represented by Mr. Churchill, who was the Minister for the Overseas Dominions. I thought, what a chapter! Here is Mr. Churchill, who tried to win the last election at Dundee by posting Dundee
I am the man who smashed the cattle embargo.
That is the man who represented me, as a large exporter of Irish stores. Our agriculture in the South of Ireland is in as bad a way as yours in England, and we had to look to Mr. Churchill to defend our interests. I look at this matter with great apprehension. Who is going to look after me as a citizen of the Irish Free State?
I had meant to put a question on this subject, but I shall not be able, but it is obvious that we Free Staters should have something in the nature of an agent-general to represent us here in England, and I hope that very soon there will be an agent-general. Then if it is considered to be in the interests of agriculture to make more restrictions—the Minister has the most horrible powers under this Bill —the right hon. Gentleman must consult with the agent-general before he does anything. Just think of what he can do to us in Ireland. He may prohibit the landing in Great Britain of any animals and any class of animals brought from Ireland or impose such conditions on their landing as he thinks fit. These are great powers, and I hope that before using them he will consult with the agent-general for the Free State. I support this Bill, though it is going to cost me money, because I feel that it is right to support it. My butcher assures me that once you get these Canadian stores in he is going to drop the price of meat by 6d. a lb. I understand therefore that I am going to lose something like £2 on every store which I sell from my Irish farm. I do not know whether that is going to come about, but I believe that meat is going to be made cheap, and, though it is going against my interests as a citizen of the Irish Free State, I intend to vote for this Bill.
I rise not for the purpose of discussing any of the detailed points arising on this Bill, though I may say that I am entirely in favour of the retention of Clause 4. My object in rising is to give expression, as one who has voted against the embargo ever since it was first established and who represents a part of the country which is probably as much concerned with getting a good supply of Canadian cattle as any other, to express recognition of the way in which this subject has been dealt with by the House of Commons on Second Beading and in Committee, and the way in which the House did what was due to Canada having regard to all that has taken place. I think that we can now say to Canada that the House of Commons at least has kept faith with her. Whatever may be said with regard to the matters which led up to the present position, the spirit in which Members who themselves do not agree with the policy have endeavoured to carry out our obligation to Canada is one which makes a Member of the House of Commons proud. I believe that it is a good Bill so far as I am able to judge with such experience as I had. I began by importing cattle in the days when they were first admitted from Canada, and I have had to do with cattle more or less ever since. But it is a Bill which depends particularly on the way in which it is administered.
Though in general politics it is not my business to praise the present Government or any Member of it, I think that the Board of Agriculture have approached this subject with a desire to do to Canada what Canada expects, and that in introducing this Bill they have submitted a practical Measure. I hope that in administering this Measure the spirit which has been shown throughout by the Ministry of Agriculture will prevail. A great many of us in Scotland have not bad as much faith in the Ministry of Agriculture as we should have wished to have, especially in connection with this matter. There was no doubt that their consistent policy has been to oppose this change, and that naturally has led Scottish farmers who desired to get in Canadian cattle freely to think that English agricultural interests were preferred to those of Scotland. I must say that I retained that view, but I have been disarmed by what I have heard during the discussion of this Measure, and I hope that the attitude which has been shown towards this legislation will be shown also in experience of the actual administration. If that is so, I am sure that the Ministry of Agriculture in this country will find friends in Scotland, where hitherto they have found a great many people who were actively opposed to them, or were very doubtful with regard to the proper consideration by them of Scottish interests. I hope that I have not trespassed beyond what a new Member may say, but the matter has been very much in my mind, and I desired to give expression to my views because they are shared by the great body of Scottish farmers.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not show any sign of weakening by reintroducing Clause 4. There is no analogy between allowing Canadian cattle to be admitted, and the suggestion that at some future time cattle from other parts of the Empire should also be admitted to this country. We debated the question of the importation of Canadian cattle in the last Parliament as well as in this, but this House has had no opportunity of having the facts put before it with regard to cattle from South Africa, Australia or any part of our Dominions, and it would be very much against the interests of agriculture merely because of some pledge of which we know nothing to say that such cattle should be admitted under this Bill without further consideration and without an opportunity for this House to discuss fully the possible difficulty and danger which might be entailed for this country if that policy were adopted.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman) referred just now to the necessity of something being done to enable the consumer to know whether he was going to eat British or foreign meat, and he suggested that in the near future some Bill should be introduced very much on the lines of the merchandise marks being introduced last Session, enabling the consumer to know what was English and what was foreign meat. I rather understood the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill to say that that was a matter which did not need to be discussed on this Bill. On the Second Reading the point was not raised from these benches. It was raised by the hon. Member for East Ham (Mr. Barnes), supported by the right hon. Member for Chelmsford, and by hon. Members from Wales and by other hon. Members, and considerable pressure was put on the right hon. Gentleman to say whether he would consider the matter favourably. The matter is one of great importance which affects English agriculture enormously. The right hon. Gentleman had not an opportunity on the Second Reading of replying to the point, and should take opportunity on the Third Reading of giving a favourable answer and intimating that he will try to per- suade the Government that it is their duty and that it is necessary to bring in a Bill such as is desired at the earliest possible opportunity.
I wish first to say a word about Clause 4, which was first mentioned by the hon. Member for North Islington (Sir N. Moore), and has been referred to by other hon. Members. Why did not hon. Members say all these things last night? I was here for a considerable time and never heard one Member say anything in favour of this Clause.
All the speakers were entirely against the Clause until I got up to say that I would withdraw it. I waited for some time. It was not that I was afraid that the Government were going to be beaten. I have no doubt that we should have got a majority if we had stuck by the Clause, but this is a biggish Bill which the House is being asked to pass in a very short time. I think that Members of the Committee last night met the Government extremely well. I think that they realised that they were being asked to do something special, and fell in with the Government for a special occasion in a way for which we are exceedingly grateful. It was evident that this Clause raised a question different from the questions raised by the other Clauses of the Bill. It was a question that could be treated separately, and it was a question on which it seems to me that there was such a very acute divergence of opinion as to suggest that there was very strong feeling in the House that that was a Clause which the Government ought not to press in a Bill like this. Realising the spirit of forbearance which Members who do not approve of the principle of this Bill had shown, we did not wish to treat them too hard. I did not think it was a fair thing, as they were accepting a great many conditions to which they had strong objections, to press upon them this Clause, which really was not essential to the Bill. About the future of that Clause, all that I can say is that communications with the Dominions are going on at the present time. An hon. Member asked how the Bill would apply to horses. This Bill makes no difference in any sort of way. Any horses that could come in before this Bill was introduced can come in now.
Lieut.-Colonel J. WARD:
May I put one question to the right hon. Gentleman? Is it not a fact that Clause 4 was placed in the Bill, and was shown to the authorities of the Dominions, and that a promise was given that it would be included? Have not definite communications been made to representatives of the Dominions that the Clause would be in the Bill, and was it not accepted by them as it was originally drafted in the Bill?
That is exactly what I cannot say. I was not at the Conference which settled this Bill, and I do not know how far it has been communicated to the representatives of the Colonics. Communications are going on with the Colonies now. I must say a word about the Merchandise Marks Act. I quite realise the force of the arguments which have been urged by my hon. Friend. This Bill is now under the consideration of the Government, and I shall do what I can to support their views and to urge them upon the Government. A question has been raised as to branding, so as to make it evident that an animal was of foreign origin. I have already accepted an Amendment to the Bill insisting on indelible; marking. I wish to thank the representatives of Ireland for the course they have pursued towards the Bill. I quite realise that they felt very sore about the matter. I realise also that their constituents felt probably even more sore. They made their protest straightly and strongly, and I should be the last to object to their having done so. I would thank them that, having made their protest and having made their opposition quite clear, they left it at that, and did not employ arts which I have known to be employed, not only by Irishmen, but by other Members, to make it unduly difficult to get the Bill through in a reasonable time. Probably they realised, as the House realises, that it is a great thing to get this question settled. I have been of those who do not think that the matter is going to make very much difference to anybody. If those who prophesy that there will be great drops in the price of food find that their prophecies turn out entirely false, at all events they may console themselves with the reflection that those who think that they will be greatly injured by the Bill may find that that prophecy falls to the ground as well.
I did not intend to speak and should not have done so had it not been for the speech of the Minister. He puts down this deliberate slight to the Dominions, particularly to Australia, which has resulted from the excision of Clause 4, to the apparent unanimity of the House last night. That is a misunderstanding which ought to be cleared up at once. There was apparently, up to a certain point, unanimity in the House last night, but it arose solely from the pledge of the right hon. Gentleman that there was no sort of bargain or arrangement with the Colonies which rendered necessary the retention of Clause 4, and it was on that understanding that the House accepted his first offer to leave in Clause 4, and to consider on the Report stage, after he has made inquiries at the Colonial Office, whether it would not be possible on Report to take that Clause out. Then the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman) arose and slaughtered the Minister and again the Minister gave way. But his second giving way, in which he said that he would cut the Clause out then, and that if he found later that there was need to put it in he would have it restored on the Report stage, has not-been carried out, although he knows now that there was a definite bargain, and that Australia and South Africa were counting on Clause 4 in order that they might at least say that they had equal treatment with Canada. Why has the right hon. Gentleman done that? Because he has been again terrorised by those behind him. Now he is riding off on the plea that the Bill is going up to another place, that the Secretary for the Colonies sits in another place, and the right hon. Gentleman proposes to leave to the Secretary of State the unpleasant duty of restoring the Bill to the only form in which it can be satisfactory to the greater part of the Empire. I think that that is playing with the House. Then the right hon. Gentleman said, "Why did not the Opposition show me what they felt last night?" They showed what they felt in the Division Lobby.
The official Opposition in this House last night voted in favour of the Government's Clause, and they found to their surprise that the Government Whips were put on to defeat the Government's own Clause in the Bill. Then the right hon. Gentleman says that he is surprised that there should be such a fuss in the House to-day. We have only just discovered how the right hon. Gentleman conducts Government Bills. We did not know that he did not take steps to acquaint himself with the ordinary elementary facts of the situation before he sat on the Front Bench. He ought to have known yesterday what the Colonies felt about Clause 4, and now he ought to take steps to put the matter right. It is to be hoped that such steps will be taken in another place. Whether that be done or not, I want the Colonies to understand that, so far as His Majesty's Opposition is concerned, we believe in keeping bargains.
I wish to say a few words on the same point. In strict confidence, I have seen the correspondence. I have seen a definite pledge of the Government that Clause 4 would be inserted in this Bill. I have seen the document. Therefore, I say that it is simply scandalous, after the Government have given the Colonics a definite written understanding that that Clause would be in the Bill—an understanding that the Dominions would be treated as a whole— that the promise should not be kept. As it is in black and white from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, surely the right hon. Gentleman will honour the bargain? If he has not the courage to do it in this House, I hope he will see that it is done in another place. What is the use of kow-towing to one Dominion and injuring your relations with another? I should have thought that the proper and fair thing to do was, not to consider the question of distance, or whether Australia can become a competitor in landing cattle in this country, but to give the Dominions at least the sentimental satisfaction of knowing that they are being all treated alike. That is far more important than the point whether they can trade or not. I suggest that as the Bill has now gone too far for revision in this House, the right hon. Gentleman ought at least to say that, as there is a bargain—there is no doubt about that—he is prepared to promise that the blunder will be rectified in another place.