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Lords Chamber

Volume 70: debated on Tuesday 8 May 1928

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House Of Lords

Tuesday, 8th May, 1928.

The House met at a quarter past four of the clock, The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Ministry Of Health Provisional Order Confirmation (Gillingham Extension) Bill Hl

My Lords, I beg leave to introduce a Bill to confirm a Provisional Order of the Minister of Health relating to Gillingham; and to move that it be read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 1a .—( Viscount Gage.)

On Question, Bill read 1a , and to be printed.

Ministry Of Health Provisional Orders Confirmation (No 7) Bill Hl

My Lords, I beg leave to introduce a Bill to confirm certain Provisional Orders of the Minister of Health relating to Amman Valley Joint Sewerage District, Barry, Bury, Leicester, Loughborough, and Rugby; and to move that it be read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 1a .—( Viscount Gage.)

On Question, Bill read 1a , and to be printed.

Representation Of The People (Equal Franchise) Bill

Brought from the Commons; read 1a ; and to be printed.

Stretford And District Electricity Board Bill Hl

Read 3a , and passed, and sent to the Commons.

Sandown Urban District Council Bill Hl

Read 3a , and passed, and sent to the Commons.

Weald Electricity Supply Bill Hl

Read 3a , and passed, and sent to the Commons.

Wey Valley Water Bill Hl

Read 3a , and passed, and sent to the Commons.

Newquay Water Bill

Read 3a , with the Amendment, and passed, and returned to the Commons.

Hastings Corporation Bill

Read 3a , with the Amendments, and passed, and returned to the Commons.

Leeds And Liverpool Canal Bill

Read 3a , with the Amendments, and passed, and returned to the Commons.

Nottinghamshire And Derby Shire Tramways (Trolley Vehicles, Etc) Bill Hl

Read 3a , and passed, and sent to the Commons.

Otley Gas Order, 1928

My Lords, I beg to move the Motion which stands in my name on the Paper.

Moved, That the Special Order which was presented on the 20th of March last be approved.—( Viscount Peel.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Hemel Hempsted District Gas Order, 1928

My Lords, I beg to move the second Motion which is on the Paper in my name.

Moved, That the Special Order which was presented on the 27th of March last be approved.—( Viscount Peel.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Post Office (Sites) Bill

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.

My Lords, I beg to move the Second Reading of this Bill. A Bill of this kind comes before your Lordships almost every year as extensions of telephone and postal facilities are required. This Bill has been passed already in another place. It is to enable the Postmaster-General to acquire land for the extension of the head post office in Leeds and for telephone exchanges in Manchester, Ashton-under-Lyne and Denton, and also in Uxbridge and Warrington, and to give power to construct a subway under a disused burial ground in Mount Street, Mayfair. This subway is to enable an automatic telephone exchange to be opened in Farm Street. Every effort will be made to protect the trees and the amenities of the ground which, although it is a disused burial ground, is now very largely used as a pleasure ground, as some of your Lordships may know. The roof of the subway to be constructed is to be at least sixteen feet below ground and it is not anticipated that any of the bodies buried there will be interfered with. In case of any interference Clause 16 of the Bill provides that they shall be decently and reverently buried somewhere else. The Westminster City Council have given their consent and Clause 7 has been introduced to protect that council. If any of your Lordships desire further information as to any of the sites I shall be very glad to give it, but this Bill was passed without any opposition in another place and I do not think there will be any objection to it here.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a .—( The Earl of Lucan.)

On Question, Bill read 2a , and committed.

Importation Of Plumage (Prohibition) Act, 1921, Amendment (No 2) Bill Hl

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a .—( Lord Danesfort.)

My Lords, I should have liked to make some observations when the Second Reading of this Bill was taken, but I was abroad at the time. I would now claim the indulgence of your Lordships on the ground that for the last five years I have been Chairman of the Statutory Committeee created under the Act of 1921 in order to carry out its provisions, though, of course, I hope your Lordships will understand that in what I say this evening I speak entirely on my own behalf as I have had no opportunity of consulting my Committee. The original measure enacted that the import of all plumage should be prohibited except under certain conditions. One of these provided that birds ordinarily used for food purposes in England, mainly game birds, should be admitted, and that licences could be given for scientific purposes, museums and so on, to import birds. The Schedule, which was to include birds of which the plumage could be legally imported, included the ostrich and the eider-duck, but a Statutory Committee was appointed with the special object of considering all the various birds whose plumage certain persons desired to import and to decide, subject, of course, to the assent of the Board of Trade, whether particular birds should be included in the Schedule or not.

That Committee was a very representative one. It was constituted to include two experts in ornithology, three representatives of the feather trade, four other members and an independent Chairman. It met in the earlier stages very frequently, in order to consider the various birds that were brought to its notice. Almost the first thing that the Committee did was to decide to exclude at all events the bird of paradise and the egret from the Schedule on the ground that the demand for these birds, which were among the most ornamental, was diminishing their numbers, and that in the case of the egret the acquisition of the feathers was also bound up with considerable cruelty. The Committee then considered the various applications made by chambers of commerce, by the trade and by individuals. The Committee took these applications one by one, and in the end decided to add eight or nine birds to the Schedule in addition to those already contained in it. These birds were included for various reasons: either, as in the case of the common rhea, on the same ground as in that of the ostrich, or because the bird was so common that there was no likelihood of it being diminished or exterminated by any demand for its plumage; or because the bird was pernicious and destructive and its extermination would be an advantage rather than a disadvantage; or because, like the golden pheasant, the bird was reared, like the ostrich, specifically for its plumes without any cruelty being involved. Birds in these classes were therefore included in the Schedule. As finally agreed upon, after very careful revision by the Committee, that Schedule was, I think, generally accepted at the time, and I have heard no criticism directed against it in regard to the birds that were included in it.

I should like to say here—and I think I can speak on behalf of the members of my Committee as well—that the Act of 1921 has been a distinct success in many respects. It has undoubtedly very much diminished the import of birds' plumage, it has discouraged the wearing of plumes and it has appealed also to humane feeling in regard to these birds. I should like to add—and again I think I can speak on behalf of the Committee—that the success of that Act, so far as it has been a success, has been mainly due to the efficient action taken by the Customs in regard to these imports of feathers. This was, to them, a distasteful task because they had no expert knowledge and it was very difficult sometimes to decide whether a feather was legally or illegally imported. Sometimes, indeed, the experts of the British Museum have been unable to decide. There was the additional difficulty that, instead of these feathers being imported in the form of whole skins, they were very often imported as single feathers or with feathers from various birds made up on one mount and often dyed and clipped, so that it became extremely difficult to decide their nature. Nevertheless, through their efficient action, the Customs authorities have undoubtedly reduced enormously the import of these birds, and I, for one, am very grateful to them for the interest that they have taken and the efficient way in which they have carried out their duties.

In spite of this fact, though this trade has been scotched, I do not think, watching this question carefully, that it has been by any means killed. I think that the present Act required the strengthening that it will receive if this Bill is read a third time and passed by this House and the House of Commons. I have said that there has been a diminution of the wearing of these feathers, but from time to time there is a curious recrudescence of a demand for them. Four or five years ago a considerable number of the reputable shops that deal in these things had in their catalogues a considerable number of advertisements offering egret feathers for sale, mainly in hats. I drew the attention of the Customs Department to these advertisements and asked them to inquire into each case as to whether the feathers that were advertised had been imported before the Act of 1921 came into force or subsequently, and I am glad to say that, so far as those inquiries went, they showed that the feathers had been imported before the Act came into force. In a letter to The Times I drew attention to this matter, pointing out that this constituted a considerable temptation to others to smuggle and provided an attraction for those who did not mind wearing these feathers.

I am glad to say that this had an effect for some time; but that sort of effect wears off, and quite lately, even in the last few weeks, there has been another recrudescence of these advertisements and catalogues offering feathers in hats for sale. I hold in my hand an important exhibit—in contradistinction to my noble friend's exhibit the other day—of spring advertisements and other advertisements displayed by no fewer than twelve of our largest firms that deal with these matters, in which they offer these feathers for sale, either as plumes or in hats. I am having inquiry made with regard to these cases to see how far, as I hope and believe, they will be able to show that these feathers, like those of some years ago, were pre-Act feathers. The trade have played the game. There is no doubt that before the Act came into force, during the months between the passing of the Act and its coming into operation, the trade and these shops quite legitimately did lay in very considerable stocks, and so far as these shops are concerned, I think they are drawing upon those stocks.

On the second Reading some doubt was expressed by one or two speakers who supported the Bill as to whether these feathers could last as long as seven years without deteriorating, so as to make them valueless, and I think the Paymaster-General and my noble friend opposite spent an unnecessary amount of time in trying to show that these feathers will last longer than seven years. My noble friend opposite (Lord Peel) on the Committee stage produced the skin of a bird, which had been in the British Museum for forty years. Of course the conditions in the British Museum—under glass, or in drawers—are quite different from those which exist in the trade. It seems to me, however, that the question of the time for which these feathers will last is quite irrelevant to the present Bill for this reason: if the feathers which are offered for sale are shown to have been imported before the Act came into force then it shows that they will last for at least seven years. If, however, they have been imported since the passage of the Act the question of age or time does not arise. Therefore I think that the question of how long these feathers will last really has nothing to do with the merits of this Bill.

I have referred to these spring catalogues and circulars because my noble friend opposite founded one of his main arguments on the fact that, as he said, "there was no market for these plumes, that no one wanted to buy them," and that therefore it could not be to the interest of any one to run the risk of incurring penalties by smuggling them into the country. I hope I have shown that such a trade exists, that it is going very strong, that there is a considerable demand for these feathers, that they are sold at a considerable price, and that therefore there is great temptation and great inducement to persons to smuggle these feathers into the country in order to sell them.

As the Act was originally passed, your Lordships are aware that it only prohibited the importation of the feathers of birds not included in the Schedule, and that it made no reference to the illegality of their sale in this country. The question was raised when the Bill was going through this House, and it was then thought that it would be a rather hard measure at that time upon a perfectly legitimate trade, which was a large trade, and the traders in which had laid in large stocks. It was thought that any attempt to deal with sales at that time would be very harassing to the traders and, rightly or wrongly, the House decided against the proposal to include sales.

That, however, was seven years ago, and circumstances have altered very considerably since then. Traders have got accustomed to these prohibitions. Prohibitions have reduced enormously the imports, and plumes which were imported before the Act came into force must have become more or less exhausted. There is therefore nothing hard or harassing in now adding this provision to the Bill, and it does seem to me that it is a logical corrollory of the original Act. The original Act prohibited importation, and if feathers are illegally imported there can be no hardship in prohibiting their sale in this country.

The Government's position was explained on the Second Reading by the Paymaster-General and by the Leader of the House. They, at first, proposed to oppose the Bill. On second thoughts, however, and seeing that there was considerable feeling in the House, they did not challenge a Division on the Second Reading, but said that they would consider the matter and their position on the Third Reading.

I do not think it is quite that. I have read the debate, although I was not here. My noble friend the Leader of the House said there was evidently a good deal of feeling on the subject, and also a great deal of difference of opinion on the evidence, and he thought that it would be a good thing to postpone decision until the Third Reading stage, between which and the Second Reading he hoped the matter of the evidence would be carefully gone into. It was in consequence of that, as the noble Earl will remember, that I made what I am afraid was a rather long statement on that question of evidence on going into Committee.

I quite agree. I entirely accept the position as stated by my noble friend. At all events there was considerable feeling, and so my noble friend was called in to assist in the matter. He is a sort of handy man, a maid-of-all-work, who is called in to introduce and to help Bills, and in this case, perhaps, to sweep up some of the broken crockery, when necessary. He made, what is a very unusual thing in this House, a long Second Reading speech on the Motion to go into Committee, in order to put before the House certain facts from returns in regard to these matters. I am glad that he has done so, because it is these very figures that I propose to traverse on the present occasion, and I am glad to know exactly what his position was. He based his arguments on some return given in reply to a Parliamentary question in another place. This return was originally prepared at the request of my Committee, and unfortunately it is not in the same form as the earlier returns, and it is therefore not easy to compare with them.

I think that any noble Lord who was here the other day, and heard my noble friend opposite, would have come to the conclusion that the seizures contained in that return were practically the imports of feathers, but they are in fact only the figures of seizures by the Customs House, and it is quite certain that while a good number are seized, a certain number must elude the vigilance of the Customs House officials, because feathers are especially easy to hide from observation. They are soft, light, and easily packed away so as to elude detection and observation by the Customs House officers, and I should think there is nothing easier to conceal or more difficult to detect than feathers. Then there is the individual person, male or female, who can very easily bring in these feathers on his or her person to a considerable amount without any declaration and afterwards put them on the market. Now I come to the return which my noble friend quoted and on which he based his definite opposition to the Bill. My noble friend committed himself to this very definite proposition. After mentioning two bad cases, one of which was the grebe case and the other the case of a valuable consignment of egret feathers, he said:
"Those were no doubt two bad cases of attempted smuggling during the last seven years and they were the only bad cases."
I must traverse that statement. I am quite certain that my noble friend had no intention whatever of misleading the House, but I can put forward quite a different proposition to that stated by my noble friend.

In the first place I will take the figures as a whole. These returns are very remarkable because they show that the number of sections of plumage of different sorts imported into this country which are seized by the Customs still amount to many thousands a year. Although I admit to the full that there has been a diminution in them, the amounts at the present moment are alarming and give cause for great disquiet. What is still more remarkable is that the figures go up and down. The figures are given for three years. In the first year, 1925, 4,000 bits of plumage, as I will call them, were seized—a great deal more, of course, were imported; in 1926, 5,000 bits of plumage were seized; and last year 2,000. But what is rather disquieting is that in 1925 1,000 of these plumages were egret feathers of different sorts, whereas in 1926 no fewer than 3,000 of them were egret feathers, which are specially desired in the market. That, I think, shows that there is at all events something wrong in the present position.

Then my noble friend took the total and presumed that unless there was a prosecution in the case of imports those imports, if seized, were of an innocent character and their introduction was not made with any intention of deception. I agree to this extent, that a very large proportion of these imports are undoubtedly brought in by persons who are ignorant of the law, who are innocent of any deceit, and the feathers are seized because they are illegal. But it is certain that there must be a very large margin of cases in addition in which there is intentional deception, either by concealment or by misrepresentation, and a large number of feathers come in undetected. My noble friend knows two bad cases. One of those cases was the case of 130,000 grebe skins which were brought in a few years ago. I believe it is a fact that, though those 130,000 skins were seized, they escaped detection at the Custom House; and it was only after they had got through and were being despatched that information came to the Customs, and they were able to seize them.

It makes no difference. My point is that if 130,000 grebe skins can get through in one consignment alone surely there must be plenty of other holes in the net which allow other feathers to be brought in under wrong declarations. My noble friend's assumption is that these cases in which there is no prosecution on behalf of the Customs are innocent cases. I think the important fact ought to be borne in mind that no Government Department, and the Customs still less than any other, can afford to bring a prosecution unless it is certain that it is going to win. It has to make its position water-tight before it can venture to bring an action against those who are bringing in illegal goods. Some time ago the members of the Committee had before them the evidence of one of the representatives of the Customs, and this is what he said—and I think it is very important from the point of view of the number of prosecutions and why there have not been more owing to the difficulties of dealing with them from the Departmental point of view:—

"It is of the utmost difficulty for us to produce a case which is water-tight in a Court of Law.—
That is a case of illegal importation—
"Quite clearly we do not want to institute a prosecution which is not going to succeed. The result is that the proportion of importations of prohibited plumage in regard to which we can take proceedings with any chance of success is only an infinitesimal proportion of the whole number of seizures."
He does not say anything about the other cases being innocent cases; he says they often cannot prosecute because they have to make their case clear first.

Rather remarkable confirmation of that is to be found in the grebe case—the Arcos case. They were able to confiscate these 130,000 grebe skins illegally imported, but they were not able to prosecute those who imported them, because their difficulty was to prove the guilt of the consignee. That shows what the difficulty of the Customs is when it comes to a prosecution. My noble friend said that in seven years there have only been two bad cases of attempted smuggling. It is a minor correction, but I may point out that it is six years, and not seven, that the Act has been in force.

It did not come into force until 1922. It is six years this month since it came into force. I would also point out that in giving his figures my noble friend had before him the returns of the last three years only. Perhaps he did not realise that it did not cover the whole period that the Act has been in operation. And even then it is curious that he did not quote among his bad cases two cases which were in these returns. One was the case of the illegal importation of storks' feathers, for which the introducer was prosecuted, convicted, and fined £5, and the other was a very serious case which occurred in 1927, only a few months ago, a case of illegal importation of some egret feathers, which were not brought in innocently but as a consignment declared as isinglass, not feathers at all. That was a very clear case of smuggling, and to my mind quite sufficient to justify the passing of this Bill.

My noble friend stated that since the Act has been in force, which is the period covered by the discussions, there have been only two bad cases. My noble friend will bear in mind again what I said about the difficulty of prosecution on behalf of the Customs, which to a certain extent accounts for there not being a very much larger number of cases brought into the Courts. During the whole period since the Act came into force, excluding the grebe case, which was not prosecuted, and including one case in which the man charged absconded before the action was brought on—a confession of guilt—there were fifteen cases in all as against the two which my noble friend mentioned. Only one of those cases was dismissed. In all the others the Customs were successful in obtaining a verdict. Curiously enough, in the worst case of all, a case in which the declaration of consignment stated that the cases contained eggs and nothing but eggs, the Customs House officer in probing the eggs came across some feathers by accident. In the five cases of eggs feathers of the bird of paradise were found to the value of £2,500 concealed amongst the eggs. Unfortunately, though the suspicion was as grave as it possibly could be, they were not able to bring home actually to the consignees a guilty knowledge of the consignment and therefore that case was dismissed. It was a very bad case and one of the worst of the lot.

That leaves fourteen cases of attempted smuggling, of attempts, in other words, to bring these illegal feathers in by means of false declarations. In some cases they were declared as feathers, but the designation of the feathers was false; that is to say, they were not what was stated in the declaration, but were feathers of birds in the Schedule, feathers which were legally imported. Still worse, in the other cases, as in the case of the eggs, the declaration of the contents of the consignment did not mention feathers at all but articles of another description. One lot was brought in as a Japanese screen, another as eggs, another as toys and another as silk, etcetera. In other cases there was no declaration on the part of the person concerned, but it was discovered that these feathers were concealed about his person. That, these were all grave cases is shown, I think, by the fact that the magistrate imposed in each case a heavy fine, and very heavy costs in some of them.

Might I interrupt the noble Earl? I do not want to have any dispute about questions of fact. The noble Earl says there were fifteen prosecutions. What years do they cover?

I am answering what my noble friend stated—that there were only two cases during the seven years that the Act has been in force. I am endeavouring to show that not only were there fifteen of these bad cases but that two of them came under the returns that he had in his hand of recent date, which in themselves were bad cases and either of which would have justified the passing of the Act. In order to show the gravity of those cases the magistrates imposed fines of £50, £20, £10 and so on, with costs up to £30, £20, £7 and less. That shows at all events that the magistrates considered these were cases of great gravity. In those circumstances, and in view of the figures I have given, I would like to ask my noble friend whether he adheres to the statements he made on going into Committee, and by which he rather desired, as I understood, to induce the House to throw out this Bill. The first statement he made was that "it was true to say that there was no attempt to smuggle" these articles into this country. After the figures I have given of these prosecutions and the reasons why they are not more numerous, can he still make that statement to the House? I should think it would be impossible to repeat it with any truth.

After the figures I have given showing in detail the cases of the last few years (I have them here), can he repeat the statement to which I have referred, that there were "only two bad cases of attempted smuggling during the last seven years"? I have shown that there are at least seven times as many. And if the Act was necessary in regard to the two cases on which he based himself, surely, when I have shown him that there are seven times as many, he may alter his view in regard to the necessity for the Bill. After I have produced them to him and he has had the advantage of looking at these advertisements, catalogues and so on, does he still contend, as he did on going into Committee, that "there is no market for these plumes and that nobody wants to buy them"? Surely that has been shown by the facts I have given to be entirely contrary to the fact. Will he also contend, in the last place, with this market and with obviously a considerable demand still in existence, that "there is no temptation to smuggle these articles"? If, as I hope, I have somewhat weakened his position on all these points which he made against the Bill, surely the Government may be induced to look more favourably upon the measure and to feel that it might very well be allowed to pass.

The two Government speakers on Second Reading fell back on two arguments. In the first place they said—and my noble friend repeatedly told us but did not emphasise it as much as they did—that this Bill creates a new offence and that that was a great mistake. I think everybody agrees that gratuitously to create a new offence is a mistake and a disadvantage. But I deny altogether that this Bill creates a new offence. The Act has been in existence for seven years. During the whole of that time it has been known that these particular feathers must not be imported and that it is against the law to import them. Surely, therefore, any one who deliberately imported them for sale during that time or imports them in the future would know that he was not only acting against public opinion but breaking the spirit if not the letter of the law. It seems to me that a new offence is not in any sense set up, but that an opportunity is given of removing the temptation to commit an offence.

The second objection taken was that the part of the Bill which provides that if those who imported this plumage can prove that they did so before 1922 they will be removed from its provisions, was contrary to the spirit of the English law and the Constitution. That point will be raised by Amendments to be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, and, no doubt, noble Lords on both sides of the House will deal effectually with it. Therefore, I will not say more about it than that it seems to me to be founded on a fallacy. As I have already said I have more than once—and I am proposing still to do it—asked the Board of Trade and the Custom House, when I have shown them advertisements for these plumes, to find out whether the plumes so advertised were pre-1922 plumes or not. If the House decides that the Act ought to be amended in that way, I am afraid that I, myself, the Board of Trade and the Customs will have to plead guilty to having broken one of the main provisions of the British Constitution.

I believe the body who would welcome this Bill most would be the Customs themselves. It was a distasteful Act to them, and they have had great difficulty in enforcing it. Nothing would help them more than the passing of this Bill under which all smuggling would necessarily cease, because then there would be no market for the goods here. That would immensely relieve the Customs of the work in which they are involved. May I make one appeal to the Government that at all events they should leave this Bill to the House to decide for itself? I would go even further than that. The Government have argued—and I hope I have by my figures convinced them that their case is weaker than they thought—that there is practically no smuggling existing, and therefore that it is not necessary to pass this Bill. If the Bill can do no harm, it will at all events be an emphatic declaration on the part of the public that this great trade should be brought to an end. Many of my friends believe that there is a substantial amount of smuggling going on, and we want complete security as regards this matter. Let it once and for all be brought to a final conclusion so that there can be no further evasion in regard to this question of plumage.

My Lords, I did not know I should be asked to reply so soon, because I thought that probably other noble Lords wished to speak. I will deal with some of the points raised by the noble Earl opposite (Earl Buxton). First of all I would say that the noble Earl was a little ungrateful to me. He complained that I had made what he called a long Second Reading speech on going into Committee. I explained at the time why I did it. It was because I wanted at the first possible moment to place the facts at the disposal of the Government before the House, and I expected to be thanked for it rather than otherwise. Indeed, I think the noble Earl himself is the last person who ought to have attacked me on that point. See what an advantage it has given him. He has read, evidently, every word of the statement I made, and not only read it but has marked and learned and criticised it. Therefore I do not see why he should attack me for giving him such an unusual opportunity for making a speech. I do not wish to repeat, except by way of summary, the statement that I made on going into Committee, but I will say something about some of the points that were raised by the noble Earl and the questions he asked me.

I was glad that he admitted that in his opinion, owing to the action of the Act of 1921, the import of these prohibited feathers had enormously decreased. I am very glad to pay tribute to the active work of the Customs. But the noble Earl thinks that there is still a certain amount of smuggling going on, and that some further Bill is necessary to deal with that. I want to make this clear in one sentence, if I may, that any criticism I make on the Bill is founded on this, that the Act of 1921 did not prohibit the sale of this particular class of plumage. It permitted, and deliberately permitted, the traders of the country to dispose of those stocks which they had in hand, and forbade the import of further quantities of these feathers. Amendments were moved during consideration of the Act of 1921 to prevent traders dealing with existing stocks, but an Amendment to that effect was rejected in another place, and the Bill was passed in its existing form. As very often happens before prohibitions—we are familiar with this in the case of the Budget taxes—unusually large stocks were imported into the country and, unfortunately for the traders, coincident and perhaps connected with the prohibition of import, there was also one of those remarkable changes of fashion which upset traders so much—that is to say, there was practically an entire falling away of the trimming of hats with feathers, and in the fashion of wearing feathers. If things had gone on normally as they were going in the years 1920 and 1921 probably in about seven or eight years those stocks of feathers would have been disposed of, and the whole matter would have been completed. But that has not happened. We have these large stocks still existing in the country, and traders find it very difficult to sell them.

As naturally follows when fashion changes, the price of these feathers has steadily fallen. If it were necessary, I could give figures to show that there has been a tremendous fall in the price of this class of feathers during the last few years. Noble Lords will see that that has a very close bearing on this present inquiry. If the price of these feathers has fallen so heavily, and if it is very difficult to sell the feathers, obviously it is hardly worth while the trade, or any one else, running the risk of paying heavy penalties by smuggling in an object for which they can get very little when it has come into the country. I think the point that I made as to the durability of these feathers is not so entirely irrelevant as the noble Earl thought it. I had not to deal with the case of the egret. That was no doubt kept under ideal conditions. The noble Earl did not complete the sentence from my statement, which was a statement from the experts, that not only under museum conditions, but under ordinary conditions of fair management these feathers would last for practically an indefinite period.

I pointed out that in my view it was not irrelevant, because, supposing feathers would only last three years and supposing that stocks of feathers were now being accepted for sale in shops, it would be an almost inevitable inference from that that they had been brought in since the year 1921. But you cannot draw that inference, because these feathers do last a considerable time. I submit, therefore that my suggestion was not at all as irrelevant as the noble Earl intimated. He then went on to criticise some statements that I had made about the Customs, and laid great stress upon the fact that I had stated that there were few substantial cases of smuggling during the last few years. He said that I was very much under-estimating the situation, but the other cases of smuggling which I gave were nothing like so substantial as the two cases—I think I have dealt with them—which occurred in the years 1924 and 1925. I submit that the years when they did occur is relevant, because if you are going to introduce legislation in order to penalise certain mischief it is very relevant when that mischief took place. If you find it has taken place, not in the last year but four or five years ago, that fact of date is very relevant. I have dwelt on these two particular cases because they were by far the most substantial cases of attempted smuggling which had occurred during those six years.

My figures as to prosecutions do not quite agree with the figures given by the noble Earl. The figures that I have been supplied with are eight prosecutions in 1923, two in 1925 and one in 1927. That seems to show that the prosecutions in 1923 killed the business. The prosecutions have been gradually reduced so that there were none in 1924, two in 1925, none in 1926, and one in 1927. If you look into these cases you will see that certainly they cannot be called very large cases.

Is the noble Viscount quite correct? Was it not in 1924 that the grebe case was taken?

I think the importation took place in 1923. I have admitted that these are two bad cases and I have laid stress on them. The point I wanted to make was that in introducing a new and penal Bill the onus of proof lies on those who bring in the Bill. Those of your Lordships who were not here when the matter was discussed before will perhaps like me to repeat the figures as to seizures. May I say in reference to these seizures that in the three years to which the figures relate the great bulk were what I may call private, that is to say, they were mere single feathers sent by people's relations to this country with no desire of smuggling or of concealment and in most cases in ignorance of the existence of prohibition as regards particular feathers.

I come now to the trade question, because it is the trade question we are discussing. In 1925 there were 48 seizures, in 1926 there were 26, and in 1927 there were 17. There has been a constant decrease during the last three years. It must not be supposed that all these seizures are seizures of smuggled feathers. They are not. The great bulk of these feathers come in quite openly. They are declared and there is no intention of deceiving the Customs or of smuggling at all. I make this general declaration after consulting with the Customs authorities, that they do not consider there is any substantial evidence of any general smuggling of these prohibited feathers into this country. That is the statement of the Customs authorities and your Lordships will no doubt give great weight to their experience. It will be said, no doubt, that it is possible that some feathers may escape the vigilance of the Customs. I think the case quoted about the grebe proves just the opposite. The noble Earl said these grebe skins passed the Customs and were afterwards discovered. That shows the vigilance of the Customs. Not only are feathers discovered when passing the Customs, but after they have passed the authorities gain some knowledge of them and pursue them and penalise those in whose possession they are found.

May I point out that in this particular case 130,000 escaped? No doubt they could be traced, but if 50 or 60 or 100 small packages passed the Customs they could not possibly be traced.

I think this shows the vigilance of the Customs. If they escaped notice at first they did not escape notice afterwards. I think that point is irrefragable. Even if some of these feathers do escape the vigilance of the Customs, what evidence is there that there are illegal feathers—by "illegal feathers" I mean feathers imported after 1921—in the shops in this country? My noble friend Lord Danesfort, who introduced this Bill and is, of course, very active in the matter, went to the Board of Trade. He was not asked by the Board of Trade to specify any particular cases, but he selected eleven cases and I am sure he would not have selected the least bad cases. He naturally selected those most favourable to his case, and he said: "You will find openly exposed in these particular shops these prohibited feathers."

May I interrupt my noble friend? Quite inadvertently, no doubt, he misrepresents me. What was done was this: I asked some people to go and buy or see if there were on sale in some of the shops in London some of these feathers. They were not carefully selected. They were taken casually. They happened to be highly reputable firms. The Board of Trade asked for the names of the shops visited and I at once gave the names. If the Board of Trade say these people are innocent it does not follow that less reputable traders are innocent.

Then I am apparently wrong. They were not carefully selected but carelessly selected by my noble friend, and I am bound to say I should have thought if he wanted to make out a case that he would have selected places where these feathers were most likely to be found. He did not state the rest of the case at all correctly, if I may say so. The Board of Trade did not say—I dare say they may have said these are reputable firms—that these firms were innocent. They gave these names to the Customs and the Customs went most carefully into every single case. They went to these firms, they examined their books, and they satisfied themselves that these feathers had been imported into this country before 1921. There was no evidence at all, they informed me, of any illegal importation. My noble friend now says they were not selected, but I stated this at the Committee stage and he certainly did not deny it on that occasion.

There was another case which was brought before the Board of Trade at the instance of the noble Earl. I do not want to mention the name but it was a very well-known firm indeed. That shows how easily people are deceived, because the individual who went to make the inquiry got the impression that these feathers had been brought in from Paris. This information was derived from a young lady fifteen years of age. This young lady, no doubt anxious to sell the goods, probably suggested that the goods came from Paris. The case was carefully investigated and the goods were shown to have been brought in before 1921, so that case was disposed of. I say that all these cases brought before the Board of Trade and the Customs have been carefully investigated and it has been shown that in no case were any of these feathers imported after the year 1921. What I submit is, that though the noble Earl and the noble Lord may make assertions about imports of prohibited feathers after 1921, they can produce no evidence to support their statement.

If noble Lords intend to make a new offence and to punish people and to bring them into Court and ask them to prove their innocence, at least they ought to put before your Lordships some strong evidence that these articles are really imported and sold in this country. After all, who wants to import these feathers? The noble Earl has shown some pictures of certain hats with a few feathers in them that are advertised for sale. That is no proof whatever that these feathers were illegally imported. Surely the more innocent interpretation is that these people naturally want to get rid of their existing stocks and are trying to force the sale of their feathers on the market, although, in spite of their advertisements, it is a very difficult matter, since even Paris, which is the head and centre and starting-point of all these fashions, is moving more and more away from this style and is going back to a more simple style of head dress. If, therefore, the prices have fallen, if the demand is falling off, surely, in the absence of evidence of original sale, the presumption would seem to be that there is very little smuggling, because the object of smuggling would be extremely small.

I think, further, that this Bill has some element of unfairness. I will say only one or two words on that point, because I understand that this issue will be raised by my noble friend Lord Merrivale in the Amendments of which he has given Notice. You may say: "After all, six or seven years have gone by, so why not change the original Act and make it impossible for people to expose these goods for sale?" If the Bill is passed in this form this would certainly be the effect. You cannot imagine that reputable traders are going to try and get rid of their stocks of remnants by exposing them in their shops for sale when at any moment they might be brought by some informer before a magistrate, in such conditions that the informer will not have to prove his case, but the assumption will be that the seller has committed an offence and must prove his innocence. That might be a very difficult task in many cases. Many of the traders that sold substantial stocks may have gone into liquidation or out of business and it will not be easy to show before a magistrate that goods that could be traced to a firm that had gone into liquidation were bought before the year 1922. That would have the effect of putting an end to the option allowed in the Act of 1921 to these dealers to dispose of their existing stocks and it would be a reversal of the liberty given under that Act. Under the guise of making it more difficult to deal in imported feathers, you would bring in the people who were dealing in legitimate stocks that they were allowed to sell by the Act of 1921.

There is one more point that I should like to mention. I mention it with some hesitation because it touches a question of trade in another country. It was represented to me that a Bill like this would have an unfortunate effect not only on sellers in this country but also on the ostrich trade in South Africa. My noble friend said, I think, that on the contrary it would have a good effect, because, if you prohibit certain classes of feathers, people will buy more ostrich feathers. I do not know why a man should buy ostrich feathers just because he cannot buy other feathers, but, as a matter of fact, that statement is based upon a considerable misapprehension of the psychology, if I may so call it, of the feather trade. I am told that you cannot thus separate the kinds of feathers one from another, that they are linked together and that the trade in feathers rises and falls as a whole. You cannot get women to use only ostrich feathers. They insist on having combinations of feathers along with the ostrich feathers and, if other feathers are prohibited, then the ostrich feathers will not come in. I do not want to lay too much stress on that point, but I hope that your Lordships will give it a sympathetic consideration. As a matter of fact, if you look at the figures showing the value of a pound's weight of ostrich feathers imported into this country during the last few years and compare it with the value before the War you will see a tremendous falling off—I think of one-tenth or one-eleventh of the amount before the War.

I cannot say that the Government have had very much independent support. On the Second Reading I think everybody who addressed the House spoke against the Government, but I am afraid that in this House one is accustomed to this: the Government are often in the position of not being supported by their friends though attacked by their critics. I am quite aware that on the part of many of your Lordships there has been a good deal of feeling in support of this Bill, but I do submit that, before you pass a new penal Bill of this sort, you ought to have substantial evidence that these prohibited feathers are really being sold on some scale in this country. I submit to your Lordships that those who have supported this Bill have not discharged that onus and have not shown that there is such a traffic in the shops of this country. I do not wish to detain your Lordships any longer on that point. I do not know what attitude your Lordships will wish to take towards the Third Reading, but I observe an Amendment in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Merrivale, which would certainly make the position much fairer. I understand that his Amendment provides that, instead of the onus being thrown on the man who has sold these feathers and has been brought into Court, it has to be discharged by a proof of guilt by the man who brings the seller of the feathers into Court. I hope that your Lordships will look upon that as an improvement.

My Lords, my noble friend did not say whether the Government intended to allow the Third Reading, so far as they were concerned, to proceed and to deal with the question of principle upon the other matter in discussing the Amendments of which I have given Notice. There is a great difference between supporting measures for preventing the sale of feathers that is contrary, as some people think, to humane conduct, and exposing a trader to conviction except under ordinary principles of law. I have a definite view about each, but I have not knowledge enough about the trade to have a strong view on the former point. Many friends of mine support my view, and it would help a little if we could know if the Government are content to bow to the feeling of the House in favour of the Bill and to raise the question of fairness on the Amendment.

My Lords, I too wanted to know what the Government propose to do, because, in point of fact, the noble Viscount devoted a portion of his speech to supporting the Amendment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Merrivale, which had not been moved. If it is the will of the House that the whole question should be debated now and that there should be one Division, be it so, but it is no use dealing with this thing in uncertainty. What do the Government mean to do?

I sat down because I rather waited to know what was the wish of the House. On the Second Reading a good deal of feeling was undoubtedly shown in favour of the Bill and, so far as the Third Reading is concerned, unless the Government receive some support and a desire is shown to press the matter to a Division, I should not desire to urge this House to divide.

On Question, Bill read 3a .

Clause 1:

Amendment of 11 & 12 Geo. 5. c. 16.

1.—(1) Section one of the Importation of Plumage (Prohibition) Act, 1921, shall be amended—

( a) By adding at the end of subsection (1) the words "or sell or offer for sale the plumage of any bird the importation of which is prohibited by this Act"; and

( b) By adding after subsection (2) the words:—

"(3) Any person who sells or offers for sale the plumage of any bird the importation of which is prohibited by this Act shall, upon summary conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding twenty-five pounds and, in addition, the Court shall order the plumage, in respect of which an offence has been committed, to be forfeited. Provided that it shall be a good defence to proceedings for an offence under this section to prove either—
  • "(i) That the plumage had not been imported since the Importation of Plumage (Prohibition) Act, 1921, came into operation, or
  • "(ii) That all reasonable precautions had been taken by the person proceeded against to satisfy himself that the plumage had not been imported since the said Act of 1921 came into operation."
  • moved, in paragraph (a), to omit the words "the importation of which is prohibited by this" and insert "which shall have been imported in contravention of the provisions of this." The noble and learned Lord said:, My Lords, This general subject has been discussed with a fullness and vigour that must have convinced the most indifferent observer that there is great feeling with regard to it. So far as that is concerned I do not know enough about the trade in ospreys and egrets, and things of that kind, or its effect upon the habits and humane instincts of the people of this country, to offer an opinion. Friends of mine, as I have said, support the Bill, and I should have hesitated to oppose an extension of the law which made it criminal knowingly to sell that which had been illegally imported. It seems to be a reasonable and logical proposal, and if this had been a Bill, as I thought it was when I first read it, to make it criminal to sell that which was imported in breach of the law, I should not have thought for a moment of opposing it; but when there was a warm discussion on the Second Reading, and then a speech dealing very fully with the matter by Lord Peel on the Motion to go into Committee, I made some inquiries, and read the Bill with a little care, and I saw that, contrary even to what was said by Lord Buxton, this was not merely a Bill, as he put it, which you would defend by saying that if a thing was illegally imported there was no hardship in prohibiting its sale.

    This is not a Bill which prohibits or penalises the sale of that which is illegally imported. It is a Bill which enables people who have enthusiasm about this subject, as so many people have, if they find a trader dealing in goods which, as has been pointed out over and over again, may have been legally imported, and may have been on his hands, so as to expose him possibly to serious loss, to put up some man of straw to lodge a criminal information against him, to proceed against him for a penalty, with the alternative of imprisonment if he cannot pay the penalty. They may do it upon the footing that he has not shown himself to be innocent. That is not an English procedure at all. I am told there are Continental countries where, if the police think fit, they take charge of you and say: "We suspect you of some transaction which is a highly improper transaction, and we shall take you before the Tribunal. If you convince the Tribunal that you are not guilty then the Tribunal will acquit you, but if not, then you will be punished." That is the mode in some Continental countries, but it has never been our English custom.

    If you are going to discriminate between humanity in respect of foreign birds and dealing according to English traditions of justice with English traders, my feeling is all in favour of the English traders. They should not lose their birthright of fair treatment in our Courts. I am not going into the general matter. As I have said, I thought that originally the Bill as drafted was in accordance with British principles of justice, but when I found it was not I framed an Amendment which I have placed on the Paper, and which provides that it shall be a criminal offence to sell, or expose or offer for sale, plumage which has been brought into the country in contravention of the provisions of the Act. Nobody can dispute that that is a sound course, and a course which is only consistent with our usual methods of administering justice. Having listened to this debate on the three stages of the Bill, I think it has been made clear that there is not some outrageous general breach of the law which ought to be punished by some exceptional means. I beg to move my Amendment.

    Amendment moved—

    Clause 1, page 1, line 10, leave out from ("bird") to ("Act") in line 11, and insert ("which shall have been imported in contravention of the provisions of this").—(Lord Merrivale.)

    My Lords, it will require very few words from me to satisfy you that the acceptance of this Amendment means the complete destruction of the Bill. If you think that there is sufficient strength in the argument of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Merrivale, to justify that course, take it by all means, but it seems to me rather strange, after this Bill has been ineffectually opposed by the Government at three successive stages, and on each occasion they have recognised that the feeling of the House was so strong against them that they were unable to go to a Division—because that is the reason they have not divided—that now you should by accepting this Amendment undo the whole of the work which has been done. That I am right in what I say will, I think, be clear to your Lordships from considering only a very few matters. There is no man who can say, by looking at a feather, whether it was imported lawfully or unlawfully. The noble Viscount, Lord Peel, says that feathers keep perfectly for years, and the better they keep the more impossible it is to know when they were imported. There is no one who can suggest any means or device by which you can, in any circumstances, prove in advance that feathers exposed for sale have been unlawfully smuggled into the country. If it be possible to prove that a man selling goods has been engaged in unlawful importation you would not want this Bill. You could proceed without it, and recover against him far more heavy penalties than this Bill provides.

    Therefore if you think right, and think this Bill not worth the effort, reject it, but do not think that in voting for this Amendment you are voting for some great abstract principle of British justice, which can be incorporated into this Bill without damage. What is this great abstract principle of British justice? The idea is that a man shall not be convicted of an offence unless proved. I agree with that, but the offence which this Bill provides for is the sale of feathers, and it is exactly similar to a Bill already on the Statute Book, which has remained on the Statute Book for forty years, to which Lord Merrivale has taken no exception, and which provides that in cases where the sale of birds killed in this country shall not be permitted in shops, it shall be none the less possible for the trader to sell birds from other countries, but the burden of proving where the bird comes from is thrown upon him. The only difference is that that Act relates to the whole of the bird, and this Bill relates only to its feathers. There is nothing else in it. The importation of these plumes is now forbidden. Seven years have elapsed since the Act was passed. There is time for these people, I will not say to have cleared their stocks, but to have got down to a condition in which they can make a record and show beyond all doubt where their feathers came from, and escape any trouble, even if they sell them after this Bill is passed.

    But when we are told that we are seeking to pass a Bill to protect ourselves against a non-existent evil, is that so? One hundred and forty-five thousand birds' plumes imported in one consignment! It is true they were caught—not stopped at the Custom House, but caught subsequently. How do you know that 145,000 plumes have not got through without your knowledge? How can you tell? You can do nothing more except say: "Those things were found," but you cannot tell the things which went through without your knowledge. And to tell me that there was no trade in these feathers after the Bill of 1921 was passed because fashion changed is to leave wholly unexplained who it was who got the advantage of importing 145,000 plumes in one consignment. That is not all. The noble Earl has told you that quite recently they discovered a valuable collection of feathers illegally imported as eggs or isinglass. After these things to say that now, all of a sudden, people are going to be converted and to send in no more feathers is to my mind ridiculous. And when you add to that that you find these feathers are advertised for sale at a price of seven guineas for a humming bird, there is every inducement to smuggle them, and, having regard to the peculiar character of the ware that is being dealt in, there is every opportunity.

    I know that whenever I speak on this matter I shall be accused, as I was before by the noble Marquess the Leader of the House, of introducing sentiment into the question. I do not deny that hatred of cruelty is a sentiment. It is a sentiment that you cannot possibly justify by Adam Smith's "Political Economy" nor by the laws of mathematics. It is not a matter of logic, it is a matter of feeling. But it is a sentiment that separates men from beasts, and it is a sentiment to which I have always found that this House gives a very straight and a very swift reply. I do not deny that I have been moved in my advocacy of this matter by the feeling that I have for the living beauty of the world which will be, and has been, trodden under foot to gratify this particular trade. If we could only make women realise the true sense of their duty and abstain from wearing these plumes of course the whole thing would be done. Though their education may have proceeded a little way it has not proceeded far enough, and something more has to be done. I ask you to pass this Bill. I ask you not to grasp at the shadow of the Amendment put forward by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Merrivale, and let the substance of the matter slip, to seize the husk and let the kernel fall, and for a fetish of a phrase defeat this Bill, to which you have given already three days' attention and consideration.

    My Lords, if I thought that this Bill so outraged the well-known principles of English justice, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Merrivale, has said, I would vote for his Amendment, but I do not think it does. There are cases in the law as it stands where, certain things having been proved which raise a presumption of guilt, as here, the onus is shifted on to the accused person to prove, not his innocence but something which will convince the jury that he is not guilty. Now I think this is a proper safeguard, and that the Amendment proposed by my noble and learned friend is not necessary, because it is provided

    "that it shall be a good defence to proceedings for an offence under this section to prove either"—
    these things are perfectly distinct; you do not have to prove both—
    "that the plumage had not been imported since the Importation of Plumage (Prohibition) Act, 1921, came into operation"—
    Now, that might possibly be a difficult thing to prove, but you need not prove that, provided you prove
    "that all reasonable precautions had been taken by the person proceeded against to satisfy himself"—
    not to satisfy your Lordships, but to satisfy only himself—he may be a person easily satisfied—
    "that the plumage had not been imported since the said Act of 1921 came into operation."
    It does seem to me that if such a case were to be tried, either by a magistrate or before a jury, a man, unless he were very, very guilty, might easily satisfy the tribunal that he had taken reasonable precautions to convince himself that this plumage had not been imported contrary to law. For that reason, if my noble friend goes to a Division, I shall feel no compunction whatever in voting against the Amendment.

    My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Buckmaster, said that he had been charged by my noble friend the Leader of the House with giving way to feelings and sentiment on occasions of this kind. I have not the slightest intention of making any such charge against the noble and learned Lord.

    I do not wish to make such a charge, because I think we all of us are entitled at the proper time to give way to our feelings and sentiments. All I would ask is that if your Lordships have, as no doubt many of you have, strong feelings on this subject, you will not allow those strong feelings to interfere with the sentiment of justice which also reigns very strongly, I know, in your hearts. But I do think that the noble and learned Lord was unjust in more than one particular. He made a rather vigorous attack on women. I think it was on the Second Reading that he said that, though they were naturally kind-hearted, they seemed very often indifferent and cruel when it came to matters of taste and of what they would wear. I think that was an unfair charge, because it was not merely a change of fashion that was responsible for the dropping of the practice of wearing these feathers, but it was a very strong feeling among the women themselves who wore them that it was a wrong and cruel thing to kill these birds. Their action and their kindness of heart were largely responsible for the fact that fashion did alter in that way.

    The noble and learned Lord pleads on behalf of his feeling for the beauty of the bird. I do not think that the noble and learned Lord has any monopoly of feeling on that subject. I think we are all interested in preserving the beauty of our birds and of foreign birds as well. But that has not a very close bearing on the particular Amendment which is before the House. When you have decided, so far as your Lordships are concerned, that it shall be an offence to sell these feathers or to expose them for sale, the question is, what form the action should take. I was very much struck by the observation made by my noble friend Lord Merrivale that there was certainly no evidence, and he had listened to the whole debate, of any outrageous general breach of the law which would justify so severe an action as sending these men into Court to try to prove their innocence. Had the selling of these feathers been forbidden by the Act of 1921 I think one could not have complained. In that case obviously if they were exposed for sale the onus would be on the person exposing them for sale; he would be primâfacie guilty. But they were allowed by the Act of 1921 to sell their existing stocks. Therefore, in that case there seems to be no fair legal presumption that they should not have the usual benefit of the law.

    The noble and learned Lord differed, I think, from my noble friend who introduced the Amendment by saying that there were precedents for action of this kind. There may be precedents, but it is better, surely, to follow the older, fairer and more general precedent that a man is innocent until he is proved to be guilty than to take a precedent under which he is brought into Court and has to prove his innocence. The noble and learned Lord said that if you pass this Amendment you will stultify the Bill. Why should that stultify the Bill? If there is evidence to show that these men are selling feathers which were illegally imported, then there is no lack of evidence, and therefore you can proceed. But surely it is a very hard thing to say that this Bill is of no use unless you put the man himself into the box to prove that these feathers were imported before 1921.

    I beg the noble Viscount's pardon; that is not what he has to prove. He has to prove that he himself was reasonably satisfied—I think those are the words.

    That all reasonable precautions had been taken not to violate the Act of 1921. That is all he has to prove and nothing more.

    May I point out to your Lordships that some of these points are very difficult for the man to prove. Take the case of a man who has bought, as many of these men have done, from dealers. Owing to the fact that this trade has fallen to pieces many of the dealers have shut up their businesses. They have either liquidated or gone bankrupt or what not. It is extraordinarily difficult for the man in question to show before the magistrate that these goods were acquired from a merchant who himself had acquired them before 1921. I submit that your Lordships ought to be satisfied with a compromise of this kind. You get the Bill. You make it illegal to sell these prohibited goods. At the same time you leave the matter where it stands. If you accept the Amendment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Merrivale, you will do no injustice. If you take the Bill as it stands and lay the onus upon the unfortunate person himself you will do something which, I think, in the circumstances, savours a good deal of persecution and injustice.

    My Lords, I was very anxious to hear what the noble Viscount


    Canterbury, L. Abp.Northbrook, E.Gladstone, V.
    Powis, E.Haldane, V.
    Beauchamp, E.Strafford, E.Leverhulme, V.
    Buxton, E.
    Chesterfield, E.Bertie of Thame, V.Aberconway, L.
    Howe, E.Devonport, V.Aberdare, L.

    had to say about this Amendment on behalf of the Government. I think it would be presumption on my part to intervene in a matter of this kind when high legal luminaries are discussing, I might almost say, abstract points of law. Let me deal with the point as a matter of common sense. When the Act of 1921 was passed its object was to stop the sale in England of the plumage of certain birds. The form it took was to say that the plumage should not get into England but should be barred at the Customs. A merciful provision was inserted in the Act by means of an Amendment, that the man who was selling the plumage after the passing of the Act should be able to excuse himself if he could show that the plumage was brought in before 1921. It is now proposed that that shall be a permanent condition upon which the trader may count as his defence, and that the onus of proving that he is mistaken must rest upon the person prosecuting who, presumably, can have no means whatever of proving anything of the kind.

    What possible means has the purchaser, whether a man or a woman, who believes that feathers were imported after 1921, of proving that they were so imported? The merciful provision in the Act is being extended to what would seem to me, as one quite bereft of abstract legal knowledge, to be a degree which is not reasonable in any way. Is the man who has such feathers twenty or fifty years hence still to be able to say: "Unless you can prove that I did not import them subsequent to 1921, I fall back upon the supposition that I am innocent until I am proved to be guilty." It seems to me to be a misuse of the Amendment that was put into the Act to protect people who then had such feathers in stock, and that it would be almost absurd to extend the merciful provision in such a way.

    On Question, Whether the words proposed to be left out shall stand part of the clause?

    Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 39; Not-Contents, 46.

    Arnold, L.Denman, L.Lambourne, L.
    Banbury of Southam, L.Desart, L. (E. Desart.)Montagu of Beaulieu, L.
    Bethell, L.Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.)Northington, L. (L. Henley.)
    Buckmaster, L. [Teller.]St. Levan, L.
    Carson, L.Ernle, L.Stanmore, L.
    Clwyd, L.Greenway, L.Strachie, L.
    Cottesloe, L.Hawke, L.Sudeley, L.
    Danesfort, L. [Teller.]Knaresborough, L.Swaythling, L.
    Darling, L.


    Hailsham, L. (L. Chancellor.)Novar, V.Lamington, L.
    Peel, V.Lawrence, L.
    Shaftesbury, E. (L. Steward.)Manners, L.
    Biddulph, L.Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)
    Airlie, E.Castlemaine, L.Merrivale, L.
    Iddesleigh, E.Cochrane of Cults, L.Merthyr, L.
    Lovelace, E.Cranworth, L.Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)
    Lucan, E. [Teller.]Cushendun, L.
    Malmesbury, Clifford, L.Redesdale, L.
    Midleton, E.Dynevor, L.Russell of Liverpool, L.
    Munster, E.Elphinstone, L.Somerleyton, L.
    Onslow, E.Fairfax of Cameron, L.Swansea, L.
    Plymouth, E. [Teller.]Gage, L. (V. Gage.)Templemore, L.
    Stradbroke, E.Hindlip, L.Teynham, L.
    Howard of Glossop, L.Wharton, L.
    Elibank, V.Jessel, L.Wraxall, L.
    Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)Kylsant, L.Wyfold, L.

    Resolved in the negative and Amendment agreed to accordingly.

    Amendment moved—

    Page 1, line 14, leave out from ("bird") to ("Act") in line 15, and insert ("which shall have been imported in contravention of the provisions of this").—(Lord Merrivale.)

    On Question, Amendment agreed to.

    My Lords, the last Amendment is to insert certain words in the proviso and to leave out paragraph (i).

    Amendment moved—

    Page 1, line 21, after ("offence") insert ("of selling or offering for sale"), and leave out from ("prove") to the end of line 24.—(Lord Herrivale.)

    On Question, Amendment agreed to.

    My Lords, in view of the fact that in the opinion of many of us who support this Bill the effect of carrying these Amendments will be to destroy the Bill altogether and render it perfectly useless, I would ask leave to consider the matter before I move that the Bill do now pass.

    Local Authorities (Emergency Provisions) Bill

    House in Committee (according to Order): Bill reported without amendment.

    Teachers (Superannuation) Bill

    Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.

    My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be read a second time. The Bill deals with the position of British teachers in certain schools which have been established in foreign countries for the benefit of resident British communities. Many members of those communities in Egypt and China and other parts of the world are unable to afford to send their children to be educated at home but they naturally wish to give them a British education. They have, therefore, established schools intended primarily for the education of their own children. I say primarily because a certain number of people of other nationalities take advantage of the facilities thus provided. The schools, however, are thoroughly British in character and the majority of the children attending them are of British extraction. It is unnecessary, I think, to expatiate on the advantages which accrue to the British communities through the possession of these schools. They also afford valuable opportunities to teachers, who are encouraged by the Board of Education to take positions in these schools, of widening their minds by residing abroad and of improving their professional technique by observing the educational methods of other nations.

    But up till now there has been one grave disadvantage which has prevented many teachers who would otherwise have done so from accepting positions in British schools abroad. Until the year 1925 a teacher was not able to count service outside the United Kingdom as service towards pension under the Board of Education superannuation scheme. Naturally teachers very much disliked the idea of losing or of postponing their superannuation rights. By the Teachers (Superannuation) Act, 1925, and the corresponding Scottish Act which this Bill is intended to amend, the matter was dealt with in this way. A teacher was allowed to count four years in a British Dominion as service for pension and he was allowed to count one year in a British school in a foreign country as service towards pension. So far as the Dominions are concerned that has, I believe, worked very well. There is a system of exchange of teachers between Great Britain and the Dominions which satisfies all concerned. It is of great benefit to all. But as far as British schools in foreign countries are concerned the Act has not worked at all satisfactorily, one year being a period much too short to induce teachers to take up these positions. It is proposed by this Bill to extend that period to four years as in the case of the Dominions.

    It is further provided that a teacher shall contribute ten per cent. of his salary to the British pensions scheme. That is necessary in order to ensure the solvency of the fund. In England a teacher has to contribute only five per cent. of his salary, the other five per cent. being contributed by the local authority which employs him, but I am informed that no hardship will be incurred by the teacher by reason of this additional five per cent. which he has to pay because he is able to recover it from his employers. The Bill is warmly supported by the National Union of Teachers. When it was introduced into another place it was commended from all sides. This is the first Bill I have had the honour of presenting to your Lordships, and I am proud to think it may be of some small benefit to our fellow subjects abroad and to members of the scholastic profession of which I have the honour to be a member.

    Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Iddesleigh.)

    My Lords, I do not think it is necessary for me to trespass on your Lordships' time for more than a moment of two but I would like to say on behalf of His Majesty's Government and my noble friend the President of the Board of Education that we feel that this Bill, though short and simple, is a very valuable one. We are most grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, for bringing it before your Lordships' House. As he has already stated this Bill in another place has been accepted in all quarters and by all Parties. It had the rather unique experience of passing through all its stages in one sitting in another place. Therefore, I do not think it is necessary for me to do more than ask your Lordships to give your support to the measure the objects and purposes of which have been so ably put by the noble Earl. I should like however, if I may, to impress upon your Lordships two points. The first is that so far as can be seen no further expense will be incurred by this country by reason of the passing of this Bill. That, of course, is a strong point in its favour.

    The second point, which has already been mentioned by the noble Earl, is that it is a defect in the existing law that while it provides that teachers should be allowed to count four years' service in the Dominions as pensionable service, it only allows them to count one year in foreign countries as such. That means that as the law now stands a teacher who goes to a foreign country for a longer period than one year imperils his pensionable service. That is certainly a shortsighted policy and it is felt that it will not encourage the best type of teacher to go abroad, while at the same time those of our fellow-citizens who, through no fault of their own, live in foreign countries would, in conse quence, suffer. Owing to that defect also it is felt that teachers of the right type would be likely to be deprived of the advantages which would accrue to them from going abroad in the general broadening of their outlook by sojourn in a foreign country. The Bill now before your Lordships would remedy this evil. I think it is unnecessary that I should trespass further on your Lordships time, but I would ask you to accord your blessing to a Bill which His Majesty's Government and my noble friend in another place consider to be an excellent Bill from every point of view.

    On Question, Bill read 2a , and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

    Administration Of Justice Bill Hl

    Read 3a (according to Order); Privilege Amendments made; Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.

    Meat Imports And Foot-And- Mouth Disease

    rose to move, That all refrigerated meat imported from countries in which foot-and-mouth disease is prevalent should be placed in cold storage at the port of landing, and not released for sale till the expiration of twenty-one days or of such shorter period as may be specially sanctioned. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise at a rather late hour in the evening but previous discussions on this subject enable me to go straight to my main point. They have established these facts: that foot-and-mouth disease is highly infectious, that it has now become so prevalent in South America as to be endemic, that at cold temperatures it preserves its infectivity, that the virus of the disease remains active in the blood of infected meat for a period of forty days, that if it is sold in this country during that period of infectivity it may be a source of danger to our livestock, and, finally, that the Government have no information as to the stages in the growth of the disease in South America and have no knowledge at all of the proportion of meat infected which is imported here from that country.

    Refrigerated meat is either frozen, to last for an indefinite time, or chilled, to last for five or six weeks. It is only with the chilled meat that I propose to deal. The life of the meat and of the poison is practically coterminous; that is to say, the meat keeps for forty-two days and the poison lasts for forty days. The result is that chilled meat must be distributed, marketed, exposed for sale, sold and cooked in private houses when the virus of the disease is active in the blood. That being so, it is important to know how this meat is distributed in this country. On its arrival here it is not placed in cold storage but is distributed from the ship into all parts of the country by trains and motor lorries to the depots, market stalls and shops owned by the meat packing companies, as well as to independent butchers. In this way, taking the average of the last four years, 850, 000,000 cwts. of chilled meat are annually sold and marketed in this country, an unknown quantity of which is infected. If you consider the great extent of the trade and the number of persons by whom it is handled, if you think that a drop of blood or a smear on the coat of a man or woman will remain infectious for twenty-one days, if you imagine the score of ways in which a subtle and elusive poison may be spread, you cannot, I think, resist the conclusion that the importation of chilled meat into this country from countries in which foot-and-mouth disease is rampant not only may be a source of contagion, but actually is, and from its very nature must be, a danger to our livestock.

    It is quite true that no case of foot-and-mouth disease has ever been traced to refrigerated meat. That would be a very important fact if more outbreaks could be traced to their origin. But they are not in any number so traced. "Origin obscure" is the usual report of an inspector, and it is among those obscurities of origin that the finding of the Research Committee that the virus remains in the blood for forty days becomes so intensely significant. I think it is obvious that the Ministry themselves suspect the danger. They show this by their negotiations with the South American Governments and the companies. They show it also by their Orders dealing with packing cloths and bones and so on. But they still seem to me to miss what is my main point. If the animal is infected, it is the meat itself that is infective through the blood. If a local authority dealt with an outbreak of smallpox by regulating the clothes of the patient, and allowed the patient himself to go freely into the crowd, it would make itself ridiculous. But is that not very nearly what the Ministry are now doing by their Orders? They deal with these packing cloths and with butchers' refuse, but they leave the meat itself, which is highly infective, to mingle freely with our daily life, to be marketed, sold and cooked in private houses without any control whatever.

    What are the Government going to do? I sympathise with their reluctance to deal with food supply, and perhaps not least a few months before a General Election; but they surely cannot be content to wait until public opinion in South America is educated on this subject. A generation has arisen to which foot-and-mouth disease, in the mild form that it takes there, has become so familiar that it is allowed to pass quite unheeded from farm to farm, along the roads and the railways, through the markets and even into the quarantine stations. You cannot alter the habits of a lifetime in a few months, or even a few years. We cannot afford to wait until that has happened, and what do we gain by waiting? Whether you maintain the slaughter policy or abandon it, you are equally obliged to control the sources of foreign infection. If you maintain the slaughter policy and do not control the sources of foreign infection, you are wasting public money. You are feeding the disease with one hand and attempting to strangle it with the other. If you abandon the slaughter policy without controlling the infection, you are exposing British farmers to the disease, you are throwing upon them the loss by the death of their animals and the financial cost of their permanent injury and of treatment. To put it mildly, I think that the first course is inconsistent and that the second is unjust.

    I wonder whether the public realise to any extent the full meaning of abandoning the slaughter policy without controlling all the sources of foreign infection. I hardly like at this late hour to inflict figures upon you, but I think I really must do so, because the subject is very important. In the nine years from 1919 to 1927 we in this country had 5,300 initial outbreaks. Compare that figure with the figures on the Continent, where the disease is allowed a freer course. In round figures, while we had 5,300 initial outbrbeaks, Germany had 1,132,600; Denmark, 168,900; Holland, 378,100; Belgium, 135,700; and France 314,300. Now, one of the greatest disinfectants is the sun. In our climate, sunless as it is, cold and moist as it is, we are going to suffer in all probability worse than our Continental neighbours. Take two bad years here and on the Continent. In 1920 we had 94 initial outbreaks; Germany, 746,500; Denmark, 5,400; Holland, 53,200; Belgium, 42,800; France, 168,500. Take 1926. In that year we had 204 initial outbreaks; Germany, 187,500; Denmark, 95,500; Holland, 62,600; Belgium, 35,500; France, 48,900. Those are terrible figures, but they do not tell one-twentieth part of the story, because you must remember that each of these initial outbreaks probably means from ten to thirty animals infected with the disease. In Spain, where they record the number of animals attacked, and not the initial outbreaks, the figure rose in 1920 to 2,032,600.

    Those figures afford some measure of the value to us of the slaughter policy, and they afford some indication of what may happen in this country if that policy is abandoned, and the source of foreign infection not controlled. Of course the Government want to economise. They can save the taxpayer's money if they will control the source of infection, and return to the conditions which prevailed from 1892 to 1918. In those twenty-six years the veterinary staff of the Ministry was very small, and the annual sum paid in compensation for slaughtered animals was £12,000 a year. In the nine years, 1919 to 1927, the staff of the Ministry has been enormously increased, so much so that the salaries, bonuses and expenses are pretty nearly trebled, and the sum paid in compensation for slaughtered animals has risen to an average of £500,000 a year. That half million means the net figure after making allowances for salvage receipts. Even of those salvage receipts the unfortunate taxpayer seems likely now to be deprived. They averaged from 1919 to 1926 something like £90,000 a year. In 1927 they dropped to £77 11 s. 3 d. That reduction took place

    partly because a smaller number of animals was slaughtered, but mainly because experience of the risk of handling infected carcases compelled the Ministry to adopt greater stringency. They no longer undertake salvage in the case of any group of animals among which infection has broken out, or which have been directly exposed to infection. They are all destroyed at once, there and then, and, if such severe precautions are necessary in dealing with infected carcases from Northamptonshire farms, perhaps the Government will tell us why no similar precautions are used for infected carcases from South American ranches.

    A week ago a resolution was passed by the Royal Agricultural Society of England, which dealt with the infectivity of bones as well as of blood in refrigerated meat, and it practically eliminated the chilled meat trade, because it imposed upon it a limit of cold storage for seventy days. Whether a bully beef election is a real danger, or only a bugbear, I do not know; but my Motion—I admit it is less logical—goes less far than that. I leave to the Ministry the problem of bones. I believe that if they will tighten up their orders and see that they are carried out, they can deal with bones effectively. I deal only with the infectivity of the blood in refrigerated meat, and I interfere as little as possible with the supply of meat which, infection apart, is excellent in quality and uniform and regular in quantity. My Motion is:—

    "That all refrigerated meat imported from countries in which foot-and-mouth disease is prevalent should be placed in cold storage at the port of landing, and not released for sale till the expiration of 21 days or of such shorter period as may be specially sanctioned."

    That Motion means that six weeks must elapse between the animal being slaughtered and the carcase being exposed for sale. It secures that no refrigerated in eat coming from countries where foot-and-mouth disease is rampant can be handled, marketed, or sold, until the virus of the disease is extinct from the blood. In order that that may be done and that there may be time for sale, the keeping quality of the meat must be prolonged a fortnight.

    That can be done by lowering the temperature at which the meat is chilled and keeping it in cold storage. The process

    is already familiar to the trade. It is adopted on emergencies, and the product is known as chilled meat. It will be marketed in this country with the poison gone out of it before it is released from cold storage. There is abundant storage accommodation at the three ports at which the trade is concentrated—London, Liverpool and Southampton, and the present charge is at the rate of 37 s. 6 d. a ton per month, or, if you work it out, at a fraction under ¼ d. per lb. The meat undoubtedly will lose that brightness of appearance which enables it at present to pass as fresh home-produced meat, but I am assured that the nutritive qualities of the meat are quite unimpaired. I do not know whether the suggestion has been before the Ministry before; if so, I hope they may reconsider their decision. If it has not, I hope they will give the suggestion their very careful consideration; for, if you come to think of it, this foot-and-mouth disease is a matter of most serious national importance.

    It inflicts great suffering on the animals that it attacks, especially sheep, and though 97 per cent. may possibly recover many, especially the milking and breeding animals, are permanently injured. The outbreaks dislocate the business of farmers, they dishearten stock breeders and stock feeders, they threaten our milk trade, they endanger our export trade in pedigree cattle, and, finally, human beings are susceptible to this disease. Hitherto, the subject has been mainly treated on its veterinary side, and medical opinion has not yet pronounced authoritatively as to the means by which it can be communicated, or as to the diagnosis by which its presence can be detected. But the danger to human health and, I may add, to human life, is one which cannot be ignored. I beg to move.

    Moved, That all refrigerated meat imported from countries in which foot-and-mouth disease is prevalent should be placed in cold storage at the port of landing, and not released for sale till the expiration of twenty-one days or of such shorter period as may be specially sanctioned.—( Lord Ernle.)

    My Lords, I have listened to the speech of the noble Lord with much interest. The Motion before your Lordships to-day, whilst nominally to protect British herds from the dangers of foot-and-mouth disease being imported from abroad, would, if adopted, result in the maximum possible hardships to consumers of meat both in town and country. What are the facts? Last year, in 1927, the total consumption of meat in this country was 2,048,000 tons, of which no less than 925,000 tons were imported from our Dominions and foreign countries. Refrigerated meat is imported in either "frozen" or "chilled" condition, but frozen beef is inferior in quality to chilled beef, due to the low temperature at which frozen meat in maintained. Beef brought to this country in a chilled condition is nearly as good as the best home-killed beef, but, in order to ensure its satisfactory condition on arrival, the transport from port of loading to port of discharge should be accomplished within about twenty-two days.

    It is possible to transport beef satisfactorily in a chilled condition from Canada, South Africa and Rhodesia, and everyone interested in the development of New Zealand and Australia hopes that before many years are past it will be possible to carry chilled meat home satisfactorily from these far-off Dominions. If chilled meat had to go into cold storage in this country for about twenty-one days its quality and value would be considerably reduced, as it would have to be frozen down hard in order to preserve it for this extra period; as a consequence the importation of chilled meat would cease, as there would be no object in transporting the meat in a chilled condition and afterwards freezing it down hard. Briefly, the result of the proposal of the noble Lord would be that nearly half of the people residing in England and Wales would in future have to consume meat of an inferior quality and the price would be increased on account of the elimination of competition with chilled beef. This, in my opinion, would be a heavy price to pay for a problematic reduction of foot-and-mouth disease in this country.

    As a farmer myself I know what a very difficult time farmers in this country and in Wales are going through, and how they will welcome the steps the Government are taking to relieve them from the payment of rates on agricultural land and buildings, and also the new scheme of credit to farmers. The recent visit of the noble Lord, Lord Bledisloe, to the Argentine and Brazil in his then capacity of Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture has had most satisfactory results, as it has caused both the Governments of the Argentine and Brazil to take drastic steps in regard to the inspection of cattle, which should practically eliminate the possibility of chilled beef from South America arriving in this country affected by foot-and-mouth disease. I can only say that if the proposal of the noble Lord were adopted it would be one of the greatest inflictions that has ever been put upon the great majority of people in this country.

    My Lords, we have listened to two very remarkable statements from two great authorities on the different sides of a burning question, and, if I incline to the view of the noble Lord, Lord Ernle, it is certainly not as a Protectionist, because Free Trade is one of the last of my beliefs, but because I feel as an agriculturist that the whole question of successful agriculture in this country, which depends on its stock, is dependent upon the prevention of disease. And how do we stand? The last thing to be desired is that foot-and-mouth disease should become endemic in this country, as it is over all the rest of the world. There are, no doubt, advantages to some countries in pursuing the policy of allowing the disease to run, but it is certainly, with our class of stock, not to our interest to permit the disease to become endemic. We have experience in that line, because contagious abortion itself in our herds is already a sufficient handicap, without having foot-and-mouth disease added. The enormous cost of controlling foot-and-mouth disease to the taxpayer is not the only loss incurred, because, although a farmer may get compensation, hardly anything can compensate him when the whole of his stock has to be destroyed, and that is sometimes done over the whole of a wide district.

    I had to serve on a Cabinet Committee at the time of the last great outbreak, when, in Cheshire, whole districts had to be cleared of cattle. And the danger is not only the cost to the taxpayer but the incapacity of the Ministry of Agriculture to cope with such an outbreak as then occurred. The mistakes that were made, the slowness of the slaughter and the great loss to the farmers themselves seemed to make it uncertain whether, unless the disease could be stopped, it would be possible to pursue the policy of slaughter. The real danger always seems to me to be that given these very serious outbreaks—one cannot very well see how the outbreaks are stopped, though stopped they are after enormous expense, trouble and loss—it is conceivable they may occur on an even larger scale than we have yet seen them; and in that case the policy of slaughter itself might be endangered. In the debate the other day it was shown—I think it was acknowledged by the noble Earl who spoke for the Government—that the Government really could not do very much and that the farmers had to protect themselves in importing stores and so forth in the same way as other industries. But the Government will have to do all they can to try to check the importation of disease. And I am certain of this: although the results may be serious as regards the supply of chilled meat from the Argentine, there is something even more important, and that is giving security to British agriculture in respect of its stock. Whether the proposal of the noble Lord who initiated the debate is one that is capable of being carried out I am not prepared to discuss, because I have not gone into the subject; but I am certain that it demands the very grave consideration of the Government.


    My Lords, the noble Lord who placed this Motion on the Paper would always command the attention of your Lordships' House because nobody, I think, is considered to be a higher authority on agricultural matters than he. Anything he said would always be listened to with the very greatest interest, and it will have been listened to with special interest to-night because he has brought forward a subject which has been before your Lordships already on several occasions and has been the cause of much anxiety to the country for some years. I can certainly assure the noble Lord, Lord Ernle, that what he has suggested will receive the most careful consideration of the Government. We are only too glad of any suggestions and I am much obliged to him for bringing this matter forward in the way he has done. We have listened to a most interesting speech from him and to most interesting speeches from other noble Lords on the subject of how to fight foot-and-mouth disease. Your Lordships will forgive me for saying that the Ministry of Agriculture are fully alive to the danger and that they endeavour to take all possible steps to eliminate the risk of the importation of this disease into the country. The Ministry are anxious to stop that risk and to put a stop to any suggestion that infection is being brought in through carelessness on the part of inspectors.

    The noble Lord, Lord Ernle, raised the point of the virus that exists in the blood of the carcases brought into this country and which is supposed to live for forty days. I must inform your Lordships that it has been proved by experiment that the virus may exist for seventy-six days in the marrow of the bones of carcases. The experiments were only continued for that period of time because seventy-six days was considered to be long enough to cover the voyage of any ship from any part of the world to this country. As all experiments of that nature are very expensive they were not carried further, and we have to face the very unfortunate situation that the virus may live for a longer period than seventy-six days in the marrow of the bones of carcases. It has been mentioned already this evening that the voyage from South America to this country occupies about thirty days and, therefore, the twenty-one days which the noble Lord proposed should be added for the time during which this chilled meat would be kept in cold storage—

    I am obliged to the noble Lord. In that case the twenty-one days to be added for the time during which the meat would be kept in cold storage would bring the period to only forty-two days altogether, and that would not eliminate the danger which we fear of the virus still being active after forty-two days in the marrow of the bones. With regard to chilled meat, the proposal of the noble Lord would not be practicable unless other precautions were taken, because chilled meat will only keep for forty days in good condition. He mentioned that there is another process by which the meat might be partly frozen. If that is done I believe that for sale purposes the value of the meat would practically drop to that of frozen meat. It would seem, therefore, that the process of freezing meat entirely should be gone into rather than there should be a half-and-half process of chilling and then freezing after it comes to this country. It is true that there is ample storage here for the chilled meat after it has been brought to this country; but naturally any lengthening of the period during which it was kept in such storage would add to the expense, which would be passed on to the purchasers of the meat. The noble Lord said that the cost of transporting the meat from the ship to the cold storage and of keeping it there for, I think a month, was 40s. I am told that after that period the charge for carcases hung in cold storage is 2s. per ton per day; so that the cost might become quite considerable if it was ordered that carcases should be detained in cold storage for a long period.

    Might I remind your Lordships that the Research Committee is always at work studying the viability of the virus in the carcases, the offal and the skin. That Committees makes all its experiments on the lines of treating the skin, the offal and the meat in the same way as they would be treated under commercial conditions. That Research Committee is composed of ten of the greatest experts on animal diseases in the country. Its Chairman is Sir Charles Martin, director of the Lister Institute, and two of our chief officers of the Ministry work with them. I think, therefore, that the Research Committee should command the respect and the confidence of the whole country. They are always on the look out for anything that may arise, and inform the Ministry and give them advice on any subject by which they can help us to eliminate the risk of the spread of the disease.

    The noble Lord has given you various figures as to the number of outbreaks in this and other countries of foot-and-mouth disease. It is quite true that there have been a terrible number of outbreaks during the last eight years in this country. The greatest number was in 1923 when there were 1,929 outbreaks in this country costing £2,205,000, whereas last year (1927) the number went down to 143 outbreaks, costing £121,000; while this year so far there have been 91 outbreaks, costing £71,300. The number of outbreaks, therefore, has gone down steadily during these last years, which perhaps may be taken as an indication that the action of the Government has had some effect in reducing this scourge of foot-and-mouth disease. Although 91 may seem a considerable number, the greater majority of those cases occurred in January, the outbreak having commenced last year, chiefly in December. During the past six weeks, I am glad to say, there have been only two outbreaks, in two areas, one in Nottinghamshire, and one in Yorkshire, which are still declared infected areas, and one of those two will came off the list tomorrow, leaving only one case, that in the Yorkshire area which should be free on the 20th of this month.

    As noble Lords know, we have taken steps to arrange for the Government of the Argentine to take on their part all the care that they can that infected animals are not sent to the slaughter houses, or if they are, that their carcases are not sent over to this country. We hope that that will have the effect of preventing any diseased carcases arriving here. At the same time we are not in any way going to relax the safeguards that we have thought fit to impose. The noble Viscount, Lord Novar, has referred to the fact that when I last had the honour of addressing your Lordships I mentioned that although these Regulations may be very good they are of no use unless the farmers carry them out, wholeheartedly. We do ask them to have confidence that the Government are doing their very best to eliminate all risk of contagion being brought into this country, and everything that they can to put a stop to any supposition that the disease is being introduced in any way which can be prevented. It is true that the expense incurred by slaughtering the animals is a very heavy one indeed, but it is only a trifle to what farmers would suffer if this disease became endemic in this country. You have only to look at the European countries concerning which the noble Lord, Lord Ernle, gave some figures, to see the tremendous losses they have sustained through this disease. The United States, I may mention, adopted the same policy as the Ministry are carrying out here of slaughtering animals, and they have expended a very much larger sum of money than we have done in stamping it out. They were successful in doing so on one occasion a short time after an outbreak, and again they tackled the matter in the same way, and I believe now they are quite free of foot-and-mouth disease. I understand that in Norway the same policy is being adopted with equal success, though of course Norway is hardly comparable with this country, being an entirely exporting country. They do not import, and therefore do not run the risk of imported animals bringing in foot-and-mouth disease.

    The noble Lord said that the disease might be a source of danger to human life. I think that is, if I may be allowed respectfully to say so, problematical. We have heard of one suspected case, that of a man who is supposed to have got foot-and-mouth disease from the animals, but I cannot admit that the disease is a source of danger to human life. If it is that is certainly a matter that must be very carefully looked into. I do not know that I can add any further information to that which noble Lords already have as to the steps we are taking to prevent infection being brought into this country, but you may be sure we will leave nothing undone to bring about the elimination of any infection. I would thank the noble Lord, Lord Ernle, for bringing this subject before us. The suggestion he has made in regard to chilled meat will be carefully considered by the Government, and if anything can be done in that direction which will bring greater assurance to the people of this country and, above all, prevent the importation of disease, we shall certainly take steps to bring it into effect, but I cannot accept the proposition of the noble Lord at once. I can only say that we will give it the most careful consideration and do all that we can.

    My Lords, I am glad to hear what the noble Earl has just said, and I hope that the giving of the suggestion of my noble friend Lord Ernle careful consideration will mean something more than merely saying: "I will give your suggestion careful consideration; mind the step; good afternoon," and that we shall hear nothing more about it. The noble Lord has said that it must be remembered that the contagion survives in bone, I think he said for seventy-six days. He will remember that only about a week ago I made a suggestion that bones should be left out and that we might do something in that way in addition to the suggestion made by my noble friend Lord Ernle. I hope that the noble Lord will not pay any attention to the statement made by the noble Lord on my left (Lord Kylsant), because after all, what does that statement amount to—that if Regulations such as my noble friend proposes are enforced, people will not be able to buy chilled meat under the impression that it is English meat, and they will have to buy frozen meat for which they will probably pay less, and that will be an advantage to them, though it might not be an advantage that will be welcomed by the people who are importing meat from the other side. So far as the consumer here in England is concerned, he will get meat, which, I understand from my noble friend (Lord Ernle) who is a great authority on the subject, is quite as nutritious in the frozen form as in the chilled form, though it does not look quite as nice, and therefore the consumer will get a good article for which he will pay a proper price, whereas under the present system he is probably getting meat imported by the noble Lord from Argentina which is sold by Mr. Smith, butcher, as the best home killed.

    I would like to say at once that I have never imported an ounce of meat from anywhere.

    My Lords, after the speech of the noble Earl who represents the Ministry I can do nothing more than thank him for his promise to consider my suggestion. He spoke of America as an example. May I remind him that America puts a heavy duty on all meat from South America, which perhaps is rather a confirmation of my views than of those which he used as an illustration? I cannot press my Motion and therefore I beg the leave of the House to withdraw it.

    Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

    House adjourned at ten minutes past seven o'clock.

    From Minutes Of May 8

    London, Midland And Scottish Railway Order Confirmation Bill

    Brought from the Commons; read 1a ; to be printed; and (pursuant to the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act, 1899), deemed to have been read 2a and reported from the Committee.

    Ministry Of Health Provisional Orders (No 3) Bill

    Ministry Of Health Provisional Order (Worthing Extension) Bill

    Brought from the Commons; read 1a ; to be printed, and referred to the Examiners.

    Falmouth Water Bill

    Ystradfellte Water Bill

    Brought from the Commons; read 1a ; and referred to the Examiners.

    Government Stock And Other Securities Investment Company Bill Hl

    Returned from the Commons, agreed to.

    Rating And Valuation Bill

    Returned from the Commons, with the Amendment, agreed to.

    Dover Gas Bill Hl

    Message from the Commons to acquaint this House that they have appointed a Committee of five members to join with the Committee appointed by this House, as mentioned in their Lordships' Message of the 25th of April last, to consider the Dover Gas Bill [H.L.], and that they have ordered that the said Committee do meet the Committee appointed by their Lordship as proposed by this House.

    acquainted the House, that the Clerk of the Parliaments had laid upon the Table the Certificates from the Examiners that the Standing Orders applicable to the following Bills have been complied with:

    • Ministry of Health (Halifax and West Riding Provisional Orders) Confirmation. [H.L.]
    • Ministry of Health Provisional Orders Confirmation (No. 5). [H.L.]
    • Ministry of Health Provisional Order Confirmation (Swindon Extension). [H.L.]

    Also the Certificate that the further Standing Orders applicable to the following Bill have been complied with:

    • Shropshire, Worcestershire and Staffordshire Electric Power.
    • The same were ordered to lie on the Table.

    Standing Orders Committee

    Report from, That the Standing Orders not complied with in respect of the petition for the

    London County Council (Ilford and Barking Drainage) Bill,

    ought to be dispensed with, and leave given to introduce the Bill.

    Read, and agreed to.

    Cleethorpes Urban District Council Bill Hl

    The King's consent signified, and Bill reported with Amendments.

    Poole Corporation Bill Hl

    Oxford Corporation (Water, Etc) Bill

    Reported, with Amendments.

    Dagenham Urban District Council Bill Hl

    Committed: The Committee to be proposed by the Committee of Selection.

    Lewes Water Bill Hl

    Reported with Amendments.

    Dursley Gas Order, 1928

    Special Order proposed to be made on the application of the Dursley Gas Light and Coke Company:

    Laid before the House (pursuant to Act) and referred to the Special Orders Committee.

    Wisbech Electricity (Exten Sion) Order, 1928

    Special Order in respect of part of the urban district of Walsoken, in the County of Norfolk:

    Laid before the House (pursuant to Act) and referred to the Special Orders Committee.

    Cockermouth Gas Order, 1928





    Report from the Special Orders Committee, That no Petition has been presented praying to be heard against the Special Orders, and that there is nothing in these Orders to which they think it necessary to call the attention of the House: Read, and ordered to lie on the Table.

    Birmingham Gas Order, 1928

    Report from the Special Orders Committee, That no Petition has been presented praying to be heard against the Special Order, that they have received and considered a report from the Board of Trade upon the Order, and that there is nothing in this Order to which they think it necessary to call the attention of the House: Read, and ordered to lie on the Table.

    Ministry Of Health Provisional Orders (No 1) Bill




    Reported without amendment, and recommitted to a Committee of the Whole House to-morrow.