HC Deb 04 June 1847 vol 93 cc127-30

inquired, if the Government had got information whether the potato disease had appeared in this country, and especially in Ireland?


wished an answer at the same time to the question as to what course the Government intended to pursue with regard to the Agricultural Statistics Bill—whether they intended to abandon it altogether this Session, or to remit it to a Select Committee?


begged to say, in answer to the question of the hon. Member for Cocker-mouth, that it was quite true that reports had reached the Government of the potato disease having made its appearance in different parts of the country; but that it was yet by far too early to form any decided opinion on the subject. It must be remembered, that last year the extent and character of the potato disease was not ascertained till late in July; and therefore it was impossible for the best informed to form any exact opinion about it at the present time. With regard to Ireland, the Agricultural Society of Dublin was about to meet in a few days to receive information from the different parts of the country, and to discuss the subject. In answer to the question of the hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. O'Brien), he begged to repeat the statement made by the noble Lord the First Lord of the Treasury a few nights ago, that it would be impossible to proceed with the Agricultural Statistics Bill this Session.


said, that all the accounts he had recently received from Ireland tended to this, that the new potatoes were decidedly showing marks of a different sort of disease from that with which they were affected last year. The stalks, in many instances, were actually withered already. He had received accounts to this effect from various parts of Ireland that morning; and the writers added that they wished the Government would say something official to dissuade the people from putting down the quantities of potatoes which they were at this moment doing. If the Government would do that, it would be better than the Chancellor of the Exchequer telling the House that he knew little or nothing about the subject. If the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Labouchere) would refer to the communication which had been made to the Government by Mr. Higgins, the eminent nursery gardener of Dublin, he would find that the potato disease had shown itself very extensively.


said, it was no doubt true that in many parts of Ireland the new potatoes had been found extensively affected with disease. The information which the Agricultural Society of Ireland had received, fully warranted that apprehension. As had already been stated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that Society was to meet in Dublin in a few days, and would receive accounts from all parts of the country with the view of seeing what reason there was to believe that the disease extensively prevailed in Ireland; and what were the practical remedies which it would he advisable to adopt, with the view to changing the cultivation to suit the altered state of things. For his part, he thought that a body of this kind was far better qualified to investigate questions of this description, and to give advice as to the cultivation and management of the crops, than the Government could he to deal with a question of such delicacy and difficulty. That was a responsibility which no Government could well undertake.


said, he had adopted one expedient with advantage, on the recommendation of a person writing in the Gardener's Chronicle—a work of the greatest possible utility and benefit to the agriculturists of this country and the public. That journal some time past recommended the adoption of what was almost an universal practice in some parts of the Continent—sowing harricot beans, which in Spain, France, and Italy, formed a very nutritious part of the aliment of the population of those countries. He had every promise of a good produce and abundance of profit; and he hoped to see the cultivation brought into more general use in this country.


remarked, that as a panic might be created in Ireland without any foundation, by what had been stated with reference to the potato crop, it might, perhaps, be as well that he should give his experience as contradistinguished from that of the hon. and gallant Member for Wycombe (Mr. B. Osborne). He was happy to state, that at the time he left Ireland, which was two days ago, there was no appearance, to any extent, of the potato disease in the county of Cork and the south of Ireland generally; and he hoped that Providence would give them a continuation of this beautifully clement weather, and preserve them from that calamity. Where the disease had appeared, there could be no doubt that the best way for the farmers to take was at once to take them up, and put in the only crop which they could put in at this late season—he meant late turnips. Last year he had sown 100 acres of late turnips after potatoes, and they had turned out exceedingly well. He was happy to say, also, that a greater quantity of corn having been put into the ground this season than usual, in place of potatoes, the prospects of Ireland were to a greater extent better than last year.