HC Deb 11 August 1887 vol 319 cc72-5
MR. CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, When the Government expect to receive the Report of Mr. Whitehead and Mr. Grey with reference to the prevalence of the Hessian fly in various parts of the country; whether it is the fact that Mr. Whtehead submitted a full Report upon this subject to the Agricultural Department so long ago as October of last year; what action has been taken at any time since then by the Government to give effect to the recommendations of that Report; and, when did the Agricultural Department first become aware of the prevalence of that insect in the country during the present season?

MR. H. GARDNER (Essex, Saffron Walden)

also asked, whether the right hon. Gentleman was aware that Questions on the subject had been frequently addressed to the Government since August last; and, whether the answer had been invariably made that the Government was fully alive to the importance of the subject; and, how it'. was that at the eleventh hour the Government were about to appoint a Commissioner to inquire into it?


Order! The hon. Member is arguing the point.


Mr. Whitehead's and Mr. Grey's Report is expected immediately. Mr. Whitehead's first Report was received in October, 1886, and was immediately printed and sent to all County Local s Authorities in Great Britain. Copies were laid on the Table of both Houses ' on the meeting of Parliament. Mr. Whitehead reported last February that the pupæ of the Hessian fly had been discovered by farmors in straw of corn just threshed out near Dundee A: Circular was sent to the Local Authorities in March with a notice as to the discovery of pupa cases, and suggestions to prevent their distribution. A copy of Mr. Whitehead's Report was sent during the present month to all the agricultural; papers. Mr. Whitehead is of opinion that all that can be done at present of practicable benefit in the circumstances will be to circulate methods of preventing this attack, and his suggestions are being widely circulated in all the agricultural districts. Copies of all the documents which have been issued on this subject will shortly be laid upon the Table.

MR. ANDERSON (Elgin and Nairn)

asked, whether the Government or the Commisssioners had communicated with the Agricultural Department of the United States for the purpose of obtaining any Reports or other documents in the possession of the United States Government relating to the Hessian fly and the best method of dealing with it; and whether they would cause any such documents, and other information of value, to be published in a cheap and convenient form for circulation; whether the Government would extend their inquiries as to the presence of the Hessian fly in Scotland, especially the counties of Elgin and Nairn; and whether a Commissioner would be appointed to proceed at once and make investigations in these counties?


Yes, Sir. The Reports of all the branches of the Agricultural Department of the United States are received. Some of the Entomologists' Reports refer to the Hessian fly, and it will be considered whether any part of them can be usefully published. As regards the outbreaks in Scotland, Mr. Whitehead originally suggested that Inspectors should be sent to all the infected districts; but subsequently withdrew the suggestion, as unfortunately there is no longer any doubt as to the existence of the Hessian fly in the localities named.


asked whether the House was to understand that the Government had taken no further action in the matter since the first Report of Mr. Whitehead, and its circulation?


replied that steps had been taken by the Government to forward to every part of the country suggestions as to the best course to be adopted in order to destroy the fly.


appealed to the right hon. Gentleman who was responsible, in the absence of the Chancellor of the Duchy, for the Agricultural Department, having regard to the pressing—and he might say immediate—importance of the question, whether, if the Government had no sufficient powers to deal with the matter, he would undertake, either in this or the other House of Parliament, to introduce a short and simple measure, I which might be passed in two or three days, giving whatever powers might be necessary to deal with this growing evil, an evil which, if not arrested in time, he believed, might lead to the disaster, and complete the ruin of the corn-growing districts of the country?

THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)

I would remind my right hon. Friend that the Reports we have received point to this—that no Act of Parliament and no Bill that we could pass would be effectual for the purpose. All that can be done must be done by individuals themselves by the exercise of the greatest possible vigilance. We are circulating this information to the utmost of our ability. We shall get further Reports; and if we could see a way to exterminating this pest we should not lose a single day proposing this measure.


asked, whether the right hon. Gentleman meant to say that no actual or effective steps could be taken for stamping out that pest precisely as was done in the case of the cattle plague some years ago?


said, that they were obliged to proceed upon the scientific information which they received. With regard to adopting effective measures in the case, those who were best capable of advising them upon such matters told them positively that it would be impossible for an Act of Parliament to stamp out that disease.

MR. H. GARDNER (Essex, Saffron Walden)

inquired as to the date of the information to which the right hon. Gentleman referred?


said, it was information they had received within the last three days.