HC Deb 11 May 1893 vol 12 cc641-3

I beg to ask the President of the Board of Agriculture why "the wide prevalence of agricultural distress" referred to in the Queen's Speech has as yet received no consideration at the hands of Her Majesty's Government, and if, having regard to the long-continued drought, the absence of food for horses, cattle, and sheep, the depreciation of stock, and the prospect of a hay famine, no remedial or palliative measures are to be proposed; and why two months of legislative time have been allowed to elapse before the appointment of the Select Committee promised on the 16th of March last, to consider the desirability of enabling the public to detect imposition and to distinguish between British and Irish products and those of foreign countries by requiring the latter to boar a mark of their foreign origin?


It is not the case that the existing depression in agriculture has received no consideration at our hands. On the contrary, we have been only too glad to investigate the numerous proposals which have reached us on the subject; and in this connection we regret that we have not had the assistance of the Committee which we proposed to appoint, and in regard to which Notices still stand in the names of hon. Gentlemen opposite. With reference to the particular circumstances of the present moment to which the hon. Member refers, I should hope that the existing apprehensions in some districts owing to the absence of rain may yet be removed, and it is obvious that the possibilities of any Government action are but very small when difficulties are due to exceptional climatic conditions. With regard to the second paragraph of the question, it is scarcely for me to explain here the proceedings which have taken place in connection with the appointment of the Committee to which the hon. Member refers; but I understood that its constitution and the terms of the Reference have been the subject of constant communication amongst those concerned since its appointment was promised, and, as the hon. Member is aware, it has now been definitely appointed.


May I ask whether the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture has been called to the highly successful experiments in rain-making which have been carried out in certain parts of America; and whether he thinks it his duty to take any steps with a view to putting an end to the long-continued drought in this country by the adoption of the American method?


The subject has been brought to my attention, but I am informed that the experiments tried in the United States last year were not a success, and that the American Government are not granting any more money for the purpose. If the hon. Member or any other hon. Gentleman interested in agriculture would like personally to make some private experiments in the direction indicated I shall watch them with great interest.

*MR. BROOKFIELD (Sussex, Rye)

I beg to ask, in connection with the appointment of a Select Committee, whether any communication has reached the right hon. Gentleman to the effect that many Members of the Opposition, although not believing in the adequacy of the Select Committee, would very much prefer the appointment of such a Committee to nothing being done at all; and that if the right hon. Gentleman could see his way to narrow the scope of the proposed Reference hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House would use their influence with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sleaford (Mr. Chaplin) to induce him to withdraw his Amendment.


If the hon. Gentlemen opposite, referred to in the question, are able to prevail on their friends to withdraw their opposition to the appointment of a Select Committee, the Government will be glad to consider any suggestions that may be made as to the scope of the Reference.


Has the right hon. Gentleman given any consideration to the Amendment in my name on the Paper with regard to this particular point?

[No answer was given.]