§ MR. JOHNSTON
I wish to thank the Government for undertaking this Bill. I think the general provisions of this Bill will be taken advantage of by the farmers of Ireland, and by the poor law guardians, who are, I think, 101 to provide the machines mentioned in this Bill. I have great pleasure in supporting it.
§ COLONEL L0CKW00D (Essex, Epping)
I have no wish to oppose the advantages which Ireland is to receive in this way, but I should like to draw attention to this fact, that the small farmers in Essex have not yet been considered, and, having regard to the fact that the right honourable Gentleman has found the Essex people more faithful than the Irish have been, I do hope that he will see his way to bring in a small Bill for their benefit next Session.
§ MR. DILLON
When the honourable Member for Essex brings in his Bill I, for my part, shall be very happy to support it, but I beg to point out that I do not think this Bill will cost the Treasury a penny so far as I can read it; all the cost is to come out of Irish money, and all it does is to provide certain machines for the west of Ireland, for which the farmers are to pay by instalments. I am glad to be able to say I think that it is a useful Bill, and I rise for the purpose of supporting it. There are, however, one or two points which I desire to criticise. I do not think that the honourable Member for South Belfast need be so extremely effusive in his thanks. There is one particular thing in this Bill which is unfortunate. It is a Bill for the purpose of enabling the guardians in the poorer districts all over Ireland, if necessary, to supply seed and spraying machines and material for spraying. In the case of seed and material for spraying they are authorised to sell for cash, but in the case of the spraying machines they can either hire or sell, but as regards materials and seed they are authorised to supply materials for spraying and seed potatoes in the usual way to a certain limit, the amount to be paid in two instalments extending over the period of a year. Now, the assump- 102 tion in such a case is this—and I am extremely desirous that it should be brought before the House—that there are in Ireland certain large districts where, owing to the failure of the crops and the disastrous character of the year, the people are unable to supply themselves with seed and spraying machines. If they were in a position to buy them the House would not be under the necessity of introducing this Bill at all; the assumption is that they are in such a state of abject poverty that they are unable to obtain seed. Now, the first point I find fault with is, that whereas, in the case of spraying materials and seed, the guardians have power to give them out and take the price in two instalments, in the case of spraying machines it is enacted in the subsection 7 of section 4 that they shall only be sold for cash. Now, it is a rather expensive machine—I think it is supplied at 22s.—at least, it is something considerable to a small occupier, and is a very serious matter, and I do not understand, and I wish to have it from the Treasury, why this distinction is drawn between the seed and spraying materials and spraying machines, which are mainly for the purpose of saving the crop. One of the objects when bringing in a Bill of this kind ought to be to make it as simple as possible. What has been the result so far as this Bill is concerned? Complaints have reached me from several unions that the instructions issued in advance for carrying out the provisions of the Bill were misunderstood. I have heard of cases where a considerable number of machines were ordered and looked up in the unions, while the people were in a state of frenzy trying to get them; where the machines were locked up for weeks, and in some cases private individuals put up sums of money out of their own pockets and bought them. In another case that arose in a very poor union in Ireland, where no machines were supplied for 103 a very long time, the result was that the people were endeavouring to spray their potatoes with a brush. I believe that the trouble arises largely owing to the extreme provision contained in this subsection that spraying machines shall only be sold for cash on delivery. Why it should not be upon the same basis as the payment of the seed and materials I am at a loss to understand. In some cases the guardians have refused to hire them out on the ground that if they did they would not be able to get them back again.
§ MR. DILLON
You are so rich in the north of Ireland that you can afford to buy them; I am speaking of the west of Ireland, the guardians of which, having bought a large consignment of machines, have got no provision in this Bill for enforcing the return of these machines or the repair of them in case they are broken. By refusing to lend them out a considerable difficulty would arise. One doubt one has is whether they could hire them out, because the guardians themselves might be surcharged out of their own pockets for those machines. However that may be, confusion has arisen in dealing with a matter which is of the most vital importance owing to the introduction of this most curious provision, which forbids the guardians giving the spraying machines on the same terms as the seed and spraying materials. The season has now gone by when the machines could have been of any use.
§ MR. DILLON
Nothing of the sort; not at all. The honourable Gentleman knows nothing about—is entirely ignorant of—the subject The crops of potatoes have been sprayed, resprayed, 104 and sprayed again before now, and it is useless to attempt to spray them now; it is no use whatever, and I think we are entitled to some explanation.
§ * SIR J. COLOMB
My experience of the poorer unions of Ireland does not at all agree with that of the honourable Member who has just sat down, and I can only tell the House that I was present at a board of guardians when the inspector came down to put the arrangements for the machines in motion and explain them. The whole thing was fully explained, and no difficulty arose in any way. The way it worked is this: it is a condition that the guardians making provision take upon themselves the responsibility to buy the machines and pay cash, and so long as the cash is got back it is all right, and they recoup themselves from those who propose to buy them.
§ MR. ATKINSON
I think the honourable Member for Mayo is in error. Instructions have been given all over the country, and the estimated amount altogether is £80,000, of which £69,000 has been offered. As to the difference between the materials and machines in the mode of purchase I think the answer is obvious. The materials cannot be hired, but must be bought, and therefore you must make the terms as easy as possible. On the other hand, machines may be hired and need not be bought. A man can hire them and need not buy them, and therefore there is no necessity for spreading the instalments over a period.
§ The Bill was read a second time.