HC Deb 12 March 1906 vol 153 cc875-6

To ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland whether he is aware that the Local Government Board has written to the Galway Board of Guardians, remonstrating with them, because in the matter of medicine contracts the board of guardians thought well to only consider tenders from Irish firms; and whether it is the intention of the Local Government Board to throw obstacles in the way of Irish boards of guardians encouraging Irish manufactures.

(Answered by Mr. Bryce.) The Local Government Board, having become aware that certain boards of guardians had adopted Resolutions that medicine contracts should be confined to Irish firms, have recently addressed a circular letter to all boards of guardians in Ireland pointing out how very detrimental such a restriction would be to the interests of the ratepayers, for whom the guardians act as trustees, and possibly to Irish industry, by provoking action in England unfavourable to Irish tenders for other articles. The circular also pointed out that it is the duty of the Local Government Board to see that no unnecessary charge is placed upon public funds, from which one-half of the expenditure upon medicine contracts is defrayed. It is not, however, the intention of the Local Government Board to place obstacles in the way of the encouragement of Irish manufactures by boards of guardians, so long as they do not neglect the paramount interest of the ratepayers. I may add that the quantity of medicinal drugs actually manufactured in Ireland appears to be small, and that a restriction of contracts to Irish firms would not necessarily tend to encourage the industry. Out of nine Irish firms which hold medicine contracts only two are manufacturing druggists; and even these obtain many of their drugs from England.