§ £120,788, to complete the sum for the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction, Ireland.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
said he desired to take this opportunity of raising for the consideration of the Committee the question of afforestation in Ireland. He asked the Vice-President of the Agricultural Department to be good enough to make a statement, if he was in a position to do so, as to his own attitude and the attitude of the Government towards the afforestation movement in Ireland. It would be remembered that last winter a Departmental Committee was appointed to inquire into the whole subject of forestry in Ireland, and as he happened to be a Member of that Committee he thought he might claim for it that in a very short time it made, on the subject of forestry, what had been described as the most exhaustive investigation that had ever taken place. It often happened with Departmental Committees that they dragged on for a weary length of time and the public began to despair of any conclusions being arrived at. With regard to this particular Committee no time was lost; the investigation was entered upon at once; it was a thorough investigation from every point of view, and within the last month or so the Report of the Committee had been presented to the Department, and he supposed it was available to hon. Members. He did not desire to go into any lengthy description of the findings of the Committee, but he might say that the conclusions arrived at were amply justified by the evidence offered by a great number of witnesses. The Members on the Committee represented very generally the expert knowledge of the country on forestry. Lord Castletown, who had 580 been deeply interested in the subject in connection with the Forestry Association, and other gentlemen well qualified to speak, assisted the work of the Committee. Evidence was taken of every conceivable description. They had expert evidence as to the suitability of Ireland from climatic and other points of view for the growing of trees. Evidence was also given as to the industries that were likely to be improved and kept going by means of forestry, and they had evidence of an extraordinary character as to the amount of money lost to Ireland every year because of its utter neglect of forestry. They found that thousands of pounds were being spent every year in Norway and Sweden and other countries for the purchase of wood pulp used in the manufacture of paper. They had also evidence given by those engaged in the timber trade in Ireland including furniture manufacturers and other business men, who were almost unanimous in stating that they greatly feared they would not be able to keep their industries going unless some serious attention was paid to the industry of forestry in Ireland. Many of those wood industries in Ireland kept thousands of hands employed, and it would be an extremely disastrous thing if for the want of a little attention to forestry they were closed down. He knew that very little attention had been paid to the subject of forestry in Scotland and in England, but still less attention had been paid to the question in Ireland. There was only one country in the world as far as they could ascertain where there was a smaller area of land under forestry than in Ireland, and that was Iceland. The area of land under trees in England and Scotland was far smaller than in any other European country. Before the Committee expert evidence was given that from many points of view there was no country in the world more suitable for the successful growing of trees than Ireland. A leading authority on forestry in Scotland, the hon. Member for Leith Burghs, told the Committee from his own observation that he knew Ireland afforded greater facilities for the growing of many kinds of timber than Scotland, England, or any country he knew of. The Committee were told of many kinds of trees which could not be grown in Great 581 Britain which flourished and did well in Ireland. Surely it was not surprising that the Committee, in view of these facts, were unanimously in favour of something being done to preserve the forests at present in Ireland, and to see that other forests were planted. Two or three alternative schemes were reported upon, and it was pointed out that this matter of tree planting and the re-afforestation of a country must be and could only be carried out by the intervention of the State. They could not expect private individuals to embark on any scheme which would be sufficiently extensive to be of national benefit hereafter. Therefore, the State must intervene, and in doing so they would only be following the example of every other State in the world. If he had time he could easily give surprising illustrations from Germany, France, and all other nations where forests were a source of great national wealth. He was not going to ask the Government to adopt any particular one of the several schemes worked out by the Departmental Committee. He would confine himself to expressing the hope that the matter would not be allowed to rest. Whether the recommendations of the Committee were acceptable from the financial point of view or not, everybody would admit that the subject was one which ought to be taken up by the Government. The Report laid great stress on the fact that at this particular juncture there was an opportunity for the State's dealing with forestry in Ireland, which had never been afforded before, and which, if allowed to slip, might never occur again in their lifetime. The Land Purchase Acts had brought this question greatly to the front. The Estates Commissioners had pointed out over and over again that they had been embarrassed by the fact that there was no power in Ireland to enable them, in dealing with land purchase, to deal with forests and trees. What was the result? In many parts of the country the land was in process of changing hands. Forests had been destroyed. He was far from saying that tenants who bought land were anxious wantonly to destroy the timber on the land. Farmers were quite alive to the advantage of having the shelter 582 of timber. But a great many of the landlords before they sold their property said to themselves that they might as well get all they could out of it, and they cut down the trees without any thought of the future. The result was that for some time past there had been a most lamentable destruction of timber. The value received had been comparatively trifling, because the timber, being immature, had fetched very little in the market. This process of cutting down timber had been carried out to some extent by the tenants, but to a larger extent by the landlords, and the whole proceedings had resulted in waste and disaster. The Government had now an opportunity of acquiring, with beneficial results to the whole community, existing forests and plantations, and for the purpose of afforestation land which was not suitable for anything else. The evidence given before the Committee showed that there were about 1,000,000 acres of land in Ireland perfectly suitable in every way for the planting of trees, and useless for anything else. Under these favourable circumstances he appealed to the Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture to state his views on the Report of the Committee, and to say whether he could hold out any hope that the Government would act in the matter. Like every other scheme, this involved a question of money. They were always told that it was very hard to get money from the British Treasury. The Treasury, like other capitalists, were quite willing to provide money when it was made clear to them that nothing would be lost, and that, on the other hand, something would be gained. The Committee showed in the scheme they worked out that the expenditure of a moderate sum in tree planting in Ireland would in course of years prove a most profitable transaction. Of course, it would take a long time to show a profit, and that was why private capitalists could not be expected to embark in the work. Men could not wait forty, fifty, or sixty years, but the State could very well do so in a matter of this kind. Therefore, he did not think they ought to be shy in asking the Treasury for money. Supposing the Treasury would not look with favour on the request, they were on this subject, 583 as on all other subjects connected with Ireland, brought back face to face with the question of self-government. Was there any man in his senses who would say that, if there was a responsible government in Ireland, the country would be left in the condition in which it was now in regard to forestry? With the exception of Iceland, Ireland was the only country in the world where this matter had not received some attention. If the Irish people had had their own Government for the last 100 years, this matter would not have been allowed to fall into its present lamentable state. One of the last things that the old Irish Parliament did was to vote a considerable sum of money for the purpose of encouraging afforestation. From that day to this, so far as he knew, not a single thought had ever been given to the question. There was now a disposition all round to recognise that there were certain things which Irishmen of all classes and creed were entitled to ask, and which ought to be granted. How could any man say, whatever his politics or religion, that in view of the history of this matter, it was not a reasonable thing to come and ask the Government at long last to do something in the matter? The hon. Member for Leith Burghs, who was a great authority on the subject of afforestation, had declared that the Report of the Committee was the most important and enlighteneng document on forestry ever presented to this House. If hon. Members would read the Report they would find that there was a strong desire among people of all classes that this source of wealth should be cultivated in future. He was sure that the Vice-President, whose sympathies were with the people, would do his best with the Treasury. He hoped that hon. Members from all parts of Ireland would support the claim for money to carry out this work, so that the hon. Gentleman when he went to the Treasury would be able to say that he had a united Ireland behind him.
§ MR. POWER (Waterford, E.)
expressed the gratitude of his colleagues to the hon. Member for East Clare for introducing this subject, and for the care and trouble he took as a member of the 584 Committee which inquired into it. This was a matter on which men of all politics and creeds could agree. Anyone who read the Report would see it was generally recognised that in every country naturally the duty fell on the State to attend to afforestation and to advance money at a liberal rate of interest for the carrying out of the work. He believed that the work could be made essentially productive. It was work which, if it was to be successfully done, should be done on a large scale, and private capitalists did not care to put money in such an enterprise, because they got no return for a considerable number of years. He asked the hon. Gentleman to note that localities protected from north and north-west winds grew most admirable timber. On the Connemara Mountains, which had an eastern exposure, plantations were made a number of years ago, and they were now doing splendidly; if larger areas were enclosed and properly drained, better results would follow. He insisted that re-afforestation was most desirable from a sanitary point of view. They all knew what ravages were caused in certain parts of Ireland from what was called the white plague; these were quite appalling. It was generally considered that the disease arose from the conditions under which the poor people lived—their poverty and their bad food; but there could be no doubt that climate had a great deal to do with it, and it was acknowledged that the climate of Ireland would be largely improved by its re-afforestation. They knew that a largo number of small forests in the country had disappeared. He could not blame the landlords altogether, because they were as a rule poor, and when they saw plantations, the felling of which would bring them in considerable sums of money, it was natural that they should sell their trees. Unfortunately, in too many cases immature timber was cut down, and, so far from the forest area of the country being increased, it had rather decreased. He thought that there was now opportunity for the Estates Commissioners to acquire tree-denuded lands and hand them over for forest cultivation. In his own county of Tipperary the county council were really anxious to do what they 585 could to forward this matter. What was called an "Arbor Day" was appointed some years ago on which the children and others planted trees in different localities. Unfortunatey the day selected for that purpose was 1st November, which happened to be a holy day of the Church to which most of the people belonged. But there was no reason why the date of "Arbor Day" should not be changed. His hon. friend informed him, and he knew it was the fact, that his county council had supported the different recommendations of the Committee, all of which, together with the evidence, were well worthy of perusal. He was aware that the Vice-President of the Department was in favour of this matter and had acknowledged that a great deal of Ireland was fitted for little else than tree growing, and if the hon. Gentleman saw that this work was seriously tackled he believed it would be productive of much benefit to Ireland both from a material and from a sanitary point of view.
§ MR. NOLAN (Louth, S.)
thought that they were all indebted to his hon. friend the Member for East Clare for having introduced this question, which he considered was one of the most important matters that could be discussed in relation to the material well-being of the country. The suitability of Ireland from its size and climate for the growth of useful timber had been established beyond the possibility of doubt by the fact that at one time Ireland was one of the best-wooded countries in Europe, or perhaps in the world. Even to-day, on the tops of some of the hills and mountains, where at present not a shrub grew, the stumps of great forest trees were to be found, proving that these hills and mountains had at one time been covered with dense forests. Then those who were acquainted with the history of the much-vaunted British Navy in the early part of last century were aware that the wooden walls of England, so called, were built to a very large extent of Irish oak, and there was no better oak in the world. It had been stated with absolute truth that in any country where the timber had been destroyed that country was doomed to destruction, and on the other 586 hand it had been proved, by practical experiment, that in countries where there were large tracks of barren land incapable of supporting man or beast these had been restored to fertility by a judicious system of planting. The best illustration of this was to be found in the south of France where the Government stepped in and reclaimed a large province from sandy waste. They began by planting grass to bind the sand, and then by planting the Maritime Pine and other trees. A country which at one time would not afford a living to a rabbit now supported 200,000 prosperous peasants, and was even now the health resort of people from this country. Again, they wanted employment in Ireland for their young men, and anything like a good and comprehensive scheme of re-afforestation in Ireland would find immediate work for between 40,000 and 50,000 men. It might be, and had been asked, what was the reason why Ireland was now stripped of forest trees, and had become one of the barest countries in Europe? It was indisputable that, in the first instance, the forests of Ireland were largely destroyed by the Government of this country for military purposes, because they offered an impediment to the march of the invading English armies, and afforded shelter to the natives. The work of ruin then commenced was carried out to the bitter end by an alien landed aristocracy grafted on to Ireland by the British' Government. To satisfy the monetary wants of these gentry such of the forests as had been left by the Government were cut down and sold. Consequently, the Government of England owed it to Ireland to do something now to restore the forests of that country. In connection with the benefits which would accrue to Ireland from re-afforestation in addition to the provision of employment for no many thousands of young men, he might mention that forests would avert the disastrous floods to which Ireland was subject year after year. In the autumn and winter season thousands and thousands of acres of the richest land in Ireland were laid under water. A system of arterial drainage might be necessary, and it was a very good thing in itself, but it was beginning at the wrong end. The place to begin at was 587 where tie rain fell on the mountain and hillsides, from which it rushed down into the plains and laid them under water, whilst at the same time it washed away the soil from the mountains and hillsides, which, carried away by the water, silted up the lakes, rivers, and harbours, and caused trouble there. He knew there were difficulties in the way of planting because in some parts the mountain sides were exposed to the whole force of the storms from the Atlantic, and in those parts it would be difficult to get a plant of any kind to grow. It might be almost necessary to build a wall to protect the plants from the storms of the west until they were strong enough to resist the force of the gales, and in their turn became the protection of the belts of timber which would be planted on the hillsides. He was glad to hear that the Report of the Committee was now ready and about to be circulated to Members. He rejoiced to hear that statement, because there were many Members who ought to know a great deal more of this subject. That they knew very little about it was probably due to the fact that they had been engaged in a fierce and bitter struggle in regard to other things, and in consequence this very important question had been neglected. The one comfort in the present position was that they now had a Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture who had goodwill and a practical turn of mind. He believed the hon. Gentleman would turn his attention to this matter, and do something in regard to it. Even if the hon. Gentleman was a greater man than he was the obstacles standing in the way of his carrying out so great a work would probably prove to be too much for him. But he hoped that the hon. Gentleman, with his usual courage, would attack the problem and do something to promote this great work, which would be a great service to the present and a source of great blessing to the future generations of Ireland.
§ MR. MULDOON (Wicklow, E.)
desired to associate himself with the statement made by the hon. Member for East Clare and to assure the hon. Member who was now Vice-President of the Board that in Ireland there was the greatest feeling upon this subject. He hoped the hon. Gentleman would signalise his 588 advent to office by taking some steps in the direction indicated by the hon. Member for East Clare. He, however, was afraid that the difficulties in the hon. Gentleman's way would prove too much for him. But the time was opportune, because the land was passing now from one class to another, and the anxiety in Ireland was great, with regard to the disappearance of the woods, at this moment. He hoped in the land legislation to be promoted this year some provision would be inserted to prevent the waste that was going on at the present time in that direction. As to the difficulties in the way, he was afraid the appointment made by the Treasury recently of one of their clerks to the position of Treasury Remembrancer was a sinister appointment so far as the financial relations between the two countries were concerned. He had noticed a disinclination to raise the wages of the workmen in the Phoenix Park from 15s., but the salary of the. Treasury Remembrancer had been increased by £200. Until the hon. Gentleman became the Vice-President Irishmen had no confidence in the Board of Agriculture, and he hoped the hon. Gentleman would do all that lay in his power to justify the confidence placed in him in all parts of Ireland and would make a commencement in this important matter of forestry. He, however, rose to call attention to the treatment meted out to one of the officials in the forestry branch of the Department. Mr. Ellison, who carried on the business of afforestation, was an officer of acknowledged competence and capacity. He was threatened with dismissal six months ago. Nothing was done then, but he had now been notified that his office of Inspector of the Department of Forestry would come to an end in three months time. If the Board of Agriculture was going to commence this important work in forestry, why were Mr. Ellison's services being dispensed with at this time? There was no more competent man for this work in Ireland at the present time, and feeling in the county of Wicklow on the way in which he was being treated was very strong. The head of the Department ought to follow the declared policy of the Government to govern Ireland according to Irish ideas, and he had had an index of the feeling of Wicklow on this question.
§ MR. JOYCE (Limerick)
desired to associate himself with the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken on the question of forestry in Ireland, and to express the hope that this important question would be pressed home on the Board of Agriculture. He rose, however, for the purpose of drawing attention to another branch of the Department, that dealing with technical education in Ireland. When the Department was formed the people of the country took up the question of technical education in a very wholehearted way. The county councils and borough councils, who were in many cases already too highly rated, cheerfully burdened themselves with still heavier rates to forward the movement of technical education. Since its formation, he had been a member of the Technical Education Committee of his own city, and he had also for four years been a member of the central board in Dublin. This question, like that of afforestation, embraced all shades of opinion in Ireland. Men from all parts and of all shades of political opinion and religion, worked in the most harmonious manner in the interests of technical education, which had been more or less—and more rather than less—starved by the Treasury. He would like to know why there was not a representative of the Treasury present. If there had been one present, he would perhaps have spoken to him more strongly than he was speaking, because the Treasury had treated the public bodies in Ireland in a most scandalous manner. The Vice-President of the Department, during his tour of Ireland, had seen for himself the necessity of increased expenditure in connection with technical education. Towns and cities had burdened themselves in no small way by raising considerable sums to build institutions, and obtain requisites for technical classes. When public bodies had done this and people had shown themselves anxious to take advantage of technical education in large numbers, why should the Treasury have stepped in and cribbed, cabined, and confined the efforts made? The Vice-President of the Department, when at Limerick last winter, saw the technical classes at work, and finding that they had had to borrow £10,000 to help to to build a new institute, he was so struck with the requirements, that he 590 publicly stated that he would do his very best with the Treasury to get a special sum of money for Ireland which he would divide fairly over the whole of the country as free grants towards the building or equipping of technical schools. They were sorry to find that the hon. Gentleman had failed, but they were not a bit surprised. The English Treasury always balked at giving a small sum for any purpose in Ireland. They were not begging this money from the Treasury. They asked it as a right, because they filched ten thousand times more from them every year. They never balked at millions when they were for palatial buildings for the War Office or the Admiralty, but when it was a question of equipping the youth of Ireland to fight the battle of life by giving them the opportunity of technical classes and putting them on an equal footing with other boys, then the Treasury always put its foot down and gave excuses. He asked the Vice-President in conjunction with the Leaders of the Nationalist and Ulster Unionist Parties to try and bring pressure to bear upon the Treasury to get a fair instalment of money to be devoted as free grants towards building technical institutes or equipping technical classes in Ireland, They were satisfied to bear their fair share of the burden; but the Vice-President knew that the institute in Limerick had to be cut down from £16,000 to £10,000, because that was the amount they would be able to borrow. The institute therefore would not be fully built or equipped. They would greatly have liked to have had the £5,000 or £6,000 which the Vice-President promised to get for them.
§ MR. JOYCE
said they built on that promise with a reasonable hope that the money would be granted, and that they would be able to build and equip their schools in a proper manner. This did not apply to Limerick alone; it applied all over Ireland. They saddled themselves with heavy rates and tried to 591 forward the great system of technical instruction, and it was not too much to ask the English Treasury out of the immense surplus sums at their disposal to devote a small sum to enable the county and borough councils in Ireland to equip their schools in a fair and reasonable manner. He hoped the Vice-President would continue to press the matter upon the Treasury. He would certainly have the support of the Irish Party, and he hoped he would have the support of the Unionist Party in Ulster. It would be money well spent in the interests of the Irish people.
§ MR. BARRIE
thought that on the subject of afforestation Ireland was absolutely united. He hoped they would have an intimation from the Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture that the Government, realising the urgency and importance of the matter, would see their way to do the generous thing and begin some experimental planting and to promise that they would do something substantial in a very few years. Reference had been made to "Arbor" day, and he would be happy if it could be revived and a more suitable date selected for the purpose. In doing so they would be following the example of America, where it was very popular. It had also been mentioned that Ireland imported wood pulp very largely for paper making. It would, of course, be many years before they could hope to have a full home supply, but it seemed strange when Ireland was so suited for tree growing that they should require to import their material for paper making. He wished to refer to some of the other activities of the Department, The last speaker dealt very eloquently with the question of an additional grant for the building of technical schools. He was more than pleased to hear that the city of Limerick felt such confidence in the value of technical education that they had erected an institute costing the substantial sum of £10,000. They, however, who represented rural constituencies thought that cities of importance like Limerick had financial resources that made it less necessary for them than for smaller towns to rely upon the generosity of the Treasury, and they hoped they would be 592 able to press their claims upon the Treasury with more success this session than last.
§ House counted; and, forty Members being found present—
§ MR. BARRIE
, continuing, said that with regard to winter dairies he would be glad if the President would tell them what progress had been made since last year. They were fully alive to the importance of Ireland being a butter-exporting country, not in the summer season only, but during the whole course of the year. It was not entirely satisfactory to find in their large cities Danish butter frequently sold in the winter. It was rather inconvenient to have this Estimate presented before the annual Report of the Department was in their hands, but they knew that very great progress had attended the efforts of the Department during the last season, while acknowledging that it was with some surprise that he found an additional amount of £5,000 put down for increased salaries. That was a very substantial increase. It included an increase of £200 to the Secretary of the Department. He thought Mr. Gill deserved the increase it was proposed to give him and he hoped it would not be questioned. The additional grant for arts and sciences was of the greatest encouragement to technical schools all over the country, but the expansion of the allowance was likely to increase because of the liberal policy pursued during the past two sessions. They now had three grades of classes, and under the new scheme of allowances the grant-in-aid for the senior classes was very substantial indeed, and had been very welcome to technical committees. But the very success which had attended this more liberal policy would lead to larger demands next session. He hoped the Vice-President would bear that in mind, and satisfy the Treasury that no money had been better invested in Irish education in the present generation. He was most anxious to see this policy continued and extended. He was sorry he 593 could not congratulate the Department on. equal success in the development of the fisheries of the country. One explanation frequently urged was the want of a proper coastal patrol. The Department had for several years employed two detective steamers, but how a sensible body of men could expect to patrol the fisheries effectively, with vessels of nine knots, to overtake and capture trawlers which could steam fifteen knots, was one of the conundrums which he would leave the Department to explain. There was to be an addition to the fleet, but they did not know what the speed of the new cruiser would be.
§ MR. BARRIE
said that was progress in the right direction, though he would rather have had a knot or two more. Taking it all in all they were satisfied with the progress the Department was making and they realised that the Vice-President had acquitted himself successfully, except in one important particular. It would be the general desire of the House to remember that Sir Horace Plunkett was the real author of the Department. A number of Nationalist Members had actively associated themselves in the work of the Department when it was in charge of Sir Horace Plunkett, and they would bear him out that except in one important point no change had been made in the general line of the work of the Department. It was therefore with the more regret that in one matter a very sudden change had taken place in the view of the Vice-President who had expressed himself as disapproving of the annual sums that had been for several years given to the Agricultural Organisation Society. There was a sharp diversity of opinion on the Agricultural Board, but it was thought that satisfaction had been reached in the compromise suggested by the Vice-President that the grants hitherto given to that society in aid of Agricultural Societies all over the land should be continued for the next three years diminishing annually. A little later Sir Horace Plunkett delivered a lecture in the course of which he criticised previous criticisms of a prominent Member of the Nationalist 594 Party. An over-zealous friend of his sent that lecture to a well-known Nationalist in St. Louis. It was then said that Sir Horace Plunkett, the head of the Agricultural Society, had no right to make the criticism that he did so long as he was receiving a subsidy from the Department. The arrangement made by the Council which was to continue for three years was suddenly altered by the Vice-President and the Council, and the grant terminated on the ground that Sir Horace Plunkett had been a party to the sending of this now famous letter which did not bear the interpretation which the Vice-President placed upon it. That treatment was unfair to Sir Horace Plunkett, who had always acted unselfishly. He also complained that that was not the way a public board should be treated. He wished to associate himself in the remarks made in condemnation of the course taken by the Rev. Father Finlay, who, on Tuesday, raised a protest against it at the meeting in Dublin. He had always held that the House and the Government had not treated Sir Horace well, and he was sorry to see the Council approving the further course taken by the Vice-President in connection with that letter. That was the only criticism he had to make on the conduct of the Vice-President. He had admired the energy which he had displayed in furthering the work of the Department, but he was keenly disappointed that he should have so acted. There was a letter in the Irish limes that day, over the signature of Sir Horace, repudiating absolutely that he knew anything of that latter being sent to America. The bulk of the House were prepared to accept the word of honour of Sir Horace Plunkett in this matter.
§ MR. J. MACVEAGH (Down, S.)
said he had listened to the high tribute of praise which had been paid to Sir Horace Plunkett. His only regret was that this enthusiasm for Sir Horace Plankett's services had so lately manifested itself. He had not forgotten that it was the Unionist Party in Ireland that drove Sir Horace Plunkett out of public life, because he had the temerity to appoint an Irish Catholic as Secretary to the Agricultural Department. For this the 595 Unionist Party selected an official candidate with the result that Sir Horace Plunkett's seat was handed over to the Nationalists. From the day they drove Sir Horace Plunkett out of Parliament to the present hour the Unionists would not touch him with a 40 ft. pole, and in all the vacancies which had taken place in Ulster since that time they would not even allow Sir Horace Plunkett to get within talking distance of the electors. If Sir Horace Plunkett was all that the hon. Member for North Londonderry had claimed, why was his name not mentioned in conection with the representation of Fermanagh, and why did the hon. Member not retire in favour of this saviour of Ireland? Probably the hon. Member had his eye upon a Judgeship, and he preferred to stay where he was. He thought it was rather hard lines upon the Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture that he should be blamed for all the doings of Sir Horace Plunkett, when the two hon. Members sitting on the Unionist Benches were the men who had kept him out of Parliament. He wished to re-echo the expression of regret which had fallen from the hon. Member for the City of Limerick at the absence of any representative of the Treasury. He anticipated that the Vice-President would offer them any amount of sympathy and would say he had no money for them. During this debate, beyond a fleeting visit of half a minute paid by the Secretary to the Treasury, there had been no representative of the Treasury to listen to the statements from the Irish Benches, or to answer questions which were of very grave import to the people of Ireland at the present time. He anticipated that when a count was moved some one would come in from the Treasury, but even then they failed to put in an appearance. Although the Treasury officials were paid large salaries they would not come in to listen to the debate, and he appealed to the Vice-President to make a note of what had been said about them. The hon. Member for East Clare and the hon. Member for South Louth had spoken upon the question of afforestation. He thought that was a matter which ought to receive the prompt and serious attention of the Treasury. Large planta- 596 tions and woods were now, through the operation of the Land Act, passing from the landlords, and unless they were acquired by the State they would fall into the hands of the timber merchants. Now was the opportunity for the British Government to step in and save the situation. He hoped the Vice-President would make reports to the Treasury in favour of acquiring those woods before such a course was rendered impossible. He agreed with what had been said about the importance of the fishing industry, and the necessity for the Department of Agriculture taking some more serious steps. The hon. Member for Derry had expressed the hope that there would be some better patrolling of the coast by steamers. He also was anxious that that should be done, but it ought not to be done at the expense of the funds of the Department. The amount available for the fisheries was about £10,000, about £4,000 of which was absorbed in patrolling the coast, which only left £5,000 or £6,000 available for actual fisheries work. That was only a caricature of attending to the fisheries of Ireland. If the explanation was that they had not sufficient money, he hoped the Vice-President would tell them plainly and place the responsibility where it ought to be placed—on the Treasury. The fishing population in Ireland was decreasing and the fishing industry was gradually dying out, and if something was not done immediately the result would be one which everybody would regret. He would like the Vice-President to tell them if anything was being done with regard to the spraying of potatoes. He trusted they would have a statement upon that question. Another important matter was the stopping of the sale of adulterated manures and seeds. Those articles were produced not by Irish but by English manufacturers, and they were being dumped in Ireland by English agents. He thought the Department ought to do something to put an end to a system which was defrauding and swindling the farmers of Ireland.
§ [Mr. EMMOTT took the Chair.]
§ MR. HUGH LAW (Donegal, W.)
said that comment had been made upon the 597 paucity of the resources at the command of the Vice-President in the development of Irish fisheries. Probably no one felt more than he that an expenditure of £10,000 a year was exceedingly inadequate for proper development of what might be one of the greatest industries, and he hoped that the hon. Member would ask the Secretary to the Treasury to make special note of the matter. Anyone who looked at the return of the value of the fish landed on the Irish coasts and at the return for Scotland would be struck at once with the extraordinary contrast which the figures presented. And even from the comparatively miserable sum which the Irish fisheries yield a considerable allowance had to be made for fish landed from vessels which were not Irish. The practical matter, however, to which he wanted to draw the attention of the Vice-President was the familiar subject of whales. He would ask very seriously what steps he contemplated in view of what appeared to many to be a very serious danger menacing the fisheries of the west coast of Ireland. At considerable cost and great effort a relatively great industry had been built up, especially by the Congested Districts Board on the west coast of Donegal. He could not contemplate what would happen if anything should occur to destroy that industry in his own district, for instance, where the Poor Law valuation was only £12,000 a year and the value of the fish landed at one pier in 1906 something like £20,000. It was quite clear that was an industry they could not afford to play with. A Norwegian whaling company proposed to establish a whaling station on the coast of Donegal. In deference to representations made to the Irish Government and the Board of Trade the company withdrew its application and proceeded to transfer its attention to the coast of Mayo. It was not a local, but a national matter. The operations of a whaling company extended over a large area and he wished the Vice-President to state how he proposed that the regulations as to the restriction of whaling to the limits approved were to be enforced. The hon. Gentleman had already told him in answer to a Question that it would be done by the fleet at the disposal of the Department. He was 598 under the impression that the fleet consisted of one vessel.
§ MR. HUGH LAW
said the hon. Gentleman had a greater naval power than the Sultan of Morocco who had only one vessel.
§ MR. HUGH LAW
had no doubt they were excellent boats, admirably commanded, but he wished to know how these two vessels could watch the operation of the whaling vessels in addition to patrolling the whole coast of Ireland. The attitude of the Department was that if a whaling station was established in a district where there was no existing fishery, no harm could be done. The hon. Gentleman was aware that that was not the view held in Shetland, where a whaling station was established a few years ago. He had had figures supplied to him showing that whaling operations were most dangerous to fisheries. In one district in Shetland in the year before the whaling station was established, that was to say, July, 1901, 6,000 crans of herrings were landed, and in July, 1907, the number had sunk to seven crans. In another district 3,000 had sunk to nothing. In another district, 19,000 had sunk to four. In another, 3,000 had sunk to none. In another, 4,000 had sunk to nothing. In another, 10,000 had sunk to 100. In another, 30,000 had sunk to 6,000, which though but one-fifth of the former figure yet represented the smallest diminution within the whaling area. While that was the case within the area over which whaling operations were carried on, his information was that the fish landed over Shetland showed no decrease at all. That was relied upon as showing that the whaling had not been deleterious. There had been, he was informed, an actual increase in the fish landed outside the area of the whaling operations, and if that was so, the fact gave greater significance to the figures he had quoted as to the falling off in the whaling area. So far as he could see, there was nothing in the bye-laws to prevent a whaler from fishing in any 599 water north or south provided the whaler kept outside the three-mile limit, and seeing that the greater part of the fisheries was carried on outside the three-mile limit, it seemed to him that wherever a whaling station was established there was still great danger to the fisheries on the whole coast. He wished to know what measures the Department proposed to take to safeguard the interests of the fisheries.
§ MR. POWER
said he desired to remind the Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture that many years ago the Scottish ports succeeded in getting from the Admiralty a boat or two to protect the fisheries, whereas the Irish representatives who had been asking for a similar service had not been successful. He was informed that the Scottish coasts were patrolled by three boats. He would not go into the question of trawling beyond saying that there was no doubt that in the North Sea the supply of fish was decreasing every year. He believed that, unless something was done to protect the fisheries beyond the three-mile limit, there would continue to be a great deal of destruction of immature fish. He drew the hon. Gentleman's attention to the Port of Dunmore, where last year no fewer than thirty-six large herring-fishing craft came into the capital harbour, although he was sorry to say not so many of them were Irish. Dun-more was twelve miles from the nearest railway communication, and it was difficult when there was a large catch of herrings to get their hauls to market. It was true that the herring were erratic in their habits. He remembered four years ago the catch was so large and the difficulty of getting the fish to market so great that tons and tons of the fish were carted on to the land for manure. He asked the Vice-President of the Council to do what he could to improve the communications between the fishing station and the nearest railway.
§ MR. GUEST (Cardiff District)
wished to know the opinion of the Board of Agriculture upon the financial statement put forth in the Report of the Committee on Forestry. Those who had read that Report must have been impressed with the general consensus of opinion as to the 600 profitable results of sylviculture when carried on to a large extent instead of in small plantations. He hoped the Vice-President would be able to indicate where there were large tracts of land in Ireland which might be usefully and profitably planted, and if the Irish Government were prepared to assist re-afforestation on a large scale by the compulsory acquisition of land. Were the Government prepared to make any recommendations to the House on the subject? There was a precedent for this in the recent English Small Holdings Act.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said that they had had a very interesting debate with only one unpleasant feature, and that was the charge against himself in connection with the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society. The Member for North Londonderry stated that the one and only thing during his year of office to which he objected was that he thought he had committed a great error in undoing the work of Sir Horace Plunkett in this respect. He would state what had actually taken place. When he wont into office it was true that he found a Parliamentary Grant to the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society of £4,000 a year in existence. It had been much more than that some years ago. He further found that great dissatisfaction existed amongst the traders in the country with the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society. It had been said that he objected to cooperation. He believed in co-operation, and that it was necessary in present circumstances; but he held that if co-operation was to exist it ought to be self-supporting, and not to be dependent upon State aid. He therefore proposed that a grant of £3,000 should be continued for the year that was running, then reduced to £2,000 the following year, and then to £1,000, and that thereafter the Vote should cease. The Agricultural Board adopted the view of the Council and that arrangement was agreed to. The hon. Member for North Londonderry said that this compact had been set aside. The hon. Member was right in saying that the arrangement had been set aside, but he was not right in putting the responsibility upon himself. He 601 was faced one morning by the most extraordinary letter, which had been sent to the newspapers by a well-known gentleman who had at one time been in the service of the Department and was a warm friend of Sir Horace Plunkett, announcing that the Department had cut off the supplies, that the people of the country must choose between the parties, that they must make up their minds "to clear,"—he used the exact words—"Dillon and the Parliamentarians" out. And he said that he had been requested by Sir Horace Plunkett to forward a newspaper containing a report of his speech. Therefore he (Mr. Russell) concluded, perhaps wrongly, that Sir Horace Plunkett had probably also given a hint to send a letter along with it. He had to make up his mind what to do. He saw the work of the Department imperilled. He saw there was danger so far as the Nationalists were concerned, of its being imperilled. It was not the object of the Board to give £3,000 for the purpose of clearing "Dillon and the Parliamentarians" out. That Board was the supreme authority. The Council had no executive power. Here was what took place. After the full draft of this letter and of the speech delivered by Sir Horace Plunkett at the annual meeting of the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society had been considered this resolution was arrived at. They decided that the impression which these letters, articles, and speeches had created, namely the association of the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society with hostility to a political party and to certain trading interests, greatly increased the difficulties of the Department already for some years very considerable in helping forward the co-operative movement in Ireland and made it impossible for the Department in the interests of their schemes throughout the country to continue their present relations with the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society.
MR. T. W.RUSSELL
said there was a full attendance of the twelve members. That resolution was passed unanimously. 602 The Board agreed to continue the grant for the present year in order that no official with whom an engagement had been made should suffer. He called the Board to consider it and he gave his advice before the decision was arrived at. He took the responsibility now, but he wished it to be understood in Ireland that a full Board came to the conclusion that the work of the Department would be seriously imperilled if they were associated with the work of clearing "Dillon and the Parliamentarians" out. He hoped that both organisations now would be allowed to go their own way and that they had heard the last of this unsavoury business. He came now to the subjects which had been raised in the course of the debate, all of which involved the raising of money. Take afforestation. The position he had been placed in was this—he saw that the country was being denuded of timber; the landlords who had not sold were cutting it down; the tenants who had bought not realising the value of the timber, were cutting it down and selling it. The Commissioners when they sold an estate had to sell the timber and there was no market but with the timber merchant. He appointed the Departmental Committee, which reported without delay, so that the question was really urgent. In two cases the Department had stepped in when the Commissioners were selling, but that was not work originally contemplated by the Department, and unless something was done the Commissioners must proceed and sell the timber. There was no necessity for compulsion in this matter. The land was being sold and if the timber was not got now they would not be able to get it hereafter. That was another cause of urgency. The county councils were anxious to help, but nothing could be done when the land had changed hands. All public bodies and all public men who had studied the matter saw the necessity for it and were engaged in pressing it. The question really was, then, How was the difficulty to be met? It could not be met by private enterprise. No private person do it. The State alone could do it, and it was not so much a question of expenditure, as of investment. The Government, invested in a Scottish forest the other day and they did well. It did 603 not mean a large expenditure of money at all; it meant a modest investment to begin with. The hon. Member for Clare and other hon. Members had pressed him to take action in the matter. He had taken action. In the first place he had made out a case by establishing the Committee; and he had made as strong appeals to the Treasury as he possibly could. He had pointed out all the facts, that the opportunity would pass if it was not availed of, that it was not a question of expenditure, but of investment, and that it was a modest sum to begin with; and all he could say was the Treasury gave him the necessary money for the committee of investigation. He would plead that they should not allow that money to be thrown away but should enable them to go forward at once. They had everything ready to begin and he really had hopes that they would succeed in getting the work done. He knew the Treasury had other calls for money for Ireland just now—for the Universities Bill, for the congested districts, and for other things—but he hoped he would have a look in and be able to get this work started. The next question was one raised by the hon. Member for Wicklow, with regard to an official of the Department, and he said that he (Mr. Russell) ought to remember that the Liberal Party were pledged to govern Ireland according to Irish ideas. He really wanted the hon. Member for Wicklow to tell him if this was an Irish idea: Mr. Ellison was engaged to carry out a forestry experiment in County Wick-low. The work was finished, and they had nothing more for him to do. He was under three months notice. All the public bodies in Wicklow had protested against his dismissal, but was there anybody in this House who would tell him that he ought to spend £300 a year upon a man for whom he had no work? Was that an Irish idea?
§ MR. MULDOON
Will the hon. Gentleman say whether he has not got a gentleman from Scotland doing the same work and what salary he is giving him?
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
There is no gentleman from Scotland or anywhere else who is taking his place. I have told him his case will be considered on the first opportunity and I cannot go beyond that. I really do not think I ought to be 604 pressed to keep a man for whom I have no work.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I have work for Mr. Porter. He is earning his salary. And as a Civil servant Mr. Porter could not be dismissed.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said he was doing as hard work as any other man in the Department at the present time. Mr. Ellison came upon a temporary engagement, and he had no right to keep him when his work was done. The hon. Member for Limerick had raised the question of building grants for technical schools. He admitted the importance of it. Nothing had struck him so much as the rapid progress in technical education in Ireland. It was not more than four or five years since the great work began; and there were now, apart altogether from work in secondary schools, which was very great, 129 technical schools and institutes almost entirely in the urban districts of Ireland. There was no question of its success. He quite agreed it was a great hardship for local authorities to have to dip into the rates for building technical schools and institutes. What took place was this. There were nine or ten towns in Ireland which had pledged their rates for building purposes. Every town could not afford to do that. That, however, was not the only difficulty. When they got their loan for technical education buildings, the first charge upon it was for interest and sinking fund, so that technical education was actually robbed of part of the grant. He had done his best, and he had been refused. The Treasury had the last word. The Member for Limerick who was on the Technical Board heard the Treasury letter read the other day. He knew that the Board made the best case possible, but they were not able to get the money, and without it they could not give the building grant. He promised to do his best to get it but he had failed, and that was all he could say.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said the Department had been interested in winter dairying for years. It was a great loss to Ireland that to all intents and purposes they only made butter for seven or eight months in the year, and that there were four months when they practically made none. They lost the English trade, which went to Denmark, and it was very difficult to get back. It was a great drawback and a great hardship. They had been carrying out experiments to convince the Irish farmer that it was possible to have winter dairying and to make it pay. He had had a deputation of farmers from Limerick, but they would not touch it. They were, however, carrying out further experiments—an elaborate experiment had been carried out in Cork at the Agricultural Institute, and another at a creamery which paid higher prices in winter than in summer, and they were doing their best to convince the farmers that it was possible to do this, to make money, and not lose it. It was a great drawback to the butter trade in Ireland that it should cease for four months and lose the market. The hon. Member had also referred to the question of fisheries. In 1899 Parliament constituted the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction the fishery authority for Ireland, and in its wisdom set aside £10,000 a year for the purpose of developing the industry and managing and regulating it. It was true the Sea Fisheries Fund of £25,000 was also handed over. Parliament provided and intended that that should be dealt with in giving small loans to fishermen. The hon. Member for North Derry was very jocular over the absurdity of supposing that a vessel like the "Helga" could catch trawlers. But the vessel had gone to the Black Sea and a new "Helga" was launched on Saturday, which could steam at fourteen to fifteen knots, and which he thought would be very successful. The whole policing of the coast, amounting to something like £5,000 a year, came out of the £10,000 set aside for the development of the industry. Hon. Members came to him every day. One had asked him the other day for the repair of a pier, which ought to be done. It would cost a trifle of £12,000. How could he do it with the money at his disposal? He had not the power of getting it from 606 the Treasury. Parliament must see to that. He was only letting the light in. It was perfect nonsense for Members to come to him day after day as they did. They presented most excellent cases, and many of them were urgent. They asked for money for piers, boat slips, and all sorts of things. At the most he had £5,000 a year to go round the whole coast of Ireland, and it could not be done. In regard to spraying potatoes they had already twenty seven inspectors in the West of Ireland making the arrangements. They were providing for the machines to be sold at cost price or hired, and were doing their best to see that the spraying material used would be genuine and not spurious. That was a very difficult operation considering the number of English companies that were trying to foist spurious material on them. They were leaving nothing undone in the West of Ireland and they were not confining themselves merely to congested districts. There were regions outside the congested districts which were quite as much in need of help as the congested districts themselves. They were making preparations and they would do their best to see that no damage arose from lack of spraying. As to the question of adulteration of seed and manure and feeding stuff, there were companies engaged in selling calf meal that was not only useless, but absolutely pernicious, and it was an extraordinary thing that these were English companies. But the Irish people were not without blame, because Irish materials could be had. But such was the invincible prejudice in Ireland itself against everything Irish that they could not get the people to buy them, and they were buying these English mixtures when they could get the Irish materials at less money and absolutely pure. What were they to do? A black list of these English companies had been suggested, but the Law Officers had stopped him from making a black list.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said they could not publish the names. They would subject themselves very likely to half 607 a dozen libel actions. That might do for the lawyers, but it would not do for the Department. What he had offered to do was this. He had said that if the Irish Members wanted the information he would give it in Parliament, where he was quite safe in doing it. The question of whaling was a new one. It was only a few months ago that they had had to deal with it, and the hon. Member for Donegal was hardly fair to the Department. It had been proposed to start a whaling station off the coast of Donegal. They had satisfied themselves that it was dangerous where there was a fishing industry. They had issued a bye-law prohibiting it. They had now gone to the West of Ireland. They had bought or leased an island from the Congested Districts Board where there was no fishing industry. There was no law against it and the Department had no power to stop it. What he proposed to do was to introduce a Bill giving the Department power to prohibit or sanction the industry as they thought fit. Their expert advisers stated that the evidence was not conclusive as to the injurious character of the industry. Of course they could not be issuing bye-laws for every part of the coast, and therefore they proposed to get power under a Bill which would put the responsibility upon the Department. With regard to Donegal he had only the same answer to make, viz.—that all the money of the Department had been appropriated and until more money was provided he could not do anything in the matter.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
referred to the request which had been made for repairs to the pier in the county of Clare. The erection of this pier had been arranged for in one of the poorest fishing districts. It was to cost £1,200, and the money was allocated. The Agricultural Department was to give a certain amount, and so was the county council, but because of some technical disability attaching to the action of the county council they were prevented from handing over their share of the money. The late Chief Secretary promised to introduce a Bill upon this point before he went to America, but he forgot all about it, and for lack of that measure giving the county council the necessary power those 608 poor unfortunate fishermen had been denied this pier. Nobody opposed the Bill and he would like to know when it was going to be introduced. It could be introduced at once and then the pier could be built.
§ MR. POWER
said the patrolling of the coast was costing £5,000 a year. He wished to know if it was a fact that the Admiralty largely patrolled the Scottish coasts and saved the Scottish Department that expense. If that was the case why could a similar-thing not be done for Ireland by the Admiralty and thus save them this expense?
§ MR. FFRENCH
said it had been stated that £12,000 would be required for the improvements he had referred to. He wished to point out that it would not cost so much. What they required was an extension of about 60 yards and that could be done for about £4,000. The Wexford County Council had expended thousands upon the fishery piers and surely they were entitled to a little-assistance from the Board of Agriculture in a matter of this kind.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported upon Monday next; Committee to sit again upon Monday next.