HC Deb 30 June 1911 vol 27 cc758-63

(1) This Act in its application to Ireland shall be subject to the following modifications, namely:—

  1. (a) A reference to the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction for Ireland shall be substituted for a reference to the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries;
  2. (b) There shall be substituted for the provisions of this Act giving power to make rules under section twenty-nine of the Summary Jurisdiction Act, 1879, the following provision, namely:—

"The Lord Chancellor of Ireland may make rules regulating the procedure of courts of summary jurisdiction under this Act, and other matters incidental thereto, and all rules so made shall be laid as soon as may be before both Houses of Parliament."

(2) Nothing in section six, which relates to poisoned grain and flesh, etc., of this Act shall prevent owners or occupiers of land in Ireland from laying or causing to be laid any poisonous matter as therein described, after a notice has been posted in a conspicuous place, and notice in writing has been given to the nearest constabulary station.

Mr. G. GREENWOOD moved in Sub-section (1) to leave out paragraph (b) and to insert instead thereof

(b) Section twenty-three of the Summary Jurisdiction (Ireland) Act, 1851 (which gives a right of appeal), shall apply as respects any conviction or order under this Act (other than an order for the destruction of an animal), notwithstanding that the fine imposed does not exceed twenty shillings or that the term of imprisonment imposed does not exceed one month;

(c) A reference to Section twenty-four of the Petty Sessions (Ireland) Act, 1851, shall be substituted for the reference to Sub-section (3) of Section thirty-one of the Summary Jurisdiction Act, 1879.

This is the application of the Bill to Ireland. These words have to be sanctioned by the Irish Office, and therefore I think there may be some question of the application of the Act.

Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move to leave out Sub-section (2).

I do so for the purpose of ascertaining from the promoters of this Bill why Ireland should be treated differently to England with reference to the putting down of poisoned grain, etc. Sub-section (2) says:—

"Nothing in Section 6 which relates to poisoned grain and flesh, etc., of this Act shall prevent owners or occupiers of land in Ireland from laying or causing to be laid any poisoned matter as therein described."

If you refer back to Section 6 we find if any person

  1. (a) Shall sell, or offer, or expose for sale, any grain or seed which has been rendered poisonous except for boná fide use in agriculture; or
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  3. (b) shall knowingly put or place, or cause or procure any person to put or place, or knowingly be a party to the putting or placing, in or upon any land or building any poison or any fluid or edible matter (not being sown seed or grain) which has been rendered poisonous, except for the purpose of destroying certain animals, shall be liable to a fine not exceeding ten pounds.
In this case the answer cannot be that there is a separate law for Ireland, and therefore that it is covered, because it is expressly stated in this Sub-section (2) that nothing in Section 6 which prevents this poisonous stuff being put down shall prevent owners or occupiers of land in Ireland from laying down this stuff. We have decided in this Bill that it is an illegal Act to do this thing in England, and I should be very much obliged if the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill would inform the House why it should not be illegal to do the same thing in Ireland.


I beg to second the Amendment. One is quite at a loss to know on what ground different treatment should be given to Ireland in this matter. One knows that in one respect Ireland differs from England and Scotland by the fact that there are no snakes there. Whether poisoned grain and flesh has rid Ireland of snakes or not I do not know, but clearly the promoters of the Bill contemplate that Ireland is more given to vermin than other countries. I think we ought to have a statement from the promoters of the Bill as to the ground on which they propose to give this preferential treatment to Ireland. Ireland has had a great deal of preferential treatment outside this Bill, and I think it is quite time we should look into this matter rather closely.


I may say at once that my sympathies are altogether with the Mover and Seconder of this Amendment. I should like the same treatment to be extended to Ireland as to England in this particular matter as far as I am concerned, but I have been given to understand by those who speak for Ireland that this is an old law, and dates back many years, and I am told that the reason for it is that in certain parts of Ireland there are a great many wild dogs which worry sheep, and that the occupiers claim the right to put down poison to kill them. I regret this special provi- sion immensely, and if those who speak for Ireland could see their way to dispense with it nobody will rejoice more than I do, but I do not want to imperil the passing of the Bill by exciting the opposition of those who speak for Ireland.


I desire to support the Amendment for the omission of this Sub-section. It is a bit amusing to hear a strong Radical putting forward as the reason for the retention of this Sub-section the extreme antiquity of the provision. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Why should it be necessary to enforce these rigorous provisions with regard to poisoned corn in England while not enforcing them in Ireland? In the future a certain thing will be an offence in England which will not be an offence in Ireland; it seems rather to suggest that in Ireland the owners and occupiers of land are more honest than in England. I say the same provision ought to apply to both countries. I shall listen with some interest to what the Attorney-General for Ireland will have to say in defence of this different treatment for Ireland. I regret very much it has been found necessary to differentiate between these two parts of the United Kingdom. If we intend in this Bill to lay down a code of humanity as regards dumb animals surely we should enforce it in every part of the United Kingdom.


After the expression of opinion from the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill I shall certainly go to a Division. I happen to know Ireland pretty well, and from my knowledge of that country I see no reason why this exemption should be made. There has not been a shred of argument advanced to show why what is unlawful in England should be lawful in Ireland. What happens is, that in Ireland occupiers keep two or three dogs. The way to limit that is by compelling the owners in Ireland to take out licences for their dogs and increasing the cost of the licences, which amount to only 2s. 6d. per annum. That is but a small sum to pay, but it would have the effect of checking the number of dogs in Ireland, which are much more numerous than can possibly be wanted. No one wants to do any injustice to Ireland, and no argument whatever has been advanced as to why Ireland should have different treatment in this matter. We only ask for Ireland the same restrictions as are unanimously agreed to for England. There has been no argument that Ireland has a separate code of laws in this matter, as was advanced by the Lord Advocate on the previous Amendment. Ireland has exactly the same law as England, yet it is said that Ireland should be excluded because she has more dogs out of control than England. My answer is, "Get them under control by increasing the dog licence and by enabling the constabulary to enforce payment of the licence."

Mr. REDMOND BARRY (who was very indistinctly heard)

I understand the real object of this Bill was not to alter the law, as it exists in Ireland or England, but to consolidate it and to elucidate it. The Amendment of the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken would change the law; if the hon. Gentleman will turn to Chapter 115 of the Act of 1864, dealing with the prohibition of placing poisonous matters in plantations and fields [An HON. MEMBER: "Speak up, we cannot hear a word"] and open places he will find that under Section 2 an absolute prohibition of placing any of these matters in such places, both in England and in Ireland, with this proviso:—

"Provided always that nothing herein contained shall prevent owners or occupiers of land in Ireland from laying or causing to be laid any poisonous matter as hereinbefore described, after a notice has been posted in a. conspicuous place and notice in writing has been given to the nearest constabulary station."

If the hon. Gentleman's Amendment were adopted that provision would be omitted.


From what Act is the right hon. Gentleman quoting?


27th and 28th Victoria, Chapter 115.


In the Schedule to this Bill the whole of that Act is repealed.


As I understand it, all the Irish representatives desired was that the exception as far as Ireland was concerned should be preserved, and I am under the impression that all the representatives of Ireland were agreed that she should be exempted. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment intends to substantially alter the law as regards Ireland in a Bill which is intended, not to be an amending Bill, but a Consolidation Bill. That exception was made in Ireland under the Act of 1864, and the law has so existed ever since. To adopt the hon. Gentleman's Amendment would be to withdraw from Ireland a condition of law which has existed ever since 1864.


Is there any reason -why on its merits this exception should be made?


The Act which the Attorney-General for Ireland has referred to was passed nearly fifty years ago, and it is no argument to say that because it was passed so many years ago it should not be altered now. Everybody in the House will agree that the habit of placing poisoned flesh about the land in this way is a very dangerous practice which leads to all sorts of evils. You cannot tell what animals may be contaminated, and how far the contamination may spread. It seems to me that this is a most excellent Amendment, and I do not believe it would injure anyone in Ireland. On these grounds I think the House might accept the deletion of this Clause, which I am sure will not do any harm to Ireland, but on the contrary will do good to a large number of people, not only in Ireland, but also in other parts of the country. If there are too many dogs in Ireland it is perfectly easy to shoot them or catch them in a proper way, but to lay poisoned corn and flesh about, which any other animal might pick up, in order to get rid of these dogs seems to me a very objectionable practice.


The speech of the Attorney-General for Ireland has still further strengthened me in my decision to go to a Division. The argument he has used is the fine old Tory argument that this has always been the practice and always must be. It is the old argument that Ireland having always been exempted it must always be right and must remain. I think that is an argument which will not hold water. If the hon. and learned Gentleman could have given any reason for exempting Ireland I should have been willing to accept his answer, just as we accepted the explanation of the Lord Advocate, but as he simply says Ireland was exempted in 1864 and therefore it must be exempted in 1911, I must press my Amendment to a Division.

Amendment agreed to.