HC Deb 14 March 1912 vol 35 cc1345-9

Resolution reported, "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £5, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1912, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of Agriculture and other Indus- tries and Technical Instruction for Ireland, and of the services administered by that Department."

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."


I wish to move to reduce this Vote.


The hon. Member cannot move a reduction on a Vote for £5.


I was going to move a reduction of £4.


There cannot be a reduction of less than £5.


I can speak on the Question?


Yes, the hon. Member can speak on the Motion, "That the House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."


I should like some particulars with regard to the form of this account. On English Supplementary Votes in each case there is an Estimate for a certain sum which is required—an original Estimate—and then there is a revised Estimate of a larger sum, and then we are asked to vote an additional sum, being the difference between the revised Estimate and the original Estimate. In this Irish Vote, for the first time, we have no original Estimate. I can understand it with regard to the purchase of the dredger, because apparently it was not thought of when the Estimates were framed or it could not be included in the account, but with regard to agricultural research and advisory work there is no sum to make up a balance, and it clearly wants some explanation how this was omitted or why the account is framed differently from the account of the English Votes. It is true that these are to be provided very largely out of the Appropriation-in-Aid, that is for the Development Fund, but I cannot see why we should not have had an original Estimate so that it could have been discussed then instead of waiting for a Supplementary Estimate the next year.

The VICE - PRESIDENT of the DEPARTMENT of AGRICULTURE (Ireland, Mr. T. W. Russell)

The explanation is that this Vote for the dredger, and the Vote for agricultural research, has been granted by the Development Commission, and all the money granted by the Develop- ment Commission has to pass through the Committee of Supply on an original Vote, and the sum granted by the Development Commission has to be added, making up the total.


There is a cattle disease affecting cattle both in this country and in Ireland. We should like to get an assurance that steps are being taken to stamp out the disease. Undoubtedly it is spreading in this country also.


A point arose which the right hon. Gentleman referred to in Committee, but which I do not think the Committee had any satisfactory explanation about. He told us that this £2,400 was to go, among other things, specially to the investigation and stamping out of potato disease in Ireland. I want an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that what we know in this country is also known in his Department in Ireland, because it seems to me that, having come directly in contact with this particular disease and having found that by simply applying to the Wye College, I was given the most exhaustive information which I tested in a particularly bad year and found absolutely effective for a cure. By applying at the proper time with liberality, not skimping it in any way, I had my potato plots absolutely immune from disease, while every potato plot all round was riddled with disease. It seems an extraordinary thing that there should be £2,400 additional for agricultural research and advisory work, and that the right hon. Gentleman should tell us that one of the principal things he intended to investigate was the stamping out of potato disease. I do not believe there is any necessity to spend 240 pence in research work. I do not say that the sum of human knowledge on any subject is absolutely complete, but it is absolutely certain what the cure is, and if it is applied properly and liberally and at the right time, there is no need for anyone to have a plot of potatoes diseased even if the ground is infected. I should like to have some assurance that them are more abstruse subjects than this for which we are to vote this sum of money, and also that there is absolute co-operation between the research work that is being done in this country and that which is being done in Ireland, because, whether we are to have Home Rule or not, I hope that at any rate one island will always have the benefit of the money that has been expended in the public welfare, and particularly in the industry of agriculture. I should like some more definite assurance than the Committee has had, because I remember the last time the right hon. Gentleman, spoke the Debate came to an abrupt conclusion. I should like to hear exactly what is proposed to be spent, and whether this subject of potato disease is going to be regarded as a terra incognita, or whether the right hon. Gentleman is proceeding with full knowledge of everything that has been done at Wye College and other agricultural colleges. I shall need a good deal of assurance that there is any necessity whatever for a Supplementary Vote more than the cost of printing the instructions, which are now free and open to every small holder and farmer in this couuntry.


There are a good many questions involved in the Estimate besides potato disease. That is only one part of the work carried out by the Department. We have established an inquiry station in the West of Ireland for the express purpose of examining the different diseases of potatoes. There are more diseases than one. Very valuable results have been obtained already through inquiry by scientific experts into the whole matter, and the station is in full working order. The disease is a comparatively new one and a special one, and we have practically stamped it out. The whole question involves inquiry of a scientific character. In regard to the cattle disease referred to by the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Major Henderson), veterinary experts know exceedingly little, and the country, up to the present, has not placed sufficient means at the disposal of the Agricultural Department to investigate these diseases. We are acting in concert with the Board of Agriculture in England. We are keeping a very close eye on matters in Denmark, where the same disease is infecting cattle, and we know so little that we can do nothing now save employ the money, both in England and in Ireland, for the purpose of research. It is a most serious matter affecting cattle breeders in Ireland. The Department is fully alive to it, and is watching it.

And, it being Quarter-past Eight, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means, under Standing Order No. 8, further proceeding was postponed.