HC Deb 06 April 1914 vol 60 cc1609-13

asked the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture (Ireland) if he will state the cause of the delay in paying the compensation awarded to persons whose cattle have been slaughtered in connection with infection from foot-and-mouth disease; whether the payment is delayed in some cases for a month or upwards; if so, what is the reason of this; and whether, in view of the loss which these people have sustained by having their whole industry held up, he will make arrangements for prompt payment of the compensation?

Mr. T. W. RUSSELL (Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture, Ireland)

Payment of compensation for animals slaughtered in connection with the recent outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease is being made as rapidly as the situation and circumstances permit. Compensation has been paid to all owners in Cork whose animals were slaughtered, with the exception of a few cases in which it has been found necessary to withhold payment until further inquiries are made.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say how long the delay in payment is generally?


It is not easy to answer that question without notice. I know that the payment is being made rapidly.


My question suggests that sometimes a month elapses. Is that so?


I think that is very possible.


Will the Department bear in mind the position in which the farmers whose cattle have been slaughtered are placed, and consider the possibility of payment being made more rapidly?


I will do what I can.


asked the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture (Ireland) whether his attention has been called to the fact that nearly all the persons whose cattle have been slaughtered in consequence of infection from foot-and-mouth disease have incurred pecuniary losses over and above the value of the animals slaughtered, first by the loss of the fodder which they had provided for the slaughtered animals in the shape of hay or turnips and mangolds, which in some cases have been grown and in others have been actually purchased, but which now has become useless on their hands owing to their being unable to stock their farms, and which is unsaleable owing to the fear of infection, and second, by the necessity of keeping their land idle for many months to come, whereas their rents or annuity instalments and also their outlay for labour remains; whether he is aware that in other cases grass land has been taken and paid for and cannot now be used; whether the special hardships sustained by milk vendors or milk contractors has been brought to his notice; and whether any means exist by which losses of this kind can be taken into consideration and compensated for?


I am aware that in many cases persons on whose premises outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease occur sustain pecuniary losses such as those referred to in the question, but the Statute provides only for the payment of compensation representing the value of animals slaughtered, and I regret that the Department have no funds at their disposal from which losses not covered by such compensation could be made good.


asked the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture (Ireland) if he will at once consider the advisability of an immediate reduction in the size of the scheduled. areas where foot-and-mouth disease has occurred in Ireland; if he is aware that, according to expert opinions, a radius of more than fifteen miles is never required; and why he finds it necessary to adopt the maximum radius in all cases occurring in Ireland?


By an Order of the Department issued last night, a slight reduction has been made in the Cork and district scheduled area. At the moment the uncertainty of the position generally with regard to foot-and-mouth disease precludes any further contraction of this or the other scheduled areas, but, as opportunity offers, each of these districts will be suitably reduced. The rule as to a fifteen miles radius, which is based on the principle that movements of animals on foot may reach, but are unlikely to exceed, that limit, is usually observed in scheduling an area on account of foot-and-mouth disease in Ireland, but the area actually scheduled may vary slightly from the fifteen miles limit at particular points, according to the location of suitable boundaries. This procedure is the same as that adopted in Great Britain.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, according to the experts in fixing the fifteen miles radius, at least five miles is allowed as a margin of safety?


In view of the state of affairs existing in Ireland in regard to this disease, I am not prepared to make any experiments.


asked the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture (Ireland) if he will approach the English Board of Agriculture with a view to arriving at an arrangement whereby fat cattle from unaffected areas in Ireland south of the Departmental line may be permitted to be shipped from open northern and western Irish ports for immediate slaughter?


The Department, having been in correspondence with the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Board have now agreed to an adjustment, as from 8th instant, of the line mentioned, so as to bring an additional portion of county Galway within the area from which shipment for immediate slaughter may take place. Having regard, however, to the continued uncertainty of the position in relation to foot-and-mouth disease in Southern districts, the Department would not, for the time being, feel justified in approaching the Board with proposals as to further arrangement of the nature suggested in this question.


asked the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture (Ireland) if he is aware that loss is being caused to farmers in unaffected areas south of the Departmental line by reason of the restriction against sending their store cattle and other stock north of the Departmental line; and if he will at once remove this restriction as far as it affects cattle for exportation?


I regret that the prohibition against movement, from south to north of the line mentioned has necessarily meant some reduction of facilities for sale of animals in the case of farmers south of the line. The existing arrangements as to, entry to Great Britain of Irish live stock for immediate slaughter were, however, made conditional on such a prohibition, and I have no reason to suppose that the Board of Agriculture would be prepared in present circumstances to agree to the prohibition being relaxed in the way suggested in this question.


asked the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture (Ireland) whether he has seen a, resolution passed by the finance, etc., roads committee of the Wexford County Council requesting that ports be opened for the reception as well as the shipment of live stock; and whether, seeing that no foot-and-mouth disease has made its appearance in county Wexford for the last forty years, and that no disease has resulted from Cork calves, the last consignment having arrived over a month ago, he will, in conjunction with the President of the Board of Agriculture, allow the shipment of cattle from the port of Wexford?


The resolution mentioned has been received and replied to. It is gratifying that the disease has not appeared, so far, in county Wexford, but as the position in Southern Ireland remains uncertain at present owing to the continuance of outbreaks in some other counties, the Department do not feel that it would be of advantage for the time being to approach the Board with proposals for allowing shipments from Wexford or any neighbouring port.


To ask the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture (Ireland) a question, of which I have given him private notice: Whether he is aware of the inconvenience caused by the Department's restrictive boundary line running through the town of Mullingar, preventing meat traders from taking cattle from one side to a slaughter-house on the other side for immediate slaughter, and preventing the movement of mulch cows for milking purposes, there being no disease near than fifty miles on either side of the line; whether there is any precedent for so placing a restrictive line; and whether he will have the line changed a mile either one side of the town or the other, or issue licences for the movement of cattle for the foregoing purposes?


The only applications received by the Department were from traders who desired to move cattle from one side of the boundary line to the other. That cannot at present be permitted. The Department will consider the question for modification of the restrictions in other ways.


Will the right hon. Gentleman consider this question on applications from a large number of people?


I am in this difficulty in answering questions: We have come to an arrangement with an influential deputation from the town of Mullingar, and I am very loath to upset an arrangement of that kind. I hope to be in Dublin on Wednesday next, and I will look into the whole question of the boundary line.


asked the Attorney-General if he will state what action the Director of Public Prosecutions has taken with reference to the introduction of infectious cattle disease at Birkenhead, and with reference to the sending of men in close contact therewith to Ireland to spread the disease there, to the loss and inconvenience of the public; and, if no action has been taken, will he say why, and whether any will be taken?


The Director of Public Prosecutions has taken no action, for no breach of the criminal law has been brought to his notice.


Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the wilful dissemination of an infectious disease is or is not criminal?