HC Deb 17 February 1914 vol 58 cc773-5

I wish to ask the Vice-president of the Department of Agriculture (Ireland) whether he is now able to make any further statement as to the situation at Birkenhead; what has been the result of the investigations of his Department as to the existence of the disease in Ireland, the localities from which the infected cattle have come, and what steps the Department propose to take with a view to ascertaining the cause of the Birkenhead outbreak?

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

I am sorry to state that the number of cargoes infected at the Birkenhead landing-stage has increased from eight yesterday to fourteen to-day. In regard to the further inquiry of the hon. Member, I have had a conference with my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Agriculture to-day, and I made two suggestions. In the first place, that his Department should collaborate with the Irish Department with a view to finding out not the present state of infection at the landing-stage at Birkenhead because really that is not now in question, but what was the cause of the original infection. My right hon. Friend has agreed to join in that inquiry.




I do not see why an Irish Member should find fault with my suggestion. I think the constituency of the hon. Member of North Armagh is vitally affected in this matter. As to the state of matters in Ireland, I suggested, in the second place, that some officer of the Board here should join with the Irish officers in making a thorough investigation as to the state of affairs in Ireland. My right hon. Friend has not thought that necessary, and he is prepared to accept the decision of the Irish officers in that matter. I have to report that after tracing the cattle in every direction, we have been unable to trace a single case of disease in the districts from which these animals came.


As this is a subject of intense interest in Ireland, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he has been able to trace the animals in the eight cases which were infected some days ago to the districts and farms in Ireland from which they came?


In every case we have traced the animals home. We have examined all the remaining cattle being in contact and out of it, and we have not been able to find any disease.


Has it been suggested to the right hon. Gentleman in Ireland by persons, some of whom are large stock owners and some of whom occupy prominent positions in the country, that it is advisable for his Department to offer a monetary reward which might lead to the elucidation of where this disease came from, its origin, and its cause?


Yes, Sir. The House would be very much astonished if hon. Members knew the opinions held by a great many people of position on this subject. I have never harboured that suspicion.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman, in view of the fact that he is in a state of doubt as to the origin of the disease, and in view also of the fact that it is extremely difficult in these cases to get absolutely reliable information, whether he can tell the House what steps he has taken to prevent any movement in those districts without, at all events, supervision by the officers of his Department?


I answered a question of the same character put by the hon. Member for the Wilton Division (Mr. Bathurst) yesterday. We have in every case imposed restrictions and kept the districts under observation.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will direct the shipments to be sent to some other port in order to try whether the infection exists in Birkenhead?


I do not know whether that requires any direction from me. I think that the owners of the cattle have a perfect right to send them to other ports.


I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman to what parts of Ireland these six additional infected cargoes have been traced, and whether they are the same parts as those from which the other cargoes came, or whether they are new parts of the country?


I am able to state that one shipment came from Belfast and another from Drogheda. I received the intelligence an hour or two ago. I am not able to state the parts from which the other four shipments came, but I mighty be able to do so later in the day.