§ 74 Mr. MacVEAGH
asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether he can state the prospects for the coming crop of potatoes in Ireland; whether considerable stocks of the last crop are still on hand and do not find a ready sale inland; and whether, in view of the danger of such stocks being wasted and destroyed, he will arrange for the purchase of them by the Government or permit their exportation, subject to the safeguarding of the interests of the home population?
§ The CHIEF SECRETARY for IRELAND (Mr. Duke)
As far as the Department of Agriculture can judge, the prospects for the coming crop of potatoes in Ireland are good. Limited stocks of last year's crop are still on hand. The military authorities continue their purchase of potatoes in Ireland for the purposes of the Army and Navy. Potatoes which have been secured by these authorities through Army potato contractors, and which are not required immediately for Army and Navy purposes, are being exported to Great Britain under licence issued by the Department.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
Will it be possible to issue licences for the export of such potatoes as do not find a market in Ireland?
§ Mr. MOONEY
Can the right hon. Gentleman say who issues the licences and on what basis the licences are granted?
§ Mr. DUKE
I believe that common-sense means are taken in ascertaining whether the potatoes can be consumed either in the immediate neighbourhood where they are or in some near neighbourhood to which they can be removed, or whether, on the other hand, if they were kept unconsumed, they would probably be wasted before the new potatoes arrived in the summer.
§ Mr. MOONEY
That is not the question I asked. I asked who issued the licences and on what basis they are issued. Is it not a fact that licences at the present time are being issued to firms which only started business during the last six months, and that old-established firms are being refused licences?
§ Sir J. AINSWORTH
Seeing that under the new conditions the exportation of potatoes from Ireland to Scotland can probably be resumed now, will the hon. Gentleman be kind enough to communicate with the Secretary for Scotland on the subject?
§ Mr. DUKE
There is no such quantity of potatoes in Ireland available for ordinary consumption as warrants dealing with them by a relaxation of the present rules such as the hon. Member mentions. In certain parts of Ireland there are parcels of potatoes which are relatively small. In other parts of Ireland there is the necessity of taking very great care that there is not a shortage of food. I can assure the hon. Gentleman and everyone interested in the matter that, subject to the first necessity of seeing that the potatoes which are in Ireland shall be available to prevent any shortage of food in Ireland, there is no disposition to stand in the way of the distribution of any surplus food.