HC Deb 15 March 1917 vol 91 cc1254-6
22. Mr. HAYDEN

asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether several rural district councils in South Roscommon and the neighbouring counties of Westmeath and King's County have refused the seeds for potatoes and oats offered to them by the Irish Department of Agriculture on the ground that they are entirely unsuited to the soil, and that, in consequence, there is the prospect of the official tillage scheme in those districts being an absolute failure; whether he is aware that there is an ample supply of both sorts of seeds to be purchased in the localities concerned; and, if so, whether the Department will be directed to purchase these latter seeds or to permit them to be purchased on its account by the local authorities for distribution in the rural districts referred to?


If, as the hon. Member suggests, there are ample supplies of seed in the localities mentioned, there is no necessity for a local authority to put into operation a loan scheme which was devised to meet the case of those districts in which there was likely to be a shortage of seed.


Are not the seed loans devised to meet not a shortage of seed but the inability of poor people to buy seed at the price charged?


It was devised to meet both.


asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether, where local authorities can procure in their own districts seed of character and quality suitable to the soil, he will send an inspector from the Department of Agriculture to examine and report upon the qualities of the seed; and, in the event of his reporting favourably, grants of public money will be advanced for their purchase upon terms similar to those where the Department supplies the seed?


As I informed the hon. Member for West Kerry on 14th ultimo, rural district councils requiring loans for the purchase of seeds and manures must, under the approved scheme, obtain the supplies through the Department of Agriculutre. The approved scheme has been framed by the Department so as not to interfere with the market for local supplies, or to produce competition and inflation of prices. Experience has shown this to be necessary.

37. Mr. DEVLIN

asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland if arrangements have yet been made to allow local authorities in Ireland to purchase seed potatoes locally under the loan scheme where they can do so advantageously; and whether it has been decided to extend compulsory powers to rural authorities in connection with the provision of allotments other than for labourers under the Labourers Acts?


The general provision such as is suggested in the question has been found practicable. In certain cases local authorities have been able to make arrangements without a loan. Where a loan is required, the arrangements already announced are deemed essential. I have not seen my way to frame a larger scheme of compulsion than that contained in the Tillage Regulations.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say why, if the local authorities can get a better article than the Department, they should not be supplied with public money for that purpose?


The difficulty is that the law as it stands requires control on the part of the Local Government Board, and if everybody concerned could go his own way that control would cease to operate.


Does the Department still insist that the local authorities shall be confined to one class of potato—the "Up-to-Date"; and is he aware that in many parts of Ireland, in the midland and the southern districts, the "Up-to-Date" potato is wholly unsuitable to the soil?


Why does a mediaeval institution like the Agricultural Department regard the "Up-to-Date" potato as-sacrosanct?


The Agricultural Department only came into existence thirty years, ago.


I mean their ideas.


Why should the local authorities be compelled to take from the Department "Up-to-Date" potatoes when the past experience of the farmers shows that 90 per cent. of the potatoes grown in many counties of Ireland are not of the "Up-to-Date" variety.


That does not arise out of the question.