HC Deb 20 March 1917 vol 92 cc575-9
16. Sir T. ESMONDE

asked what steps do the Government propose to take with reference to the supply of artificial fertilisers for Irish agriculture next season?


I dealt with this matter in reply to the hon. Member for South Sligo last Thursday.

19. Mr. P. MEEHAN

asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether, in view of the recommendations of the agricultural policy sub-committee, he will consider the advisability of vesting the Estates Commissioners and the Congested Districts Board with increased powers and facilities for the acquisition and division of the untenanted grass lands in Ireland so that the same may be allotted and divided amongst uneconomic holders, evicted tenants, and landless men, and made available for tillage next year?


Land legislation for Ireland such as the hon. Member mentions would raise such controversial issues that I am not able at present to entertain the idea of presenting a Bill on the subject.


Could it not be done under the Defence of the Realm Act?


I do not think it could.


asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether he is aware that Mrs. Dickson, of Tullaghan, county Leitrim, has offered for sale a grazing ranch near Tullaghan, all of which is most suitable for food production; and whether the Department of Agriculture will take over this land for the term of the War for distribution for tillage purposes?


In January last the farm referred to was put up for auction, but there was no bid. The case is under investigation by the Department of Agriculture.

21. Mr. F. MEEHAN

asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether he is aware that the Estates Commissioners were some time ago negotiating for the purchase of a large farm situated at Tullaghan, county Leitrim, then in the possession of a man named Reynolds, on the Massey estate, for the purpose of redistribution and enlarging uneconomic holdings in that district, including John and Pat M'Gowan, evicted tenants; and whether the Estates Commissioners will now acquire this land for the said purpose and to increase the area of tillage in that district?


I am informed that John and Pat M'Gowan held as yearly subtenants about 12 acres and 17 acres, respectively, of the holding of Robert J. Reynolds of about 59 acres. The Estates Commissioners, with the consent of Reynolds, declared the sub-tenants to be direct tenants for the purposes of sale under Section 15 of the Irish Land Act, 1903, and purchase undertakings were signed accordingly. Reynolds signed an undertaking to purchase the remainder of the holding in his occupation, and it was suggested that he might enlarge the lands in the occupation of John and Pat M'Gowan. He, however, sold his lands and the present occupant is unwilling to part with any portion of them. The Estates Commissioners have no power to compel him to sell the lands or any part thereof.


Having regard to the fact that there is no suitable land for tillage available in this district will not these tenants be provided with allotments for tillage during the term of the War?


I cannot say that off hand.


asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether the Lord Lieutenant can see his way to exercise his prerogative to have the remaining part of the imprisonment remitted in the case of those men from the parish of Milltown, county Galway, at present in Galway Gaol for having undertaken tillage operations on the farm of Mr. J. D. Blake?


No application has been made for the exercise of the prerogative in these cases. The men are in gaol in default of giving bail for good behaviour, and they can obtain their release at any time by complying with the order for bail.


asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland if he can give a rough estimate of the amount of untenanted land in Ireland that is not being adequately used and is desired by would-be cultivators for purposes of food production; and whether it, or any proportion of it, can be acquired for that purpose under the Regulations made under the Defence of the Realm Act, without the need of having recourse to the Land Purchase Acts?


The materials for such an estimate do not exist. The Tillage Regulations in force in Ireland appear likely to secure a considerable present increase of tillage for food production, and I hope they may permanently encourage tillage, but the general conversion of grazing lands into tillage appears not to be within the scope of the Defence of the Realm Regulations.


Are there to be any proposals under this head in the new Bill which has been promised dealing with agriculture?


I am afraid that I cannot answer that question at the moment, as to whether that is a question to which attention is being directed.


Will it be possible to deal with the grazing ranches in Ireland under this new Bill?


Hon. Members know even better than I do what a controversial topic this is, and that it would very likely be impossible to pass such a measure without serious controversy.


Is it not the fact that a considerable amount of this land is not being as adequately used as is desirable?


It is quite true that a great deal of this land is being used as it has been used probably for two generations for the purpose of grazing. What the hon. Member invites me to do as an emergency measure is to alter that economic condition throughout the country. I do not think that emergency measures were designed with that object.


Have not the Congested Districts Board at this moment power to do what is here asked, and will not the Government put pressure on the Congested Districts Board to use some expedition in doing this work instead of shillyshallying as they have been doing for months?


I cannot accept the suggestion that the Congested Districts Board have been shilly-shallying as the hon. Member says. I have made representations, however, to the Congested Districts Board to accelerate their procedure in the existing state of emergency.


What is controversial about the question of land purchase?

24. Mr. P. MEEHAN

asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland if he is aware that 400 acres of land in the townlands of Cappanaclough and Derrykearn, etc., Queen's County, are flooded annually and rendered useless for tillage purposes by the River Nore; if he is aware that this flooding is caused by a weir on the river a few miles further down; if he is aware that the woollen mill in connection with which the weir was erected is dismantled, in ruins, and has not been working for over thirty years; and whether, under the circumstances, and in view of the necessity for increased tillage, he will take any action to have this weir removed?


I have called for a Report as to the floodings the hon. Member mentions, and as to whether the Board of Works are able to deal with the matter without proceedings under the Arterial Drainage Acts. Such proceedings necessarily occupy many months.