HC Deb 24 January 1918 vol 101 cc1115-7

asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland if he is aware of the danger of the five largest pork-curing establishments in Ulster closing down and hundreds of men being thrown idle owing to the neglect of the Government to enforce their Orders as to the maximum price and ordering prosecutions for payment of bonus; if so, what action he will take in the matter; and if he is aware that, owing to the system of bonus paid by some buyers, the five largest bacon-curing firms in Ulster, who purchased 17,103 pigs in 433 markets during the four weeks ending 21st December, 1916, were only able to buy 457 in the four weeks ending 21st December, 1917, or 2½ per cent. of their 1916 purchase?


The Food Control Committee for Ireland are fully alive to the position in the pork trade, to which the hon. Member refers. A scheme has been sanctioned, and will be brought into operation forthwith, which it is hoped will put an end to the evils complained of.


Will the right hon. Gentleman take into consideration the advisability of ordering prosecutions either before the resident magistrate or the High Court? Local benches of magistrates do not give any adequate fines.


I am not surprised at the suggestion my hon. Friend makes in the latter part of the question. These prosecutions are made under the Defence of the Realm Act and Regulations, and the tribunal is there specified. I do not think that the provisions quite admit such a course as my hon. Friend suggests.


Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that the question of maximum prices referred to in the question ought to be considered in connection with these prosecutions, having regard to the great cost of feeding stuffs in Ireland?


The question has been dealt with by the scheme that I mentioned in answer to the hon. Member for Fermanagh. There has been a good deal of difficulty in dealing with the matter, but I hope that the scheme arranged will be satisfactory.

Brigadier-General M'CALMONT

May I ask whether the attention of the benches has been called to the inadequacy of the penalties that they are at present applying in food control prosecutions?


Attention has been called to the matter by answers to questions in this House. I am not sure whether a circular has been issued, but the question has been under consideration. I must say that in the particular interests of Ireland, as well as in the common and general interests, it is desirable that magistrates should have proper regard to the extreme gravity of offences which prevent the proper distribution of food.