HC Deb 23 November 1920 vol 135 cc315-9

This Act shall apply to Ireland with the following modifications:—

  1. (1) References to the Minister (except where they occur in relation to the appointment of Commissioners), shall be construed as references to the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction for Ireland (in this Section referred to as "the Department"):
  2. (2) Part II. of this Act and the provisions amending Section nine of the Act of 1917 (other than the provisions of the new Sub-section to be inserted therein as to the rules of good husbandry) shall not apply:
  3. (3) The Third Schedule to the Act of 1917 shall be amended as follows:—
    1. (a) An order of the department under the said Schedule prescribing the minimum tillage portion of holdings may, in addition, prescribe the date or dates before which the sowing of that portion or any specified operation preliminary thereto is to be completed, and if in any year in which such order is in force the occupier of any holding to which the order applies does not complete the sowing of the minimum tillage portion or any other operation preliminary thereto which is specified in the order before the date prescribed in that behalf by the order he shall be deemed to have failed to cultivate the minimum tillage portion of the holding in that year, and the provisions of the said Schedule shall apply accordingly, with this modification, that any amount payable by way of penalty in respect of such failure shall be payable by the person who is occupier at the date aforesaid, notwithstanding any subsequent change of occupiers:
    2. (b)The proviso to paragraph (a) of Article 8 of the said Schedule is hereby repealed.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

I beg to move to leave out the Clause.

I am very glad to see the Prime Minister on the Bench, because I hope he will listen to our reasons for moving this Amendment. Clause 27 applies to the part of the Act relating to the guarantee of prices to Ireland, but only a very moderate part dealing with control. I do not intend to say one word about the future relationship of this country with Ireland, but from the purely English point of view I do sub- mit to the House that we are extremely ill-advised in this Act to guarantee certain prices to Ireland for a definite number of years, without any control, as compared with the control that we have for agriculture in this country and laid down in the Bill. We have passed a Home Rule Bill through this House, and the future relationship between this country and Ireland, we contend, is somewhat indefinite. In these circumstances I think it is our duty to the British taxpayer and to the British eater of bread, in other words, the whole British public, not to guarantee this high price for a definite number of years without some quid pro quo which is not provided in the Act. The amount of the control which the Irish farmers will have is nothing in comparison with the amount that the English farmers will have, yet they are guaranteeing these prices. In these circumstances I think it is extremely foolish to give this guarantee. Of course, the hon. Members from Ireland naturally are very pleased, but they are not in their places either to oppose or to support my Amendment. They are quite happy to take our money, whether from the north-east of Ulster, or from any other part of Ireland, especially when they get it without the control. To guarantee this price to Irish agriculturists is simply extraordinary, and I hope the Government will accept this Amendment.

Major M. WOOD

I beg to second the Amendment.


I am really surprised at my hon. and gallant Friend twitting hon. and gallant Members at being absent from the Report stage seeing that he himself was a member of the Committee and I am informed did not attend any stage.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

I particularly asked to be taken off the Committee, as I have been on the sea all my life and do not know anything about agriculture.


I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend, judging from his past, that that would not be any obstacle in his way. The proposal of my hon. and gallant Friend amounts to this: Ireland has been under the Corn Production Act during the War and has been on precisely the same footing as England and Scotland. This provision simply continues that state of affairs. That is the short proposition.


May I ask whether some member of the Government is able to give some information whether they expect the Home Rule Act to pass or not and, if it does, what happens then? Are we to continue this guarantee and to give this subsidy to the new Irish Parliament when it is set up? What object is there in passing an Act which will never be put into operation because, presumably, the Home Rule Act will come into force concurrently with this Act. I do think this is a question upon which we ought to have some more definite reply than we have already received.

Lieut.-Colonel ROYDS

The hon. and gallant Member has moved his Amendment very largely on the ground that the Act would give to Ireland a guarantee without any control. That is the more reason why we should let Ireland have it, because without control she is much more likely to produce more crops. If she is free from control, then I think she will have a very much better chance of doing well in agriculture. It is control which I think brings the condemnation of agriculturists.


The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down is under a misconception, as was the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Hull, who moved the Amendment. As a matter of fact, there is considerable control in Ireland over the matter of cultivation under the Corn Production Act.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

I said so.


Possibly that it is not quite so extreme a form of control as is introduced in this Bill in England and Scotland.

Lieut.-Colonel ROYDS

They do not enforce it in Ireland.


Yes, they do. Control was certainly in force during the War Quite apart from that I really do not see why the hon. and gallant Member for Hull who, on most questions, votes as a friend of Ireland, should come forward now in absolute contradiction to the wishes of the farming population in Ireland, who, after all, compose the great mass of the people in the South and West. I do not know why he suggests, for an unknown reason, that they should be deprived of the advantages which would accrue from this subsidy if it ever became payable. During the War—whatever may have been Ireland's contribution in regard to men and whatever may have been her feeling towards this country—at any rate so far as the production of food was concerned a larger proportion of extra crops were grown in Ireland than in any other part of the United Kingdom. I do not think there is great enthusiasm for this Bill among the Irish farmers, but in so far as it does guarantee minimum prices for wheat and oats I think we are entitled to have it. I shall vote against the Amendment.


I have always understood that guaranteed prices and control went together. I do not believe there will be any control worth twopence under this Bill in Ireland. I cannot imagine any Irish Parliament doing anything it is told to do by any English authority at the present time, and I do not think there is any chance of their doing that while the present Government is in power.


The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has an astounding opinion about an Irish Parliament when he suggests that it would not know on which side its bread was buttered An Irish Parliament will be just as sound on this matter as any other bodies. The right hon. Gentleman can take it that the Irishman knows which side his bread is buttered as well as anybody else when he is aware that he is going to be quoted a good price for the commodities which he produces. I did not hear the arguments of the mover of the Amendment, but if they were the customary type put forward in moving Amendments in that particular quarter, I do not think the House will take long to come to a decision on the matter. Throughout the War you depended, in great part, on Ireland for your food supply. You may have another war, and it will be good sense to take care that you endeavour to pre- serve and conserve the source of supply, which you may again have to call on, and that you should endeavour, therefore, to include Ireland in the Bill.


We are entitled to ask for some reply to the point raised by the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Raffan). What is going to happen if the Home Rule Bill becomes law, as we have reason to suppose it will, within the next month? How long is control going on, and who is going to pay the subsidy? Are we still going to guarantee Irish wheat; are we going to pay the subsidy, and is the control to pass into the hands of the Irish Parliament? It is a point of very considerable substance, and, in not replying, the Government are not treating us with that respect and courtesy we are entitled to receive from them. It is quite true we are only a small minority here, but when we put a point of some importance, we are entitled to an answer. I quite admit that Ireland did very well in supplying food during the War. It must be remembered, however, that the incentive was the high prices obtainable in this country. If they here had been below the pre-War prices, Ireland might not have done quite so well as she did.

Amendment negatived.