HC Deb 01 November 1916 vol 86 cc1737-8W

asked the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture (Ireland), having regard to the diminution of tillage and of food produced in Ireland this year compared with last, notwithstanding undertakings to the contrary in this House, will he now say what steps the Department is taking to maintain an adequate supply of labourers in Ireland for increased food production, to have deteriorated pastures broken for tillage, and to retain in Ireland sufficient native food for the population until next year's crops are harvested?


While there is this season a slight diminution (less than .2 per cent.) in the tillage area in Ireland as compared with last year, it should be remembered that the figures for last year showed the considerable increase of 3.3 per cent, over those of the previous year, an increase which has been practically maintained. Against this slight decrease in the area under, tillage, there is the very substantial increase of 375,000 in the number of cattle, sheep, and swine in the country, so that the assumption contained in the first part of the hon. Member's question in regard to food production is incorrect. As intimated in the reply given by me on the 23rd August to a question put toy the hon. Member for South Kilkenny, the Department have received no complaints which would lead them to anticipate any such general serious shortage of agricultural labour in Ireland this year as would call for exceptional action. In any case the question of the supply of agricultural labour is not one in connection with which the Department possess any legislative powers. In regard to the last portion of the question the Department have no power to prohibit the exportation of food from Ireland, but the whole matter is receiving attention on the part of the Department and the Executive with a view to any action which may seem called for by the circumstances.