HC Deb 07 November 1918 vol 110 cc2332-3W

asked the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture (Ireland) whether it is by the instructions of the Department that the Royal Irish Constabulary now undertake the enforcement of the provisions of the Corn Production Act as regards a minimum wage for agricultural workmen by criminal prosecution; whether the effect of proceeding in this manner is to deprive the employer of the opportunity of being examined as a witness in his own defence; and whether, seeing that the questions of set-off, part payment, and other issues of a purely civil character arise in such cases, he will take steps, by legislation or otherwise, for permitting the defendant to be examined as a witness and will meanwhile direct that the institution of criminal proceedings will be restricted to cases where it has first been ascertained that no bonâ fide dispute exists?


In cases where the Agricultural Wages Board are of opinion that an infraction of the Corn Production Act, as to minimum wages have taken place the proceedings must, under the provisions of the Act be of a summary character, and such proceedings are by arrangement with the Department of Agriculture in Ireland conducted by the police. As the offences are summary offences the defendant cannot, according to the ordinary law in Ireland give evidence on his own behalf. Legislation would be required to enable this to be done. Care is taken not to institute proceedings unless in cases where the Wages Board is satisfied that there has been aprimâ facie infraction of the Act.