§ MR. HEALY
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether, in the case of Adams v. Dunseath, which recently came before them on a case stated by the Land Commission under the Land Act, Her Majesty's Court of Appeal in Ireland have decided that, as regards improvements made by tenants prior to the Act of 1870, the Land Court, in fixing a fair rent, must regard the mere enjoyment of such improvements by the tenant as to some extent compensating him for them, and must accordingly to that extent assess rent on them; whether the Government did not give express as- 1663 surances, during the progress of the Land Act through the House of Commons, that no such construction could be placed on any of its provisions; whether the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, who was then Attorney General, did not come to a conclusion on this point directly contrary to that of the majority of the Court of Appeal; whether, having regard to the decision of the Court of Appeal, the Government intend to take action to give legislative effect to their express declarations made on the passing of the Act as regards improvements; whether he is aware that, as regards tenants' improvements other than those made prior to 1870, several of the Judges of the Court of Appeal, in the case referred to, expressed opinions, though the point did not arise expressly for decision, that a mere change in the nature of the tenancy under which the improvements were made, as from a leasehold tenancy to a tenancy from year to year, or vice versa, might, if no change in the rent took place, amount to a compensation wholly or partially for such improvements, so as to oblige the Land Court to assess rent thereon; whether this view of the Law, if correct, would not also defeat the expressed intentions of the Government in passing the Land Act; and, whether, having regard to the enormous importance to Irish tenants of the issues involved, the Government will take steps to declare the Law on the subject by an amending Act, as was done in an analogous case after the passing of the Land Act of 1870, when one of the Judges of Appeal gave expression to a view of the Law which, if correct, would have jeopardised the interests of numerous Ulster tenants under their custom?
Sir, as this is a Question which relates to a legal matter, I hope I may have the indulgence of the House and of the hon. Member if the answer to it be not so perfect as it would be if it had proceeded from my right hon. and learned Friend. With regard to the first part of the Question, which refers to what might be called the intention of the framers of the Act—I will not say the intention of the Act, for that is a judicial matter—it is perfectly clear, as correctly stated by the hon. Member, that it was not the intention of the framers of the Act, but directly contrary to their intention, that 1664 the interest of the tenant in his improvements, as understood and defined by the Act, should either lapse or be impaired by the enjoyment of them. With regard to the question mentioned in the second paragraph, I can only say that the Government could give no assurance as to the construction of the Act. If they did, they would have gone beyond their duty. With regard to the third paragraph, my answer to it is simply Yes. With regard to the fourth paragraph, of course it has been my duty to communicate with the Lord Chancellor of Ireland on this subject, and what I gather to be the case is this. Although he has differed in opinion from his Colleagues, and although it has been laid down that there are cases in which the enjoyment of the tenants should be taken into account, yet the opinion of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, as a Member of the Government, and our opinion is that our wisest course would be to observe carefully what construction may be put upon that judgment, and what practical effect it may have, before arriving at any conclusion as to the course which eventually it may be our duty to take. With regard to the fifth and sixth paragraphs, I am not aware of any such expression of opinion as that to which the hon. Gentleman refers; but I do not hesitate to say that such an opinion would be quite at variance with the intention with which we submitted the Bill to Parliament. With respect to the seventh paragraph, which asks whether we are prepared in this instance to do as we did in 1871, and in a given case upon proof of necessity to propose an Amendment to the Land Act of last Session, I must remind the hon. Gentleman that our position is not the same now as it was in 1871; that the facilities for transacting Business are different from what they were then; and perhaps the hon. Member will not think it personal if I say that any resolution we might take would be materially influenced by the prospects we have of receiving assistance from Members of the House generally in forwarding Public Business, and not by the project of receiving any assistance from the hon. Member and his Friends.
§ LORD ELCHO
With reference to the answer given by the Prime Minister, I gather that it was the intention of the framers of the Act that the tenants' interest in their improvements should not lapse or be impaired by the enjoyment of them. I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether that was not directly contrary to the principle of the Act of 1870, and whether he is prepared to extend the principle to the tenants of houses under the Crown in London?
The hon. Member who put the Question, and who knew the Act so well, understands perfectly well that when I spoke of the tenant's interest, I spoke of his interest as defined by the Act. With respect to the Question of my noble Friend, I do not hesitate to say that the Act of 1881 distinctly differed in this respect from the Act of 1870. The Act of 1870 gave direct recognition to the principle that enjoyment by the tenant affected his interest in the improvements he might have made; but the Act of 1881 abrogated that.