§ MR. HEALY
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether his attention has been called to the language of Mr. Justice O'Hagan, reported in the "Freeman's Journal "of the 10th instant, when, in hearing an application to avoid a lease, under the twenty-first section of the Land Act, he remarked that "the section was a most difficult one to work;'' whether it is the fact that over ninety per cent. of the applications made by tenants under the section have failed on technical grounds, with the effect of mulcting the applicants heavily in law costs; whether Judge O'Hagan has frequently similarly referred to the restricted scope of the twenty-first section; whether it is the case that the evidence given before the Land Commission on all applications under this section has been officially reported by shorthand writers; and, if so, whether there will be any objection to its publication as a Parliamentary Return; and, whether, having regard to the failure of the section in question, the Government propose to remedy its defects by legislation?
Sir, with respect to this Question, which refers to the 1666 Lease Clauses of the Land Act, the state of the case, as I am informed, is this. Judge O'Hagan did not speak of the difficulty of interpreting the clause; but he spoke of its restricted scope as compared with the great number of applications made under it. With respect to the allegation that a large number of cases have failed upon technical grounds, that is not the opinion that has been given to me by Judge O'Hagan. What I understand to be the case is this. Unquestionably a very large number of cases have failed; but they have failed from the erroneous interpretation given by the applicant to the meaning of this section. Their failure has not been due to any technical consideration, but to the actual scope of the section as understood and administered by the Commissioners. In consideration of that fact, the Commissioners have been careful to be very moderate in the administration of that part of the law which relates to costs. With regard to the fourth paragraph of this Question, I am informed that the Commissioners think it would be quite needless to lay the whole mass of evidence taken before Parliament, but that it would not be difficult to select special cases and bring out the material points of them. If it is proposed and seriously desired, such special cases might, under the circumstances, be printed for the information of Parliament. With regard to the amendment of the law, I think I may say that there would be considerable reason for some amendment of the law in this particular. A tenant who is in actual enjoyment of a lease when he accepts a new lease, or a tenant whose lease just expires ought, I think, on principle, to be placed on the same footing as a tenant from year to year. With respect to giving effect to that opinion, I must again respectfully remind the hon. Gentleman of the difficulty of transacting Public Business at present, and of the fact that our resolution would be materially influenced by the decision we would obtain from the House.