§ MR. PARNELL
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether he has reason to believe that a considerable number of tenants in a position to prove their inability to pay antecedent arrears, and willing to satisfy the other requirements of the Arrears Act, are unable to take advantage of that Act owing to their inability to pay costs incurred in actions for ejectment and for recovery of such antecedent arrears; and, if a Bill for the amendment of the Arrears Act be introduced, whether provision can be made for the payment to the landlord out of the Church Fund of these costs?
§ MR. A. T. DICKSON
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, If he can propose any plan by which the difficulty in connection with the Arrears Act can be surmounted?
Sir, with regard to the Question of the hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. T. A. Dickson), I think it has been already answered by the Chief Secretary for Ireland. It does not specify details; but I presume it refers to a number of tenants who, it is supposed, have not been able to bring forward their cases before the 30th of November. Well, we have had communications from the Land Commissioners on that subject, and they are of opinion that only a small number of tenants will be debarred from the benefit of the Act by the limitation of the date. With regard to the Question of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), which is more detailed, and which appeals to me as to the character of the information I have received and the impression I entertain, the hon. Member is aware that there is nothing in the Act requiring tenants to pay costs as a condition for their obtaining relief under the Act. Accordingly, if there be tenants who are discouraged from seeking to obtain the advantages of the Act, owing to their inability to pay costs incurred in actions for ejectment and the 1723 recovery of antecedent arrears, we must also recollect that there may be other causes which would sufficiently discourage them in the same way. Even if the costs were remitted in such cases, they may be otherwise so deeply involved in debt as to deprive them of the resource of coming into Court under the Arrears Act, because the costs referred to in the Question do not differ from any other liability for which judgments might be obtained, and which did not influence the House when they decided in the debates upon the Arrears Bill. The latter portion of the Question contemplates an enlargement of the Act on this subject by legislation, and in opposition to the former judgment of the House; and I cannot say that we are prepared to undertake the re-opening of the Act at the present time for a purpose which is grave in itself and lies under the disadvantage that the House has already formed an adverse judgment upon it.
§ MR. PARNELL
I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it is not the fact that under the Arrears Act in any judgment which may have been recovered against a tenant in ejectment or for the recovery of rent, which is not discharged by the order of the Court directing the payment of a year's rent out of the public funds, and the remission of the antecedent arrears by the landlord, the tenant must pay the costs incurred by the proceedings in ejectment or for recovery of rent?
§ MR. LEWIS
Before the right hon. Gentleman answers the Question, I wish to ask him what significance there may be in the words "at the present time," which he has just uttered. In other words, whether Her Majesty's Government now have in contemplation to amend the Arrears Act in the next Session of Parliament?
I did not intend to convey any intention at all on the part of Her Majesty's Government. I intended to say that at the present time —that is, in the present circumstances—they were not favourable to entertaining the question on the suggestion of any Member of Parliament. In reply to the hon. Member for the City of Cork I have no doubt that the hon. Member stated the Act correctly; but I would rather answer the Question with the assistance of the Irish Law Officer.