HC Deb 24 May 1883 vol 279 cc778-81

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, If his attention has been called to the case of Chaine v. Nelson, decided in the Common Pleas in Dublin on the 17th, as to the date of judicial rents, and whether that decision affects 35,000 tenants; and if, having regard to the fact that these tenants entered the Land Court in October and November 1881, on the assurance of the Chief Commissioners that their rents would accrue from the gale day next after the passing of the Land Act, pursuant to the 60th section, the Government have any remedy to propose?


asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether the recent decision of the Court of Common Pleas in Ireland, in the case of Chaine v. Nelson, that the sixtieth section of "The Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1881," does not apply to decisions fixing fair rents, was in direct conflict with the opinion of the Chief Commissioners; whether over 30,000 cases were entered and recorded at the first sitting of the Land Commission, owing to the announcement of the Commissioners that the fair rents, when fixed, would commence on the 1st November 1881; whether, acting on the opinion of the Commissioners, landlords have accepted, and tenants paid, the judicial rents as from the 1st November 1881, in the majority of cases already decided; and, whether, in view of the litigation which the decision of the Court of Common Pleas will cause between landlords and tenants whoso rents have been so paid, the Government will introduce a measure during the present Session to settle the question, or otherwise support in whole or in part a Bill now before the House, and set down for the 6th June, which provides that where an application has been made, or shall be made, to the Court, under "The Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1881," to fix a fair rent, the judicial rent fixed by the Court shall relate back to, and shall commence to run from, the gale day next after the service of the originating notice to fix a fair rent, this provision to apply to rents fixed either before or after the commencement of the Act?


asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether his attention has been called, to the judgment of the Court of Common Pleas Division of the High Court of Justice in Ireland, in the case of Chaine v. Nelson, by which the declaration of the Court of the Land Commission, made in November 1881, that, in the case of tenants who filed their applications for the fixing of a judicial rent on the first occasion on which the Court sat, the judicial rout should date from the gale day next succeeding the passing of the Land Law Act, has been annulled; and, whether the Government will consider the desirability of introducing a short Amendment Bill to clear up this doubt which has arisen as to the construction of the Act, and to ratify to the forty thousand Irish tenants who filed their applications on the first occasion on which the Court of the Land Commission sat, the undertaking and advantages extended and promised to them by the Court?


said, that, before the right lion. Gentleman answered, he wished to ask him whether any inconvenience which might result would not arise from the unprecedented action of the Land Commissioners in issuing an erroneous interpretation of a portion of the Land Act, before the matter was judicially brought before them?


I think, Sir, it would be irregular on my part to answer the Question which has been put to me by the hon. Member, involving, as it does, a censure upon the Land Commissioners in putting their judicial interpretation upon the Act.


Not judicial.


I will not enter into controversy with so high an authority as the right hon. and learned Gentleman on that point; I will assume, even, that I am entirely wrong; but still my answer will remain the same, because, in the present position of the question, it is not for me to give an opinion upon it. And that is really my answer to the three Questions which have been put to me. In the first place, I believe the facts, as set forth in the Questions, are stated with substantial accuracy. In the second place, the importance of the subject is very great indeed, and Her Majesty's Government are fully alive to it, and it will be their duty carefully to watch and consider the proceedings. But the judgment is one that has been delivered by the Court of Common Pleas, and it is possible that it may be made the subject of appeal. That being so, it is quite obvious that it would not only be contrary to general rule, but highly impolitic in the circumstances, for the Government to signify any intention whatever, until the law is finally settled, either by judgment upon appeal, or by its being made known that the present judgment is acquiesced in,


in consequence of the answer just given by the Prime Minister, gave Notice that on Monday lie would, ask, Whether the view taken by the Land Commissioners in this case was not stated in a Circular issued by them to the tenants, not in the exercise of their judicial office, but voluntarily on their part?


I do not think there is the slightest prospect of an appeal in this case. The tenant was utterly unable to enter upon an appeal. [Cries of "Order!"]


The hon. Member is not putting a Question.


I wish to ask, in case the tenant decide not to appeal, whether the Government will be prepared to enter upon the matter, and relieve the tenants from the effect of the decision of the Court of Common Pleas?


With great respect to my hon. Friend, I own I have serious doubts as to the expediency of entering, at the present moment, into the consideration of these contingencies; and I do not think the matter can be advanced by further discussion in existing circumstances.