§ MR. MAHONY (Meath, N.)
asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Whether it was the original practice of the Land Commission to have a Report as to the value of every holding, regarding which there was an appeal from the decision of a Sub-Commission, made by one or more Court valuers; whether it was the original practice to allow these Reports to be inspected by the litigants before the 1609 cases came on for hearing; and, if not, when this practice was first introduced, and whether there was an increase in the number of appeals for the three months following the commencement of this practice, compared with the previous three months; whether this practice of allowing litigants to inspect these Reports before the hearing of cases was abandoned or modified in December, 1884; and, if so, for what reason; whether there was any diminution or increase in the number of appeals lodged or withdrawn in the 12 months following such change compared with the previous 12 months; and, whether any further change or modification has been made in said practice since December, 1884; and, if so, if he would state to the House what change or modification, also when and for what purpose such change was made, and what is the existing practice?
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDER SECRETARY (Colonel KING-HARMAN) (Kent, Isle of Thanet)
(who replied) said: The practice of having Court valuations in every case of appeals without expense to the parties began with the first sittings of the Appeal Court; and therefore there can be no comparison between the number of appeals before and after the establishment of the practice. The inspection of the Reports of valuers has never been, and is not now, allowed until after the hearing of the cases they refer to; but litigants have always been informed of the amounts of the valuations as soon as the valuations were made. In December, 1884, the system of Court valuation was changed by discontinuing the practice of free valuation, and by providing that any suitor might have a valuation made of a holding, the rent of which was in dispute, on the payment of a fee. The reasons of this change were —(1) that under the system of free valuation large numbers of appeals were brought, apparently with the object only of getting a valuation without expense to the appellant. Then, on the amount of the valuation being ascertained, the appellant withdrew or prosecuted his appeal, as suited him best. (2) The knowledge that a free valuation would be made in every appeal case, besides tending to increase vastly the number of appeals, induced suitors to take no trouble to produce evidence of value 1610 before the Sub-Commission or Civil Bill Court. They became inclined rather to disregard the lower Court and to reserve themselves for the Court of Appeal, which was thus in the way of becoming a Court of First Instance. (3) The great expense to the public of free valuations. The practice of granting a Court valuation on the payment of a fee began in December, 1884, and was continued till February 28, 1886. It was then abandoned, because it was found that the valuation obtained on the requisition and at the cost of one of the appellants was looked upon with suspicion by the opposite party, on the ground that it was likely to be partial and in favour of the party paying for it. The practice adopted in February, 1886, and still in force, is to grant valuations without cost to the parties in such cases only where it appears to the Commissioners themselves that such valuations will assist them in arriving at just decisions; and the Commissioners order valuations by Court valuers to be made after hearing cases as well as before if, at the hearing, such valuations seem desirable. With regard to the number of appeals lodged or withdrawn respectively in the 12 months before and the 12 months after December, 1884, when free valuations ceased and paid valuations commenced, they were as follows: —In the 12 months ending December 31, 1884, 5,290 were lodged, and 1,684 withdrawn; in the 12 months after that date, 1,683 were lodged, and 2,149 withdrawn; but these figures are, to a certain extent, misleading, for in the first 12 months named there was an average of 57 Assistant Commissioners at work, and in the second 12 months an average of 27. There was, therefore, a much larger number of cases heard by the lower Courts in 1884 than in 1885.
§ In reply to Mr. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.),