HC Deb 28 July 1896 vol 43 cc862-7

"In the case of a tenant who applied to the court under Section 6G of the Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1881, on the first occasion on which it sat, to have a fair rent fixed, and who, since making that application, has signed an agreement under Sub-section 6 of Section 8 of the said Act, the statutory term so created shall, for the purpose of an application to fix a fair rent, he held to date from the day on which the Land held (Ireland) Act, 1881, came into force."

He said the clause dealt with cases of very great hardship and injustice. He would illustrate by giving the case of a body of tenants which came under his notice—the tenants of Lord Ormathwaite. The tenants had gone into Court relying on the 60th Section of the Act of 1881, and were accordingly first occasion tenants. Considerable delay having arisen in getting their rents fixed, they signed agreements with the landlord fixing the rents out of Court. Neither the landlord nor the tenants who were parties to this agreement, were aware of the fact that by signing this agreement they lost their privileges as first occasion tenants, and that their period only dated from the date on which the agreement was signed. Some of these tenants came into Court the other day in order to have fair rents fixed for a second judicial term, but they were dismissed because of having signed the agreement, though the landlord did not take this point against them. Lord Ormathwaite wrote a letter stating that he considered it to be a hardship, and that he would be glad if any legislation could be passed which would take this obstacle from their path and place them in the same position that they would have occupied if they had gone in and had their rent fixed.


said this proposed new clause must, he thought, be discussed with some reference to the Amendment down on the Paper in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Louth, which was somewhat analogous to it. Under the law as it stood these tenants, who made application on the first occasion when the Court sat, were entitled to date the judicial term, when it came to be fixed from the gale day after the application. There was a great block in the Court after that, and considerable delay in fixing the rents, and there were no doubt cases where the tenants who had made applications on the first occasion were deprived of the advantage by the voluntary arrangements they made with their landlords. At the same time, he was rather surprised to hear the hon. Member say that neither they nor the landlord knew that in doing so they would be deprived of the advantage they would have been entitled to in the ordinary course of events. He turned for a moment to the case which the hon. and learned Member for Louth sought to deal with. He had already stated that these first applications entitled the tenant to date the statutory term from the gale day after the application. Under the Act of 1887, a similar rule was made for all tenants, and what the hon. and learned Member sought practicably was to make the Act of 1887 retrospective as regarded those tenants who did not apply in the first instance, but who applied before the Act of 1887. No doubt these tenants, and also the tenants who would be affected by the Amendment of the hon. Member for East Mayo, were in a rather curious position, and he had a good deal of sympathy with them. But he must remind the House that this matter was thoroughly discussed on the Committee stage, and he then said he would consider whether this Amendment and the analogous one standing in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Louth should not be accepted if the procedure was so far expedited as to do away with the administrative difficulty which he foresaw would arise if the Amendments were accepted without such expedition. As the House knew, they were, unfortunately, obliged to withdraw the procedure clauses, and he was afraid that the effect of the changes they had made in the Bill would be, so far from expediting the procedure, to tend to make it slower than it was at the present time, for in the clause that now stood first in the Bill they had required the Court to ascertain and to state a number of particulars which were not required under previous Acts. Under these circumstances he was afraid it was not in his power to accept either the present Amendment or the one of the hon. and learned Member for Louth. But he might just mention that they had introduced a clause into the Bill at the instance of the hon. and learned Member which entitled landlords and tenants who might wish to do so at any time to abridge their statutory term and arrive, by agreement, at a fresh term and a fresh fair rent. He thought that provision would meet the case of the tenants contemplated both by the hon. Member for East Mayo and the hon. and learned Member for Louth. He thought that provision would meet the case of Lord Ormathwaite and his tenants, because they could under the clause, if they desired to do so, come in and arrange for the fixing of a fair rent for a second term, and that it would go a long way to meet the oases of those tenants whom the hon. and learned Member for Louth wished to come in.


, who expressed his grief and disappointment with the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, said he had opposed the clause entirely on the fact that, in his opinion, procedure had not been expedited in such a way as to justify him in accepting it. What was the procedure under this Bill? It abolished Court hearings, but the right hon. Gentleman seemed to forget that Court hearings in nine-tenths of the cases occupied no time at all, and that so far as his clause went it would not have shortened the process by one hour. The valuation was the tedious process, and by the right hon. Gentleman's clause that process could not have been abridged but would have been extended. He believed the argument that the rejection of the procedure clause involved the rejection of these Amendments was not put forward by the right hon. Gentleman himself, but by those who advised him. It was a most flimsy argument. The right hon. Gentleman had suggested that his clause met the difficulty, but his clause was optional, and being optional it did not touch the question. To suggest that the Irish landlords would allow those tenants to go into Court by agreement years sooner than they would otherwise be able to do was absurd. Now, in regard to this matter, Irish Members were not a little disappointed. It proved that hon. Members should never give up the powers of influencing Governments when in Committee. When this question was brought forward in Committee the Government asked for time to consider it, and said they would deal with it on the Report stage. The Irish Members gave way, and what was the result? Why, that they now absolutely got nothing at all. That was scarcely fair. It should he remembered that the class of tenants referred to were largely Ulster tenants—men who were kept waiting for more than five years at the gates of justice to get a fair rent fixed. Why? Simply because the Treasury would not appoint a sufficient number of sub-Commissioners to hear their cases, and in consequence of that the Government now denied them justice, and would impose on them not even a 15 years', but a 21 years' term. He protested against the policy of the Government in this matter as wholly unreasonable, and he would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College that he might here have his revenge on the Government. [Mr. CARSON: "I wish I could."] [Laughter.] The right hon. Gentleman must know from professional experience how bitterly hard was the grievance of those tenants, who were kept year after year from getting a fair rent fixed, and many of whom were evicted and lost their present tenancies. Yet the Government, who had an opportunity of doing an act of bare justice to these men, refused to do so on grounds utterly insufficient. He could not understand the position taken by the Government in this matter. The Amendment was in accord with the policy adopted in the Act of 1887—a policy which was approved by both Houses. Then what could be the reason why the Government refused to accept the Amendment. If the reason was the glutting or the congestion of the Courts, he could only say that the tenants would be quite willing to take their chance of waiting to get their rents fixed if they knew that the fixing of the rent was dated from the day of application. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College, who had fought his corner well for the landlords, must know the heavy disabilities under which the tenants referred to suffered through no fault of their own, and he now appealed to him, under the circumstances, to support his countrymen in the effort to remove a great grievance.


said the Amendment was moved with the object of protecting a tenant from suffering, or from injustice, because He had made an agreement with his landlord. That was really the effect of the Amendment. Under the Act of 1881, tenants got special privileges if they went into Court on the first occasion on which it sat. Thirty or forty thousand did so; but a number of tenants who could not get their cases heard came to an agreement with their landlords, and the position the Government had really taken up was that, therefore, those men were to be punished. Surely, the right hon. Gentleman could not be aware that if those tenants had fought their landlords in the Land Courts they would have had no necessity for seeking the benefit of this Amendment—that if they had held their landlords at arm's length, and insisted on the Court deciding between them, they would have secured the right of which they had been deprived. To deny the tenants, under such circumstances, the right of going into Court for several years to come to have a fair rent fixed was a gross injustice. The clause only applied to tenants who went into Court to have fair rents fixed, and who afterwards agreed with their landlords as to the fixing of the rents. It was a term of all the agreements that the rents should run back to the time the notice was served. The rents had run for 15 years. [The FIRST LORD of the TREASURY: "By agreement!"] Yes; and, therefore, He trusted the right hon. Gentleman would reconsider the matter.


said he understood the hon. Gentleman wished to confine the operation of the clause to cases where, evidently by the terms of the agreements, landlords and tenants intended the term should end in 15 years dating from the time of the application. [Mr. M. HEALY: "Hear, hear!"] Then he did not see what objection there was to the clause. ["Hear!"]

Clause read a Second time.


said an Amendment to the clause would be necessary, and


rose to suggest an Amendment.


said he would give the right hon. Gentleman time to prepare the Amendment, and left the Chair for the customary interval.

On the return of Mr. SPEAKER, after the usual interval,

THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND moved, after the word "shall" to insert the words, "where the judicial rent has been received as having accrued due from the gale day succeeding the date of the application."

Amendment agreed to; clause, as amended, added to the Bill.

MR. MAURICE HEALY moved the following clause:—