§ SIR JOHN COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (1) whether his attention has been drawn to the reductions of rent fixed by the Land Commission in the second statutory term, as shown by the latest Return; (2) whether, in every case, the Court has explained the principles on which such reductions were made; (3) whether the rents so fixed have any and, if so, what proportion to the marketable value; and (4) whether it would be possible to furnish a Return of the prices paid for the tenants' interest in holdings with reference to which fair rents have been fixed?
§ MR. M. J. FLAVIN (Kerry, N.)
asked whether the attention of the right hon. Gentleman had been called to the judgments delivered in Wexford in 20 cases on Friday last, in which the rents were raised; and, if so, whether he could state upon what ground the rents had been so raised?
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. GERALD BALFOUR,) Leeds, Central
No, Sir; I am not aware of the cases referred to by the hon. Gentleman, and they have not been reported to me. In answer to the Question of the hon. and gallant Member, I have to state that the reply to the first paragraph is in the affirmative. Since passing the Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1896, the Court, when fixing the fair rent of the holding, records in the form of a schedule the particulars relative to the holding mentioned in the first section of that Act, and which have been taken into consideration in arriving at the fair rent. This provision of the Act has been complied with by the Sub-Commissions, and it is believed by the County Courts, in all cases since heard, as well as by the Land Commissioners in all cases heard by them since the decision of the Court of Appeal in "Cope v. Cunningham" was communicated to them. No statutory duty is cast upon the Courts of explaining any principles beyond such as are apparent from the particulars recorded in the schedule, nor are the Land Commissioners aware whether any of the Courts have or have not given any such explanation in any particular cases. If the expression "marketable value" used in the third paragraph is equivalent to "competition 1175 value, "it is not possible to lay down any proportion rule which would be applicable. It would be impossible to furnish a Return of the prices paid for the tenants' interest in holdings with reference to which fair rents have been fixed, owing to the absence, in the majority of cases, of any evidence that the tenants' interest in the holding has been sold. However, under the form of schedule now in use, if it appears that the tenancy has been purchased since the passing of the Landlord and Tenant (Ireland) Act, 1870, the date of the sale and the amount of the purchase is now recorded.
§ MR. E. CARSON (Dublin University)
asked whether the Land Commissioners had in several cases since they commenced their revaluation of rents laid down any principle on which they granted reductions on the rents previously fixed?
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I think that the answer to that Question has already been given in my reply. The Commissioners are in no way required to lay down any principle on which rents are to be fixed; therefore, ultimately it must come to an exercise of judgment on their part.
§ MR. CARSON
Am I to understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that the Commissioners are not bound to give any reasons for the judgments they give?
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
They are bound to do nothing further than is laid down in the Act. [Nationalist cheers and laughter.]