HC Deb 27 February 1908 vol 185 cc28-30

To ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland if he is aware of the action of the Estates Commissioners in regard to certain judicial agricultural tenants on Lord Shaftesbury's Carrickfergus estate in issuing letters threatening that unless they purchased at a reduction of 15 per cent, on second-term rents, or with the bonus over 29¼ years' purchase, they would be excluded from the sales; that a first-term tenant called M'Kaig was also threatened unless he purchased at a reduction of 15 per cent; will he inquire whether the inspector recommended M'Kaig should pay the said price as well as the second-term tenants, and, if not, what did he recommend; is he aware that these tenants petitioned the Estates Commissioners early in January last protesting against the said action and asking for a definite time to consider their threat of exclusion, but that no answer has been received; will he state if this procedure was subscribed to by the three Commissioners unanimously, and, if so, what steps will be taken to remedy their administrative action, having regard to the financial situation involved in the working of the 1903 Land Act; if he will state when the purchase moneys are to be advanced on this estate, also the total number of tenants in the Green-island and Woodburn districts, and of those how many are judicial agricultural and how many lease holders, and what number of each class have signed agreements to purchase and what number have not; if the Commissioners are facilitating the landlord in every way by proposing to grant the bonus on the minority of holdings in the Greenisland and Woodburn separate estate, while the majority of the tenants on this separate estate are being threatened with exclusion unless they pay the price named for holdings; if he is aware that the Greenisland tenants are higher rented than in the other districts where the tenants have purchased; and will he take steps to see that in future the interest of the tenants and the general taxpayers are safeguarded by having the bonus withheld where such indirect pressure is brought to bear on tenants to pay extreme prices.

(Answered by Mr. Cherry.) The Estates Commissioners inform me that they have not issued any threatening letter in this matter, as suggested. They have informed the solicitors acting for the tenants, who have refused to purchase their holdings at the reduction of 15 per cent. agreed to by other judicial tenants on the estate, that they will not stop the sale of the rest of the estate, containing approximately sixty tenants, all of whom have signed purchase agreements, and whose holdings are either within the zones or afford security for the prices which the Commissioners propose to sanction. It would be contrary to practice to disclose the contents of inspector' reports, which are confidential documents. The Commissioners did, in January last, receive a letter from the solicitors for the tenants who had not agreed to purchase, asking, inter alia, for time for consideration. The solicitors were informed in reply that at any time these tenants came to terms with the vendor the Commissioners were prepared to declare the lands comprised in their holdings an estate. The conclusions communicated to the solicitors were those of the Commissioners, and were arrived at with due regard to the provisions of the Act. The purchase money of the holdings agreed to be purchased will be advanced as soon as the owner's title has been proved. The Commissioners are not able to identify the exact portion of the estate described in the Question as the Greenisland and Woodburn districts, but the tenants who have agreed to purchase form the large majority of the total number on this particular property which is known as the Carrickfergus property. The Commissioners are not aware whether or not the tenants referred to as the Greenisland tenants are more highly rented than the tenants in other districts. The Commissioners fully considered the entire matter before coming to a determination. No presure has been brought to bear by the Commissioners on the tenants. The Commissioners are prepared to deal with the matter at any time should the outstanding tenants agree with the owner on the terms of purchase.