asked the Chief Secretary if he is aware that in 1908, in the presence of an inspector of the Estates Commissioners, the tenants on the R. W. Smith estate, county Limerick, offered to pay £10,000 for the lands then offered by the vendor, provided he would sell the same to the Estates Commissioners; that in July, 1909, after a second inspection, the 1050 Estates Commissioners offered £9,174; that the tenants again offered to pay £10,000, and the landlord accepted it and communicated his acceptance to the Estates Commissioners; that the Estates Commissioners took no further action till the Land Act of 1903 had expired; and that on 7th April, 1910, they have now reduced their offer from £9,174 to £8,519 on the plea that the Land Act of 1909 has altered the situation; and, inasmuch as this, coupled with the reduction of the bonus to the vendor under the Act of 1909, will prevent the parties coming to terms previously twice agreed on, will he introduce amending legislation to prevent land purchase as in this case from being defeated, and will instruct the Estates Commissioners to carry out their original undertaking?
§ Mr. BIRRELL
The Estates Commissioners had a preliminary inspection made of this estate and intimated to the owner the amount they would be willing to advance if formal proceedings for sale were instituted. The owner was unwilling to sell at the price, and his agent informed the Commissioners that the tenants had met and expressed their willingness to purchase for £10,000. On a further inspection the Commissioners increased their offer to £9,174, which the owner was willing to accept if he got 12 per cent, bonus. Having been informed that only 3 per cent, bonus was payable at the time the owner did not institute proceedings for sale. If he now proceeds with the sale the annuities will be at the rate of 3½ per cent., and the Commissioners, having regard to security, cannot advance more than £8,519 exclusive of the bonus payable under the Irish Land Act, 1909. The owner has been so informed. There is nothing in the case calling for legislation.
May I ask whether the Estates Commissioners did not deliberately stop the sale which was satisfactory both to the landlord and the tenants, and whether, if that is the effect of the Act of 1909, he will not do something to alter it if possible?
§ Mr. BIRRELL
The Estates Commissioners did not agree as to the value of the estate. They are not bound to pay the price even although the parties are willing to agree to the price.
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he still considers that the Act of last year has facilitated land purchase?