HC Deb 28 February 1918 vol 103 cc1560-1
7. Captain SHEEHAN

asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether he is aware that a practice is developing amongst tenant purchasers under the Land Acts who seek the sanction of the Estates Commissioners to the sub-division of their holdings, so that they may be put up to public auction in lots and inflated prices thereby obtained; whether he is aware that this leads to a false standard of land values being fixed, and also results in increased areas of land passing into the hands of large landholders or other speculators in land; and whether, seeing that this is likely to lead in time to a recrudescence of a worse form of landlordism than ever hitherto existed, the Estates Commissioners will be: invested with powers for securing lauds, whose present owners wish to dispose of them, at a fair market price, and so acquire them for distribution amongst deserving labourers and small farmers who do not now possess economic holdings?


Applications are frequently made to the Land Commission by proprietors of purchased holdings for liberty to subdivide such holdings, with a view to selling the subdivided part, or the entire holding, in lots, by public auction or private treaty, subject to an apportionment of the land purchase annuity. Each application is considered on its merits, having regard to the security which, the parts offer for the annuity as proposed to be apportioned, but extreme subdivision is to be deprecated. The Land Commission have no power to prevent an owner of a holding from obtaining the highest price for his land, if offered for sale. The position of landlord and tenant is not established by subdivision, as the purchasers are owners in fee simple in occupation; and if any subletting is made without the consent of the Land Commission the Commissioners may cause the entire holding to be sold. There is no power to make a fresh advance under the Land Purchase Acts in these cases to purchase the present interest of the proprietor, who has already purchased under those Acts, the land purchase annuity in respect of the original advance being still payable.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this practice has become very prevalent in the past few years, is developing very dangerous dimensions, and may very possibly, as I put it in my question, "lead to a recrudescence of a worse form of landlordism," and is therefore to be deprecated?


The hon. and gallant Gentleman will see in the answer that extreme sub-division is to be deprecated. The matter is being carefully watched.