THE EARL OF BELMORE
in presenting a Petition from the grand jury of the county of Sligo praying for greater facilities under the Record of Title and Land Debentures (Ireland) Acts, 1865, by reducing the Court fee of 10s. per cent now levied on all Conveyances and Declarations of Title issued by the Landed Estates Court, and in moving for certain Papers, said, that the petition he had presented to the House, and to which he begged to call the attention of Her Majesty's Government, was similar to two or three others which had been already presented on this subject, and as it related to a matter of considerable 719 importance to the landed interest in Ireland, he would give a short explanation of it. When the Incumbered Estates Court was established in 1849, the expenses of it were defrayed by the public. In 1858 it was thought advisable to extend the benefits of that Court to all land in Ireland whatsoever, and an Act was passed converting the Incumbered Estates Court into the Landed Estates Court, and means were adopted to make it self-supporting by imposing a Court fee of 10s. per cent on properties passing through it of a less value than £10,000, and of £1 per cent if in excess of that value. By an Act of 1861 this was afterwards reduced to a uniform fee of 10s. per cent; but the Commissioners of the Treasury had the power to vary this fee in an upward direction, in case the fee of 10s. did not pay one-half the expenses of the Landed Estates Court. And it was also provided that by an arrangement with the Bank of Ireland the balances of purchase-money lying in the Bank pending distribution should be invested, and the interest thus made available to assist in supporting the Court. At first the whole, and by a subsequent modification of the Act half the expenses of working the Act were to be thus defrayed. The Landed Estates Act conferred indefeasible Parliamentary titles, but made no provision for continuing them, or for conferring fresh ones with respect to subsequent dealings, such as re-sales, mortgagees, or leases. An association was formed in Ireland, presided over by the Duke of Leinster, which promoted an Act to supply this deficiency. The late Lord Chancellor last year took charge of the Bill, which was prepared and introduced by the Government, and became law as the "Record of Title Act." The "Land Debentures Act," to which he would presently refer, was ultimately made dependent upon it. But both these Acts presupposed a conveyance or declaration of title under the Landed Estates Act. Only about one-sixth of Ireland had passed through the Court, and it was complained that the heavy Court fee deterred persons from obtaining the preliminary conveyance or declaration of title which was required before taking advantage of the Record of Title Act. In England the Land Transfer Act, 1862, conferred Parliamentary titles, and also provided for subsequent dealings with those titles; and the fees for both these purposes were fixed by the Registrar of the Court with the con- 720 currence of the Lord Chancellor. In Ireland the Judges of the Landed Estates Court had adopted a like low scale of fees for recording Parliamentary titles and subsequent dealings therewith; but it was the heavy fees on the first issuing of Conveyances or Declarations of Title which were complained of. To show the difference of the state of things in the two countries, he would state the following facts: In Ireland the fees on an estate worth £5,000 would amount to £25 against £9 5s. in England; on one worth £20,000 the figures would be £100 against £25; and on one worth £100,000, £500 against £68 10s. Thus it would be seen that whilst in Ireland the fees were in direct proportion to the value of the estate, in England they varied in an inverse proportion to the value; and were also much lower than in Ireland. It was also stated that the heavy fees had tended to decrease the business in the Landed Estates Court, as shown by the following figures: The aggregate sales in the last year of the Incumbered Estates Court (1858) amounted to £2,985,230. The average balance in the bank was £573,000, producing under the arrangement above referred to a revenue towards the support of the Court of £6,576. Last year, on the other hand, the aggregate sales amounted to £992,856 only, and the average balance was £114,000, producing nothing. There was also a minor complaint with respect to the Office being only opened two hours a day, and being supplied with only one clerk. As to the Land Debentures Act, the petitioners complained that instead of there being a fee of 2s. 6d. per cent on each debenture issued under it and a distinct duty on each transfer, by a supposed oversight in a clause introduced by the Treasury a composition of 10s. per cent was rendered necessary; whereas, under the English Debenture Act, 16 & 17 Vict. c. 59, s. 14, the composition was optional. They further complained that there was also a sum of £1 15s. payable on each certificate of charge, irrespective of the amount declared chargeable, and that the owner must pay 2s. 6d. per cent on each debenture, although he could only issue to himself. The petitioners prayed, with respect to the first part of their petition, that they might be placed by the Treasury in exactly the same position with regard to this taxation by Court fees as persons in England now are in the English Land Registry Office. He begged to present the 721 petition, and make the Motion of which he had given notice.
§ Moved, That there be laid before this House—"Copies of the Correspondence between the Lord Chancellor of Ireland and the Judges of the Landed Estates Court and the Treasury with reference to the appointment of clerks in the Record of Title Office, of the Report of Messrs. Huggessen and Law (if any) on this subject, and of a memorial forwarded by the Registration of Title Association to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with reference to the above-mentioned Court Fee and certain alterations required in the Land Debentures Act (Ireland) 1865."—(the Earl of Belmore.)
said, it was perfectly impossible for Her Majesty's Government to give an immediate reply on the subject to which the Memorial referred. That Memorial, indeed, had only just been brought under the notice of the Treasury, and it would of course be impossible to arrive at a decision respecting it until further time had been allowed for consideration. The Government was most anxious to give all possible attention to the Memorial. With regard to the Papers moved for, he was afraid he could not promise that they should be produced, inasmuch as the correspondence had not yet terminated, and it would not be desirable to lay it upon the table of the House in an incomplete state. With regard to the copy of the Memorial, there would be no objection to lay it upon the table.
THE EARL OF BELMORE
said, he would withdraw the first part of his Motion, and only move for the Memorial.
§ Motion withdrawn: Then copy of a Memorial from the Registration of Title Association and others, Inhabitants of Ireland, to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, ordered to be laid before the House.—(The Earl of Belmore.)