HL Deb 17 June 1881 vol 262 cc750-6

, in moving to resolve— That in the opinion of this House in all calculations affecting the interests of landlord and tenant the Townland Valuation 6th and 7th Will. IV. chap. 84. should be adopted as the basis of adjustment, said, he would not have ventured to have brought the matter before the House had he not thought it would have been of interest to noble Lords connected with property in Ireland, and that the settlement of it would be of the highest importance to the safe working of the Bill which was now occupying the attention of the other House of Parliament. The system of valuation of land in Ireland was founded upon that of Sir Richard Griffith, which was made not for the purposes of rent, but for the purposes of taxation. His point was that especially in the introduction of any new principle of adjustment of rent as between landlord and tenant in Ireland it would be essential, indeed absolutely indispensable, that the standard by which those arrangements were to be regulated should be founded upon scientific and indisputable bases. It would not be well that a general valuation should be governed here and there solely and exclusively by the particular customs existing in any county or province of Ireland; but local circumstances in other respects would be matters for consideration in making this fair adjustment. There should be a rule in valuing which could be followed with almost mathematical accuracy; but such a standard could not be obtained by Griffith's valuation of 1862. Sir Richard Griffith's system of valuation was commenced in 1833–4; and he (Lord Waveney) contended it showed what the value of every portion of the land of Ireland really was. It was adopted as the result of much consideration and very minute inquiry by him; but there was another valuation, that of 1862, to which he had referred, which was carried out in a different way. The object of the valuation of 1833 was, in the original instance, to ascertain what the real valuation of the land was with respect to the productive qualities of the soil, and to surrounding circumstances—such as the existence of convenient market roads, &c. The quality of the land in that valuation in the different Provinces of the country was clearly and scientifically investigated, and to those soils a certain value was assigned. That valuation having been made for that specific purpose, it should now be carried out in all its integrity. He held in his hand a copy of the original valuation, which he obtained in 1840 from the publishers of the original survey, Messrs. Hodges and Smith, which was made from Government records, and which gave instructions how to ascertain the value of a farm for letting purposes. The book was published many years ago, when the prices of produce all over Ireland were much lower than in recent years. Of course, it was perfectly intelligible that values should alter; but there was no difficulty in adjusting the value of produce at the present time, as compared with the value of produce at the time of which he spoke. The later valuation was intended to guide the authorities as to what the rate of taxation should be; but though it was for that single object, the earlier one showed what the land was worth. Great changes had certainly taken place; but, without going minutely into the matter, he might say that prices had risen very largely. Indeed, so far as his own knowledge went, the valuation of 1862 was 25 per cent less than the letting value of great estates, and that 25 per cent, added to the former valuation, brought the amount up to the fair letting value of the present day. Indeed, it was a singular testimony to the accuracy of Sir Richard Griffith's estimates that, on nearly all the largest and best managed estates in the country, the rents were at this day only 25 per cent above the 1833 valuation. He had heard that a new valuation was desirable; but it was said that it was almost impracticable to carry it out. He (Lord Waveney), however, might say that there would not be so much trouble in making it as was generally supposed, because, on application being made to a distinguished surveyor and valuer of land, he stated that such a valuation could be completed in three years. He maintained that no revaluation was now required. If it were attempted there would be a great suspense in the settlement of questions affecting the land. Besides, under the present system, they had, in the valuation of 1833, a complete valuation of Ireland in existence, which was useful for all practical requirements, and which would save the expense, trouble, and delay of a new valuation. He could say of his own knowledge that farms and estates had been re-valued upon the basis of the present system, and that such valuation had been accepted by both landlords and tenants. The question which would come before them for consideration of what was a fair rental would tax the powers of Parliament to the utmost. The origin of the right of the tenants of Ulster was based upon the peculiar circumstances of that Province; and those circumstances were entirely, completely, and absolutely different to all other parts of Ireland. The chief of those circumstances was that most of the Province of Ulster was occupied by the descendants of Scotchmen and Englishmen, and that the landlords and tenants were of one type, and had worked together on good terms. In that Province there were two values; the one belonged to the landlord, and the other to the tenants. Take the value of land to be 16s. an acre, a tenant would give £14 an acre in the open market for tenant right, and that at 5 per cent equalled 30s. an acre rental. In many parts of Ireland, landlords had made large improvements both as regarded the land and in building cottages, and they should derive some benefit from them; but, in all future arrangements, there should be a fixed standard to work by. That being so, the value of land would be ascertained by the officials of the tribunal before whom any question of the kind came. In connection with the subject, he had taken the opinion of Irish farmers on the point, and it was that, without some other industry, a farmer in Ireland could not live and support his family on fewer than 20 or 25 acres of land. He believed that by making a declaration beforehand in the terms of his Motion, they would very much facilitate the operation of legislation both in the Lower House and in this House. These were the reasons which had induced him to press the question again upon the House; and he thought it would be well in the spirit of wise statesmanship to depart from the fixed rules which were so dear to them. Griffith's valuation of 1862 did not meet the exigencies of the case, and he argued that it was desirable to proceed on the principles which had governed the valuation of 1833. It had been said that England could not govern Ireland; but that he denied, for she could do so, if, passing from her own special habits, she practised the great English qualities of justice and fair play, and did not attempt to govern in direct opposition to the genius of the people. He was of opinion that, though there were enormous difficulties in the way, Ireland could be made prosperous by justice and a consideration for the peculiar circumstances of that country. Ireland could not be governed on the strict rules which were found applicable to this country. He believed that legislation, such as they were then attempting, to improve the condition of the Irish tenants generally, and a general system of emigration, would bring about a great improvement in that country and a happier state of things than that which now existed. The noble Lord concluded by moving his Resolution. Moved to resolve, That in the opinion of this House in all calculations affecting the interests of landlord and tenant the Townland Valuation 6th and 7th Will. IV. chap. 84. should be adopted as the basis of adjustment.—(The Lord Waveney).


said, he cordially agreed with the noble Lord opposite (Lord Waveney) in the first part of his speech, in which he had acknowledged the great and important services which were rendered to Ireland by Sir Richard Griffith in the matter of this valuation. He had the honour of being acquainted with him, and he assured him (Viscount Lifford) personally that he had been over every townland in Ireland before making his valuation. He had also stated that his valuation was for assessment purposes, and not for the purposes of rent; consequently, his view was precisely the reverse of that of the noble Lord as to the basis, of value for rent. On that account, 25 per cent had been considered as a fair addition, though it was now called rack rent; and he understood his noble Friend also to propose that an addition of 25 per cent to Griffith's valuation should be taken as a standard. He (Viscount Lifford) had strong objections to the statement. In the first place, the prices of agricultural produce had doubled since that valuation was made. In the next place, by the construction of railways, wherever they had been made the value of land had much increased. He did not think that they should adopt the standard which was suggested by the noble Lord for the valuation of land in Ireland.


said, he would not now discuss the customs of Ulster and tenant right; and perhaps he might have left the matter in the hands of the noble Viscount who had just spoken (Viscount Lifford), especially after the debate which took place a short time ago on this subject. His (Lord Carling-ford's) difficulty was to know exactly what his noble Friend intended the House to understand by his Motion. He thought that though his noble Friend mentioned "townland" valuation, he must mean "tenement" valuation. There might be some facts relating to the obsolete townland valuation which his search had not revealed; but, as far as he could learn, there was no difference of principle whatever between the town-land valuation of Ireland and Griffith's valuation, which were both conducted by Sir Richard Griffith. There had been in the history of Irish legislation a very marked difference of principle between successive measures that had been adopted or proposed to Parliament. On the one hand, Griffith's valuation was that of taking the capabilities of the soil and the average price of produce; and, on the other hand, the English or Scotch based the valuation practically upon rent and upon probable and reasonable letting value. That was the principle adopted in the case of the Poor Law valuation in Ireland. There had been much difference of opinion, and there would be much difference again, as to which of these principles ought to be applied to Irish legislation. But between the townland and tenement valuations in Ireland there was no difference of principle. They were both based on the principle of taking the capabilities of the soil and the average price of the produce. Of course, in the case of the townland valuation, it did not extend to particular holdings, but was a valuation of a considerable area, and yet the noble Lord wished the House to resolve that this valuation ought to be taken as the foundation of any future settlement of rents between landlords and tenants in Ireland by any process which might hereafter be enacted by Parliament. He must say that he was not able to agree with him for the reasons just given by the noble Viscount, and for reasons in the same direction given in the discussion a few days ago. His belief was that it would be impossible for the House to commit itself to any such view; and if any mode of settling rent was to be enacted by Parliament, it would have to be through the medium of some constituted authority which would consider all the circumstances of each particular holding, and endeavour to arrive at an equitable conclusion in each particular case, and not by binding Parliament, or the future tribunal, or authority, to a dictum such as that in the Motion of his noble Friend. He hoped the noble Lord would be satisfied with having put his views before the House, and would not ask their Lordships to adopt a Resolution of that kind.


said, that, after the appeal made by his noble Friend (Lord Carlingford), he would not persist in his Motion.

Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.