THE EARL OF LONGFORD,
in rising to move for numerical Return of Appeals from decisions of Sub-Commissioners heard before the Land Commissioners up to June 30, 1882, showing the locali- 1771 ties where the appeals were heard and the names of the Commissioners who heard the appeals upon each occasion; and a similar Return of Appeals from decisions of Civil Bill Courts, said, that he made the Motion with the view of obtaining the opinion of the Government, if it were possible, as to the practice which had been introduced into the Irish Land Commission of the hearing of appeals from the Sub-Commissioners by two Commissioners instead of three. It must be remembered that the great majority of appeals did not relate to matters of law, but only to questions of value and practical detail; and, therefore, it was desirable to have the presence of a Commissioner especially able to go into those subjects. Questions upon the subject had been asked in both Houses of Parliament; but the answers given were so unsatisfactory that it was thought desirable to bring it on again. He had reason to believe that the Prime Minister had, however, somewhat qualified his former answer, and now seemed inclined to the opinion that their reading of the Land Act was correct, and that three Commissioners should attend if possible. The practice recently introduced had been for two Commissioners only to attend. It was a matter of some importance, for it was not clear whether the view of the Prime Minister had been adopted by the Commissioners. By the 48th clause they were exempt from the jurisdiction of any Court; but perhaps they might be induced to alter their view by the Government. There was another matter which he desired to call attention to, and that was the matter of official valuation. Those landlords who were likely to be brought into Court were encouraged by the appointment, under the Act, of an independent value. Although it was stated that the Land Commission was not to be bound by the opinion of the official valuator, still it was hoped that the opinion of that per-Bon would have some little weight. Two cases, however, had come under his notice in which the official valuator's opinion had been entirely disregarded by the Court. In the first case the old rent was £724 per annum, the judicial rent fixed by the Sub-Commission was £572; before the appeal was heard an independent valuation by the official valuator was ordered by the Court, and amounted to £675; when, however, the 1772 case came before the Commissioners on appeal, none of these rents were adopted; but the Court adopted even a lower rent than the Sub-Commissioners had done, and reduced the rent to £553. The second case was one in which the old rent was £470; the judicial rent settled by the Sub-Commissioners was £352; the official valuator placed the rent at £466; but, in entire disregard of these estimates, the Court fixed the rent at £368 per annum, a sum nearly equivalent to the judicial rent. He trusted that these cases were not a fair sample of the value placed upon the official valuator's opinion by the Court. He would repeat that the matter was important, and in any communication that the Government might have with the Commissioners, he hoped that that matter would not be lost sight of. He was not quite sure whether among the mass of Returns granted the particular one he moved for was included; but, if it was not, he hoped the Government would not object to grant it. The noble Earl concluded by making the Motion of which he had given Notice.
§ Moved for, "Numerical return of appeals from decisions of Sub-Commissioners, heard before the Irish Land Commissioners up to 30th June 1882, showing the localities where the appeals were heard, and the names of the Commissioners who heard the appeals upon each occasion; and similar return of appeals from decisions of Civil Bill Courts."—(The Earl of Longford.)
§ LORD CARLINGFORD (LORD PRIVY SEAL)
said, he quite agreed with the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Longford) that both the points he had raised were of considerable importance, particularly that relating to the constitution of the Court of Appeal. With respect to the official valuator, he knew that the greatest weight was attached by the Commissioners to his opinion; but, as the noble Earl had said, they were not bound by it. He (Lord Carlingford) had no doubt that if all the facts of these cases, which were clearly exceptional, were known to them it would be found that there were reasons for the Court departing more or less from the valuator's report. As regarded the Court of Appeal, he was only able to say that he recognized the great importance of the matter. It certainly was not the intention either of the Act, or of the Commissioners, that their 1773 number should be reduced to two, merely for the sake of their own convenience. Their view was that in the case of very urgent administrative business, the neglect of which would cause serious inconvenience, requiring to be transacted in Dublin, as happened at the present time, the words of the Act as to the "unavoidable absence" of any Member of the Court of Appeal applied, and that the Commissioner absent was unavoidably absent within the meaning of the Act. He was informed that what had taken place was that Mr. Justice O'Hagan and Mr. Vernon were now hearing cases in Belfast, while Mr. Litton was performing business which was believed by the Commissioners to be most pressing and important in Dublin. No doubt it was a matter which required consideration. There would be no objection whatever to the Returns moved for by the noble Earl.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Returns ordered to be laid before the House.