HL Deb 13 July 1885 vol 299 cc396-8

in rising to inquire of Her Majesty's Government, Whether during the proceedings in the case of a sale of a holding to a tenant before the Landed Estates Court on Tuesday 21st June it was stated by the tenant that he was prepared to give a certain price for the holding, but was debarred from doing so by the action of the Land Commissioners, who, refusing to advance three-fourths of the purchase money, would only advance two-thirds, sheltering themselves behind the Act of 1870; whether Judge Flanagan, as reported, stated with reference to this—"Then you might just as well have passed no Act at all;" and concluded the case with these words— Those, then, interested in this case are to suffer because while the tenant was prepared to give £200 if advanced three-fourths of the purchase money under the terms of the statute, he will only give £180 now, as the Commissioners reduced their advance to two-thirds; whether other cases of similar obstructive action on the part of the Commission have not been brought under the notice of the Irish Department of the late Government; and, finally, whether Her Majesty's Government will take any steps to force the Land Commission to utilize such powers as it possesses for facilitating the sale and purchase of land; or whether, if this is impossible, they do not think it would be advisable to appoint a Commission, with plenary powers, to carry out the provisions of the Purchase Clauses of the Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1881, in a liberal and expeditious manner? said, that since he had given Notice of his intention to put these Questions to the Government on the subject of the proceedings in the Landed Estates Court and the action of the Land Commission, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had announced in the other House the intention of Her Majesty's Government to introduce a Purchase Bill. He would, therefore, reserve most of what he had to say until that Bill was before their Lordships' House. He must, however, point out the difficulty of the present position, which was proved by the necessity of his Question, and he desired to draw public attention most urgently to this matter. The Court was established many years ago to carry out the sale of estates, and subsequently a Commission was appointed in 1851 with special power to facilitate the sale of land from owner to occupier; and yet both of them came to almost a deadlock, owing to some legal crotchet and over a trumpery case. This occurred, too, at a time when it was essential that the sale of land should be expedited. Surely it was time for the Government to intervene for the purpose of clearing up this absurd difficulty. If the two bodies he had named were helpless let us get rid of them, and put another body, or an effective amalgamation of both, in their place. This was not the only instance which had occurred of this kind of deadlock, and he felt sure he was correct in stating that similar cases had been brought privately or officially under the notice of the late Government. The Landed Estates Court and the Land Commission cost the country a large sum, and yet their administration was so defective that they could not carry out the sale of a holding of the value of £200 without all this sparring and legal warfare. The whole thing was at present a farce; ho only hoped it might not end in a tragedy for both owner and occupier. The Land Act. though perhaps well-intentioned, had thus far failed to settle the Land Question. That question could only be settled definitely by a liberal and workable Purchase Bill. Both sides—owner and occupier—were ready to come to terms. The case cited in the Question of which he had given Notice proved this. Both were, however, waiting to see what the final offer of the Government would be. Their Lordships must remember that land was the only marketable and, at the same time, the only valuable commodity in many parts of Ireland. This was proved by the exorbitant prices given for tenants' interests. Land must, therefore, be made saleable. In conclusion, he asked their Lordships to bear one point in mind which had special reference to the introduction of the Purchase Bill—namely, that there must be no placing the charge for money advanced under such Bill upon Ireland or on the local rates. The question was an Imperial one as long as Ireland remained part of the Empire, and as such it must be treated. He knew that there were those who thought otherwise, and who with a fatuity which was unintelligible to him thought they could fasten upon Ireland a burden which the Empire must bear as long as Ireland contributed one farthing to Imperial taxation. He should reserve any further remarks upon the subject until the Purchase Bill reached that House.


said, the Questions seemed to him to be entirely on the subject of the Purchase Clauses of the Land Act. Her Majesty's Government hoped to be able to introduce a Bill dealing with Land Purchase in Ireland; and, under the circumstances, it would be very much better to await the introduction of that Bill before insisting upon an answer to those Questions on the Paper. Some of the Questions put by the noble Lord, he was informed, were not accurate in the statement of facts embodied in them. The late Government had showed that they were not satisfied, with the manner in which the Purchase Clauses had worked by bringing in a Bill on the subject last year, and by promising one for the present year. Her Majesty's present Government were prepared to bring in such a measure, which demonstrated that they also were of opinion that the Purchase Clauses had not worked satisfactorily.


said, that after the remarks of the noble Marquess he would willingly postpone his Questions on the subject.