HL Deb 10 August 1896 vol 44 cc310-7

(1.) Where the Court fix a fair rent for a holding, the Court shall ascertain and record in the form of a schedule, unless both landlord and tenant shall otherwise request— (a) the annual sum which should be the fair rent of the holding on the assumption that all improvements thereon were made or acquired by the landlord; (b) the condition as to cultivation, deterioration, or otherwise of the holding and the buildings thereon; (c) the improvements made wholly or partly by the tenant or at his cost, and with respect to each such improvement—

  1. (i) the nature, character, and present capital value thereof, and the increased letting value duo thereto;
  2. (ii) the date (so near as can be ascertained) at which the same was made; and
  3. (iii) the deduction from the rent made on account thereof;
(d) the extent (if any) to which the landlord has paid or compensated the tenant in respect of each such improvement; (e) the improvements made wholly or partly by or at the cost of, or acquired by, the landlord; (f) such other matters in relation to the holding as may have been taken into account in fixing the fair rent thereof, or as may be prescribed; and (g) the fair rent of the holding;

and the said schedule shall be in the form set out in the First schedule to this Act or in such other form as may he prescribed, and a certified copy of the record shall on the prescribed application be sent by post to each party, and the record shall be admissible in evidence on its mere production from the proper custody.

The noble Marquess said the House would recollect that in Committee Clause 1 was considerably modified at the instance of Lord Templetown, who earnestly and successfully pressed on the House the necessity of requiring from the Court fuller particulars of the data on which their decisions as to fair rents were arrived at. He hoped his noble Friend would not take it amiss if he frankly told him that he was not entirely satisfied with the shape in which the Amendments had left the clause. If their Lordships would look at the Bill they would see that, in the first two or three lines of the clause, the Court was directed to ascertain and record in the form of a schedule a great number of particulars set out in the following subsections. After these particulars were enumerated, the Court was, in Sub-section G, further directed to ascertain such other matters as had been taken into account in fixing the fair rent, including all such particulars as were set forth in the Second schedule to the Act, and it was explained that the Second schedule was to be virtually identical with the pink Paper of which their Lordships had heard so much. It would be evident to the House that this schedule mentioned in Sub-section G would be different from the schedule which, at the beginning of the clause, the Court was directed to frame and supply to the litigants. That schedule would contain the whole contents of the schedule to be embodied in the Act, but a good deal more. There would in short, be two schedules, and he was afraid a good deal of complication would arise. Now what the Government proposed was that there should be only one schedule, and that that schedule should be printed with the Act of Parliament. They would find in the Amendment in his name a draft schedule containing the particulars contained in the earlier part of Clause 1, and also the contents of the pink Paper, but amplified and with an addition which he knew some of his noble Friends were anxious to have made, the addition of a money column showing the rent per acre or class of the different sorts of land. ["Hear, hear!"] The schedule in that form would be supplied to the parties on application and he believed it would contain all the information they could desire or expect.


acknowledged the conciliatory attitude of the Government towards the Amendment to the clause. He was gratified with the way in which the noble Marquess had dealt with them. He himself had carefully gone through the schedule attached to the list of the Amendments, and as far as he could see they embodied all the recommendations which he had put before the House in such a form that he could express his complete approval of it.

Amendment agreed to.


had given notice of his intention to move, after Clause 1, to insert the following clause:— Where the Court have once fixed a fair rent for a holding, no further revision of rent shall take place at the end of the first or any subsequent judicial term except in relation to—

  1. (a.) A rise or fall, if any, in the price of produce proper to be grown on the holding (due allowance being made for a rise or fall, if any, in the cost of production); and
  2. (b.) any improvement which the tenant proves—
    1. (1.) he has executed without compensation before the commencement of the first statutory term; and
    2. (2.) has not already been taken into account in fixing a fair rent.
And, in the event of a revision being made, the Court shall send by post to each party a certified statement showing how the fair rent has been arrived at. The noble Lord said it would be within the recollection of the House that Lord Monteagle and himself proposed a clause almost identical, dealing with the principle on which Sub-Commissioners were to go in ascertaining what was a fair rent, and an appeal was made by the Prime Minister to withdraw the clauses, in view of their great importance and the short time the Government had to consider them. Lord Monteagle fell in with the appeal; but after consultation, he himself had thought it his duty to persevere with the clause. But before the House divided the Prime Minister again made a strong appeal to him not to divide the House, on the same grounds that the time was short, the Amendment having only appeared on the Paper that morning; and the importance of the question was so great, it was hardly fair to expect the Government to accept the Amendment at such short notice. He felt the force of that appeal, and although the Divisions taken immediately before and after made it quite certain that if he had persevered with the Amendment they would have had the power to add it to the Bill, he consented not to then press it, on the distinct assurance of the noble Marquess that before the Report stage he would consider it. He rose to ask the noble Marquess what had been the result of that consideration, and whether he could, on behalf of the Government, accept the clause?


acknowledged the noble Earl's courtesy in postponing his Amendment. Since then the Government had carefully considered the matter. He fully understood the objects with which the noble Earl had made this Motion. He would like to see—as would most of their Lordships—the Land Commission Court given something in the nature of a definite basis upon which to proceed. They would find, not only in Ireland, but in other parts of the United Kingdom, that two perfectly honest valuers would differ widely in their estimate of the value of the same farm, and one had even known cases where the same valuer would take a somewhat different view of the value of a farm according to the conditions of climate under which he had visited it. The noble Earl asked their Lordships so to arrange matters that these personal factors should be, as far as possible, excluded, and that on each revaluation of the farm the Court should proceed upon the basis of the original valuation, modifying it only in relation to alterations in the price of produce or the improvements executed by the tenant. That, at first sight, was an extremely attractive proposal. It certainly was not one which could, for a moment, be represented as being put forward entirely in the interest of the landlord, because one effect of it would be to transfer to the tenant a very considerable part of what was usually spoken of as the unearned increment. But the clause as it stood was so drafted that the Court would have to proceed upon the basis of the fair rent first fixed upon the holding. As he said the other evening, he believed it was notorious that the fair rents fixed by the Commission during the first few years of its existence were extremely unequal and untrustworthy, and they could not possibly accept these fair rents—which had been distinctly impugned by so many noble Lords—as a solid basis for the fixing of future revised fair rents. But there were other difficulties which stood in the way of the adoption of the recommendation of the noble Earl. He should mention in the first place that, if they were to adopt the Amendment of the noble Lord opposite to the present proposed new clause, the new system could only come into operation 15 years hence —that was to say, upon the second and subsequent revisions of rent by the Court of Land Commission. He was not at all clear that it was worth while for the sake of what, after all, would be a comparatively remote improvement in the procedure of the Court, to introduce the novel and untried system which was recommended to them. The revision of the rent in relation to prices sounded an extremely simple matter, but he did not think it was quite as simple as the noble Earl supposed. In the first place, the noble Earl, who had paid so much attention to agricultural questions, must be perfectly aware that a fall in prices of a certain percentage did not by any means necessarily involve the result that rents should fall in the same ratio. If a farmer lost, upon the whole of the commodities which he extracted from the land, a certain percentage by a fall in price, it might very often follow that his actual loss would be equivalent to a very much larger percentage of the rent he paid the landlord. Then there were other questions by which the calculation would be complicated. There might be a cheapening of the commodities sold by the tenant, or, on the other hand, a cheapening of those he had to buy. Again, the products of the farm might have altered in the intervening time, or the whole condition of the neighbourhood might have changed. All these were points which the Court would have to consider, and he was afraid that by telling them that they were to consider the fluctuations of prices in reference to the tenant's rent they were, after all, not giving them a very much increased measure of that guidance which the noble Earl was so anxious to afford them. He must frankly tell the noble Lord that he regarded this proposal, excellent in its intentions, as somewhat of the character of a counsel of perfection, and he would respectfully urge upon him not to press it on the House.


remarked that the noble Marquess said that varying rents in accordance with the variation of prices was not so simple as it looked. Quite so. But what was the present procedure? The Land Court at the present time had to take all these matters into consideration, and, in addition, had to take into consideration the value of the land, and go upon the land and value it. "What he understood the noble Earl to aim at was to restrict the Land Court to the consideration of these fluctuations, which were independent of the action of the tenant, and only to exclude from their consideration the value of the land. Another objection of the noble Marquess was that the ratio of variation of the rents would not be direct—that they could not say that rents were varied as directly as prices varied. He thought that point was amply provided for by the parenthesis in Sub-section A of the noble Lord's clause. But no doubt the principal objection, and, as he had admitted, the fatal objection to the consideration of the proposal at this stage, was that of novelty, and admitting, as he did, that it was a novel proposal, he ventured to ask the noble Lord opposite to be content with the discussion he had raised, and not to press the matter further.


said if this Amendment was negatived he would ask to say a few words in reply to the noble Marquess when the other Amendment came on.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


said he thought it would be unfortunate if it were to go forth that there was no answer to what the noble Marquess had said on various points. It was quite true, as the noble Marquess had said, that different valuers took different views of the same holding and of different holdings, and he had also said that climatic conditions might affect the same valuer in valuing the same farm. He was told it was not an uncommon thing for Sub-Commissioners to value a farm when there was a foot of snow on the ground, and he quite admitted that those were climatic conditions which might lead to various and, no doubt, erratic conclusions. The next argument of the noble Marquess was the deprivation which this clause might cause the landlord of part of the unearned increment of the farm, such as might accrue from the propinquity of a railway. He was quite certain landlords would be very willing to give up a problematical advantage for the sake of the advantage of a firm and definite principle beneath their feet. Who ever heard in Ireland of a Sub-Commissioner allowing an increase of rent because a railway had come close to a farm. The noble Marquess also said that the fair rents which were fixed immediately after 1881, were not fair rents at all. They admitted that these people were incapable of fixing fair rents, and yet they were now sending them out for another term of 15 years on their duties without any principle or guidance whatever. He believed in so far as it was possible to do so, that a great many of the effects of the re-valuation of 1881 not having been completed, were remedied by the Act of 1887, which was based on prices. With regard to what the noble Marquess said as to a fall prices not involving a fall of rent of similar or precisely the same amount, he thought the noble Marquess would recollect that he did ample justice to that argument in the speech in which he introduced the clause. Then the noble Marquess and the noble Lord opposite both addressed an argument founded on the novelty of the system. But though the actual system might be a novel one, the principle was not a novel one at all. It was really the principle on which they acted in making voluntary reductions of rent in England. All it asked was to extend for the benefit and guidance of those to whom they intrusted those enormous and irresponsible powers in Ireland, the same principle on which they gratuitously acted for the benefit of all parties concerned, and to their great advantage, he thought, in England. In view of the period of the Session at which they had arrived, and of the appeal of the noble Marquess, he would not press this clause further, but he ventured to hope that the next time that Government attempted a final and complete settlement of this question this principle would find such favour that it would be embodied in the Bill.

Clause 3,—