HL Deb 10 August 1896 vol 44 cc347-51

The Acts specified in the First Schedule to this Act are hereby repealed to the extent mentioned in the third column of that schedule.


moved to leave out the word "First" and to insert instead thereof the word "Second."


moved to insert the following new clause after Clause 51:— (52.) "The present system of appointing court valuers from amongst the land sub-commissioners shall cease, and in future the court valuers shall be permanent officials of the Crown and be independent of the Land Commission. He said that the other night he laid down the principle that where a man's property was taken from him, he was entitled to an account, and he would go a step further and say, that when a man appealed, he was entitled to appeal to an independent person on the subject as to which he was aggrieved. On a recent occasion he pointed out that at this moment the Court Valuers attached to chief Commission were chosen from among the Sub-Commissioners, and as a consequence the Sub-Commissioners practically reviewed their own decisions, because one would be a Court Valuer for three months, and would then return to be a Sub-Commissioner. He also pointed out, that whilst A and B were practically revising and reviewing each others rents, it might not be impossible that there should be some sort of a fellow feeling in the matter, and that, without intending any harm, there should be a good deal of forbearance exercised towards each other's valuation. He based his claim for the insertion of the new clause, on the ground that it was equally fair and important to landlords and tenants. It was not a question whether they were going to be fair to landlord or tenant, but what was asked by the clause was, that they should be equally fair to both. If there was anything wrong in the clause, it would apply to both. A great reason in favour of this clause was that at present when a case came on for re-hearing neither party could cross-examine the Court Valuers. He pointed out that after the passing of the Act of 1881 a certain number of Court Valuers were appointed to be used solely for appeal purposes, and what was asked for was a reversion to that old method. At present the system was this:—A acted as a Sub-Commissioner in Antrim and might act as Court Valuer, say, in Armagh. B acted as a Court Valuer in Antrim and might act as Sub-Commissioner in Armagh. A was called to revise B's decision in the one case, and B to revise A's in the other case; the consequence might be a tacit understanding between them, such as was vulgarly expressed by the phrase, "Scratch me, and I'll scratch you." The result was that the Court Valuer's valuation, which the Court regarded as final, almost invariably coincided with the Sub-Commissioner's, and the appeal was no appeal at all. He contended it was a great grievance in Ireland that the Court Valuers, upon whom so much depended, were not entirely independent people. He begged to move the clause.


thought the noble Lord must have made his observations more with a desire to attract attention to this subject than with any hope that the Government should introduce at this stage a clause dealing with this branch of the subject. He realised the importance of having in the position of Court Valuers men of experience, and, above all things, thoroughly independent and trustworthy. As far as he could make out, the complaint of the noble Lord was that occasionally a Sub-Commissioner acted as a Court Valuer, or a Court Valuer acted as a Sub-Commissioner. He must say on the face of that he saw nothing that would lead one to suppose that such an employment of these officials constituted, in any sense, an abuse. He was told that if the Land Commission desired to send down a Court Valuer they very often sent down one of the Sub-Commissioners to value. He would ask the noble Lord whether it was not the case that a lay Sub-Commissioner and a Court Valuer were not persons in whom one would expect to find the same sort of qualifications? He should imagine the man who was thoroughly competent for the one purpose would be also thoroughly competent for the other. It was suggested by his noble Friend that there had been cases when these officials had been employed under circumstances which led to the idea that there was something like an understanding between them as to the standard at which they should value the lands. Of course, if any case of that kind could be pointed out, he had no doubt the matter would receive the attention of the Land Commission, but as to the general practice of employing these gentlemen either as Court Valuers or as Sub-Commissioners he could, he confessed, see nothing which was to his mind suggestive of a grave abuse. He was afraid he could not encourage the noble Lord to expect that they would incorporate his recommendation in the Bill.


said it was not so much a matter of grave abuse. It was a matter of whether it was expedient that this sort of practice should be carried on of employing a gentleman one month as a Sub-Commissioner and perhaps six months hence as a Court Valuer. He thought there was a certain amount of a case for what the noble Viscount asked, and he hoped the Government would not, at any rate, refuse the Amendment without giving it a little more consideration and advancing some stronger arguments than he had yet heard.


said the noble Marquess held out no hopes that this system would be amended or improved in any way. All they asked for was that Sub-Commissioners and land valuers should not be interchangeable. This appeared to be a reasonable demand, and if they had some sympathy from the noble Marquess they would feel much happier, and they would feel that the re-valuations would be more justly and more properly carried out.


said his noble Friend in charge of the Bill had shown, in the way he spoke, the greatest sympathy with the very important subject that the valuations for the head Court should be made by capable and upright men. But while recognising the great importance of these topics, it would be impossible to give an undertaking that the highly-paid men who were Land Commissioners should not be employed suitably and in suitable districts, and when they were available, to make valuations which might give the most valuable information to the head Commission.


said that, in withdrawing this clause, he would only point out, in reply to the noble Marquess, there was one very important qualification which the Sub-Commissioners and valuators had not in common. There was no independence in the valuator. The valuator was practically the final Court of Appeal against whom they appealed, and he was not an independent part of the body who fixed fair rents. It was one huge firm settling rents all over the country, and they were simply appealing from one member of the firm to another. The valuator ought to be entirely distinct from that firm.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Schedules were agreed to in the following amended from:—

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