* VISCOUNT TEMPLETOWN
rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they could state the principle upon which the Irish Land Commissioners had lately reduced rents in Ireland under the second term, and explain the great disparity between the average amount of such reductions and the average fall in prices of the chief farm products since 1881. He craved that indulgence which the House always extended to one who addressed them for the first time. He, an Irish landlord, was desirous of seeing justice done between man and man in Ireland, and he was prepared to act loyally under the Land Acts as they existed. Under the Land Act of 1881 the judicial term was fixed at 15 years. The second term was now beginning, and therefore this seemed a very good time to ask under what principles the rents in Ireland were being revised? What was the cause of the Government interference with rents in the year 1881? He believed it was the abnormal depression in 1879. What happened after the passing of the Act of 1881? The tenants whose rents had been previously raised, the tenants whose rents were high, went into the Land Courts, and the Commissioners granted them 15, 20, and sometimes 25 per cent. reductions. After a year or two tenants whose rents had never been raised thought they would try their luck—that was the expression used—and they went into the Land Courts, with the result that their rents were reduced by 15 to 20 per cent. Thus the same difference or inequality remained, and constituted a grievance. In view of certain statements made in Ireland it was well to bear in mind the words of the 8th Section of the Act of 1881. That section provided that—the Court, after hearing the parties, and having regard to the interests of the landlord and the tenant respectively, and considering all the circumstances of the case, holding and district, may determine what is such fair rent.Sub-Commissioners were sent out to fix fair rents, but they received no instructions as to what constituted a fair rent, and he was informed they had never stated the mode by which they arrived at a fair rent. Suppose the net profits of a farm to be £100 per year, after 11 allowing for tenant's improvements, etc. It was not stated how much had to be taken for rent, and he was told that up to the present no Report which had been issued by the Land Commission of the valuation of a farm gave the details of values of the various allowances made for improvements, nor did it give the gross value, so that it was impossible for any person to take up this form of Report and arrive at how the rent was fixed. As he should refer later to cases lately heard before Mr. Bailey, the Commissioner at Armagh, he would quote the words of that gentleman as reported in the Armagh Guardian of June 26, 1896. Mr. Bailey said:—As I pointed out in Armagh, at the hearing, each case must be revalued. Now, a valuation means the application to the particular holding of a scale of value based on a consideration of the various elements that determine the rental capacity of the land. Thus, the scale of value must be based on the prices of such items of agricultural produce as are suitable to the holding in question. But price of produce is only one element, The amount of produce, the character of the seasons, the nature and quality of the soil, its elevation and aspect, its proximity to or remoteness from markets and railways, the water supply, the ease or difficulty of access to the public roads, proximity to seaweed or turbary, the price of labour, the rates and taxes, are all elements that must be taken into account.Further on Mr. Bailey said:—As all these elements that I have enumerated are liable to vary from time to time, no more consideration of alterations in any one of them—such as alterations in prices of produce—would be sufficient or adequate.The Commissioner referred to the scale of value. What scale of value? He referred to prices. What prices? Who fixed the prices? And were not the nature and quality of the soil, elevation, aspect, proximity, etc., taken into account on the fresh hearing? He asked whose prices the Commissioner had in mind, because he found that Mr. Bailey when examined before Mr. Morley's Committee last year, was asked—Do you take the scale of prices as one of the incidents of your instructions in fixing a fair rent?The reply was, "No, we do not." Another witness—Colonel Bayly—said:—I do not use them (the prices issued by the Land Commission), because I think they will 12 give me practically no assistance at arriving at what a fair rent is.Asked—Do you mean to say by that that no return of prices would be of any assistance to you?he said, "I go so far as to say that." There was another question of importance to the landlords, and that was the principle on which rents were going to be revised. If the present reductions were to continue it meant that at least 30 or 33 per cent. of the income of the Irish landlords was to be swept away each year—of the £8,000,000 or £9,000,000 of rental something like £3,000,000 would be lost to them. He understood before the present Government came into office that if they were returned to power there would be no further inroads on the landlord's property. He wanted to know whether that policy was adhered to or whether rent reductions were to go on. If the reductions that had taken place under the second term were justified—and upon that he would express no opinion—there was no reason why the whole property of every Irish landlord should not be taken away in course of time under the Land Act of 1881. Was such a result as that contemplated by the Government, or was the policy which they declared to be theirs before their return to power to prevail? In Armagh the rents had been reduced on the second term by 33 per cent., which was a much greater average reduction than the fall in the prices of farm produce. In some cases the rent had practically disappeared. Forty cases had recently been disposed of in Armagh. The reduction on the old rents when first settled 15 years ago was 24⅖ per cent.; the reduction per cent. on the second term was no less than 33¼ He would mention one or two cases that deserved special attention. In 1858, Boyd Brown sold to James Brown a farm for £216 subject to a yearly payment to Trinity College of £5 7s. 6d. since increased 8d. to £5 8s. 2d. The area of the farm is 11 acres 1 rood 11 perches statute. In 1861, having taken three crops off the land he let to John Hughes, father of the present tenant, part of the land containing 8 acres 4 roods 25 perches statute and 13 retained in hand 2 acres 1 rood 16 perches, a portion which being liable to floods is of little value. The letting was for 12 years and the rent was to be £13 4s. 9d., no fine or purchase money was paid. In 1876, when the 12 years' term had expired Brown wished to take up part of the lands and served a notice to quit for that purpose. A new agreement was made between the parties that Hughes should still retain the farm and pay £14 4s. 9d.—that is £1 increase. In January, 1883, the first statutory term was fixed, the judicial rent being £11. In June, 1896, the second statutory term was fixed and the judicial rent being £6. The Poor Law valuation is £9 10s., and there are no buildings. At the hearing the only improvements claimed by the tenant were making 50 perches of draining and levelling 9 perches of glen. The lands lay within a mile of Keady, which was a thriving town with linen weaving factories in and around it. Two things stood out clearly in this case:—First that the reduction upon the old rent of £14 4s. 6d. was 57.64 per cent., and that upon the first judicial rent of £11 the reduction was 45.45 per cent., and secondly that by the ordinary process of Irish land laws to-day the account between the landlord, who was himself a farmer, and very poor, and the tenant stood thus:—The interest which the tenant had acquired on eight acres was at the moderate estimate of £10 an acre worth £80. For this he had paid nothing. His rent was £6 a year. The landlord received this £6 a year and having to pay £5 8s. 2d. of it away was left with 11s. 10d. as his rent besides what he could win from about two acres of bad land liable to flooding, and say worth £20. That together with his 11s. 10d. was all he got by way of interest on his £216. In short he had been "wiped out by Act of Parliament." There was another case which he should like to mention, that known as "Cope's case." The short facts were as follows:—Cope, landlord; T. Cunningham, tenant; area 7½ statute acres, old rent £8, about 1882 first judicial rent £6—under second term judicial rent £2 12s. 6d. Five and a-half acres of this farm were described as the best of upland and the Government valuation of this part was £6 10s. 14 The other two acres were cut out bog and were added to the holding prior to 1881. The cut out bog was very valuable land and let without difficulty for £1 1s. per acre, and he was informed the landlord had let other parts of the same bog at that rate within the last 12 months. The cases to which he had drawn attention were cases of mixed farms, and he proposed now to give some cases of grazing farms. First ease, Captain Hamilton Jones, landlord; John Fawcett, tenant; area, 141.33 statute acres; old rent, £89 10s.; judicial rent fixed in 1883, £64 10s. Government valuation of rent, £64; landlord's valuation of rent, £65 16s.; second judicial rent, £46. That was a reduction of 481 per cent. on the old rent, and a reduction of 28½ per cent. on the first judicial rent. Second case, Captain H. Jones, landlord; T. G. Taylor, tenant; area, 80 statute acres, 8 perches; old rent, £53 11s.; first judicial rent, £37; Government valuation of the land £37; landlord's valuation of the land £35 5s.; second judicial rent £25 10s., being a reduction of 52½ per cent. on the old rent, and 31 per cent. on the first judicial rent. These were grazing farms used almost entirely for the purpose of feeding store cattle, which they were capable of putting into good condition. The tenant claimed some small reclamation. The improvements were trifling in each case, and would not affect the rent much. What, therefore, caused this reduction? In each of these cases it would be noticed that the first judicial rent was the same as the Government valuation of the land, which was usually fixed lower on pasture lands. Having shown what had been the reduction of rents in Armagh, he now proposed to show the average fall in the prices of farm produce, comparing the prices of 1881–1883 with the prices of 1887–1895. Wheat fell 26.2 per cent.; oats, 4 per cent.; barley, 7.9 per cent.; flax rose 4.4 per cent.; butter fell 11.1 per cent.; pork, 4.7 per cent.; beef, 17.4 per cent.; mutton 15.8 per cent. The average fall, including flax, was 13.8 per cent. In the period from 1881–1883 to 1889–1895 only one commodity he had mentioned fell over 17 per cent., and that was wheat, which was fast disappearing. In the period from 1881–3 as compared with 15 the year 1895, the average fall was only over 18 per cent. in two commodities—namely, wheat and pork. But when they considered the fall in farm prices they ought to take into consideration on the other side that there had also been a fall of 30 per cent. in Indian corn and artificial manure, and of nearly 20 per cent. in grass seed. It ought also to be borne in mind that in many directions there had been steady improvement in Ireland. There was, for example, the increase in live stock. Comparing the periods 1881–5 and 1886–94, they found that the number of horses and mules had risen from 568,000 to 614,000; of cattle of all classes from 4,070,000 to 4,290,000; of sheep from 3,254,000 to 4,062,000, an increase of 25 per cent.; of pigs from 1,289,000 to 1,338,000, and of poultry from 13,590,000 to 15,112,000. Another indication of increased prosperity was afforded by the deposits in the Post Office Savings Bank and the Joint Stock Banks. In 1881, the deposits in the Post Office Savings Bank were £1,645,000; in 1895, they were £5,330,000. In the Joint Stock Banks, the deposits in 1881 were £28,200,000; in 1887, they rose to £29,000,000, and in 1895 to £37,400,000. It was often said that rents had gone down in England as well as in Ireland. He did not assert the contrary, and he sympathised with English landlords whose rents had been reduced; but before they compared the position of the English landlords with that of Irish landlords, they ought to be sure that the conditions affecting the two classes were the same; and he asked, were they? The following citation from Mr. Bailey's evidence before Mr. Morley's Commission in 1895 showed the position in which Irish landlords were placed:—I have found some of the best valuers will say that when a competition rent (we will suppose) would he 35s. per acre, perhaps the fair rent of that holding might be 20s. per acre.In other words, the holding would be worth 75 per cent. over the judicial rent. Then, in answer to Question 2,757, he said,—I should say that the fair rent of a holding as a rule would he roughly about two-thirds of the competition rent.16 That is the farm would let for 50 per cent. over a so-called "fair rent." Colonel Bayly in his evidence, in answer to Question 3,813:—How much would you deduct from that (competition rent) when fixing a fair rent on an average; would you go to the length of 30 per cent.? "replied," at least 30 per cent. more.Were the English landlords, he would ask, forced by a process of law to let their farms for 30 per cent. less than competition rents? Had any of the ownership of the land in England been taken from the landlord and been given to the tenants? If they took wheat, which was the principal crop upon which farmers relied for profit, they found that during the five years 1871–7 the average area per annum of wheat grown in Ireland was 197,000 acres, the total average of all cereals being 1,993,000 acres; so that, during those favourable years the cereals comprised 12.68 of wheat, while it occupied but 5.57 per cent. of the area under crops, and only 1.24 per cent. of the entire area used for agricultural and pastoral purposes. In England, however, for the same periods wheat occupied an area of 3,284,445 acres, being 43 per cent. of the cereals, 31 per cent. of the land under crops, and 13.7 per cent. of the entire area of the country used for agricultural and pastoral purposes. This was a question which affected an enormous number of the best and most loyal people of the United Kingdom; an answer to the question was awaited with very considerable interest in Ireland. ["Hear, hear!"]
THE DUKE OF ABERCORN
said the present reductions which were taking place under the new statutory term were creating the greatest consternation amongst the landowners in Ireland, who judged, and rightly, that if these reductions were allowed to be continued, many of them would be hopelessly ruined. The landowning class in Ireland, like many others, unfortunately, in this country also, had only a narrow margin to live upon. The landowners did not complain of the law; but they complained of the application of the law, and the way it was administered by an irresponsible body. Their chief complaint was that no record was kept as to the cause of the reductions that took place in the 17 Land Court, and that no reason was given to show that these reductions were in accordance with the general reduction of prices. The unfortunate landlord had no redress whatever, unless he went to appeal; and these appeals were very costly, and generally useless. He should like to read to the House part of a decision by Mr. Bailey, in the Land Court, at Armagh. Mr. Bailey said:—All evident improvements are presumed to be the property of the tenant. Thus it is not necessary to prove the making of such improvements as houses and fences. They are evident, and the tenant is entitled to them without limit of time where they add to the value of the holding. The same rule applies to improvements which are not self-evident, with this difference—that, as they are not self-evident, they must be proved to exist. Drainage and reclamation are not self-evident; it must he shown that these are in existence, and that they add to the value of the holding. Once these conditions are shown, however, the presumption is that they are the property of the tenant, and he is entitled to credit for them without limitation of time.He maintained that that judgment gave absolutely prairie value. The Chief Secretary for Ireland, in introducing the Land Bill on April 13th, said:—According to the Report of the Select Committee and to the Bill of the right hon. Gentle man, improvements should be held to include not merely the work done, but also the whole increased value, which is due to the tenant's expenditure of labour and capital, in conjunction with the inherent capacity of the soil. … Further, both the Bill of the right hon. Gentle man and the Report of the Select Committee agree in this, that all improvements, however ancient, are to be presumed to have been made by the tenant or his predecessor in title, unless the landlord has satisfied the Court to the contrary.…. I say without hesitation, that these two propositions taken together reduce practically all agricultural rents in Ireland to what is called prairie value.He did not see any difference in the principles which Mr. Gerald Balfour denounced and those laid down by Mr. Bailey; and he wished to know if Mr. Bailey's judgment met with the approval of the Government.
* VISCOUNT CLIFDEN
said the two Land Acts of 1881 and 1887 had made such a mess of the whole land question in Ireland as no one could have thought would be possible when those Measures were passed. He had every objection to the Act of 1881; but the Act of 1887 18 was worse. He was not surprised at the way rents were cut down by the sub-Commissioners, which, after all, was a very simple question. If the sub-Commissioners did not cut down the rents the tenants would not come into Court, and if the tenants did not come into Court the sub-Commissioners would not be required. He thought he need not draw the deduction. They would hardly find an instance in which these sub-Commissioners had not cut down the rents below the poor-law valuation; and he was sure that, when they did so, in nine cases out of ten they fixed a very improper rent. In England they had had for many years very bad seasons, which had not visited Ireland, and in fact during the last dozen years in Ireland they had very little to complain of as to seasons.
* THE EARL OF ROSSE
said he could fully endorse what had been said by the noble Lord who asked the question. There was, in his opinion, great danger that the case of the Irish landlords would be prejudiced by what had occurred in England, in consequence of the existence here of agricultural depression, which had induced English landlords to temporarily reduce the rents. In parts of England, agricultural depression prevailed to an enormous extent, with the result that a large number of farms were lying idle, but that was not the case in Ireland, where there was always a large demand for farms. In the north of England, near the large manufacturing towns, the rent of farms remained exactly what it was 20 years ago. These were in a great measure dairy farms. There could be no doubt that the Irish tenant-farmers were willing to pay a large sum in order to become the existing tenants, because they believed that they were about to obtain that which was once the landlord's property. Until some clear and definite principle was laid down for the guidance of the Land Commissioners, the landlord would be entirely in the hands of that irresponsible body. This question was of far greater importance to Irish than to English landlords, because the former had not, as the latter had, other sources of income than that of the land. When the Irish landlord found himself unable to meet his expenses, he could not let his house or his sporting rights, as an English landlord could do. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ * THE EARL OF WINCHILSEA
said that he thought that it would not be right that only Irish landlords should take part in this Debate, because it appeared to him that the question involved affected the foundation upon which all property rested. He hoped that Her Majesty's Government would give due weight to the remarks that had fallen from the noble Viscount who had brought this subject under the notice of the House. The noble Viscount had addressed their Lordships in a speech of peculiar moderation, and he had supported his arguments by figures of undoubted accuracy. The noble Viscount had not come forward as the champion of the landlords' rights, but had placed before the House the views of the tenants with great impartiality. He trusted that Her Majestey's Government would not think that this subject had been brought forward in a hostile spirit towards themselves. ["Hear, hear!"] It appeared to him that the landlords in Ireland had been reduced to the position of mere rent-chargers on what was once their own property, and that the actual property in the land had been, to a great extent, transferred from the landlords to the tenants. In England we had never thought it right to interfere by law with the amount of a rent-charge, however onerous. It must be remembered that very large reductions of rent had already been made in Ireland, and it was, therefore, unfair to still further reduce the rents except on the one ground of a fall in prices of agricultural produce. If it were true, as the noble Viscount had stated, that an incoming tenant in Ireland would give more for the right to occupy a holding at the existing rent than he would for the freehold, could it be said that the holding was over-rented? He doubted, however, whether, under the existing system, the incoming tenant benefited by any reduction of rent, because he would have to pay a larger sum for the right of occupation in consequence of it, and the interest on the extra price he would have to pay would more than equal the amount of the reduction. ["Hear, hear!"] In his opinion, the position of the Irish agricultural tenant had very distinctly improved during the last 15 years. It was true, as was stated by the noble Viscount, that there had been a fall 20 in prices to the extent of 13 per cent., but that was no reason why rents should be reduced by 30 or 40 per cent. He wanted to know by what authority the Land Commissioners, who were given certain exceptional powers to use for one purpose, were able to use them for quite another, and that a predatory and confiscatory purpose. ["Hear, hear!"] Her Majesty's Government could not shelter themselves in regard to this matter under the plea that the existing legislation had been carried through Parliament by noble Lords opposite, because they were now the executive Government of the country, and it was their business to see that persons who had certain powers given them for one purpose did not use them for other purposes. It was impossible to suppose that, in these days of rapid communication, what was done in Ireland would not affect England, and that these object-lessons in constant tampering with the security of property would not bear fruit in this country. His object had always been to teach the tenant to rely upon self-help, rather than to trust to agitation to get his rent reduced. Agreeing, as he did, with what the noble Marquess at the head of Her Majesty's Government had said on the Motion for the Third Reading of the Cattle Diseases Bill—namely, that the great object of Parliament should be to attract capital to the land—he wished to know how it was possible to attract capital to the land if they gave to Commissioners the power to do away with the only security which capital had—namely, that rent should be punctually paid? The way in which this matter had been brought forward would convince everyone that the Irish landlords took a fair and reasonable view of the situation. They only desired to know whether the reductions effected by the Sub-Commissioners were being granted on the principle of taking as a basis the fall in the value of produce, or whether they were simply perpetrating what was no more nor less than highway-robbery under the forms of law? That was the question the noble Viscount had addressed to the Government.
§ * THE EARL OF RANFURLY
said that the answer to the noble Lord's question was that all Orders by the Irish Land Commission fixing judicial rents for a second statutory term had been 21 made in a judicial capacity. Almost all of those hitherto made had been made by the Sub-Commission Courts, and if the parties were dissatisfied with them, an appeal lay to the Land Commission. Her Majesty's Government had no control over these decisions, nor any right to require an explanation of the principle on which they had been based. He wished to say, personally that he had heard, on what he believed to be good authority, that many of the cases referred to were to be appealed against, and therefore he thought that in the circumstances it would be hardly right for him to make any remarks upon the subject. He certainly felt with the noble Viscount in his wish to know on what basis the rents were fixed. As an Irish landlord himself, he had hitherto personally avoided going into the Land Court except in three or four isolated cases, and he was strongly of opinion that that goodwill which ought to exist between landlords and their tenants was better maintained without the intermediary, if possible, of the law.
* THE EARL OF MAYO
said he did not know whether their Lordships were satisfied with the answer of the noble Earl. For his part, he was not the least satisfied. It was the same old story that had been going on since 1883. In a Debate in that year, raised by the late Marquess of Waterford, the Duke of Argyll pointed out that the Commissioners took this ground:—"We are judicial persons and you have no right to inquire into our decisions." In 1896 the same sort of answer was given. The Duke of Argyll said:—Parliament had committed to three gentlemen absolute and uncontrolled power over the whole agricultural property of the Irish people. These gentlemen had not a single principle to guide them; but were vested with absolute discretion to redistribute property in Ireland as they pleased. He said respectfully that the Land Court was not a court of law, but it was a legal court. It was a court which administered by the will of Parliament the absolute discretion of throe individual men. Under these circumstances their Lordships had a right and the public had the right, to inquire into the principles upon which the Commissioners were acting.That was in 1883, and in 1896 the same thing was going on. What was to be the outcome of it? He only hoped that 22 when the Land Bill came up for discussion in that House, their Lordships would hear something more about the principle on which the Commissioners proceeded. The only principle, so far as he could see, was the fall in prices, and that fall had not been sufficient to admit of the enormous reductions in rent that had been made. It seemed to him that the Irish Office had a sort of cut-and-dried answer to every question put about Ireland. He objected to that sort of thing. Noble Lords spent a good deal of time in discussing their wrongs, and they would like to have a little more attention paid to them. He would certainly raise the question when the Land Bill came on, and he hoped noble Lords would support him.
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE)
said noble Lords could scarcely have thought it probable, in view of the Notice on the Paper, that his noble Friend would be expected to enter into a general discussion upon the intricacies of the land legislation of the last few years. His noble Friend had given, as it seemed to him, the only answer of which the circumstances admitted. He was asked whether he could state the principle on which the Sub-Commissioners had lately further reduced judicial rents. Those rents had not yet been finally reduced. It was yet to be seen whether the reductions were confirmed by the Court of Appeal. Until the result of the appeals was known, no one was in a position to say that the Courts had reduced those rents to the extent of which noble Lords had complained. His noble Friend was perfectly correct in stating that it was not within the province of Her Majesty's Government to interfere with the action of judicial tribunals. The Commissioners were a tribunal constituted under Statute, and it was, he conceived, altogether unconstitutional to hold that their decisions should be from time to time scrutinised and reviewed by the Government of the day. Obviously, the proper course, if noble Lords thought the law required amendment, was to raise the question of the amendment of the law. A Bill for the purpose of amending the Land code was now before Parliament, and would no doubt come before their Lordships' House in due time. 23 That would surely be the proper moment for considering whether any change in the law was necessary.
said that the answers of the Government had caused in him profound regret. He did not consider they dealt with the question he had raised sufficiently. Appeals could only be brought upon points of law, and not upon the point of value. A man might have his rents reduced 80 or 90 per cent., and yet he would not appeal unless a point of law was involved.
THE EARL OF ARRAN
thought the real point had been evaded. If the principles which pervaded the new Land Bill were in force there would be some basis on which to go as to the decisions of the Courts. At present the only conceivable basis was the fall in prices, and whereas the fall in prices had been only 13 to 15 per cent., the reductions in rent had reached 40 per cent. There was no reason for these reductions. He would like to point out that if, as he hoped would be the case one of these days, a turn came in the tide of agricultural affairs, the landlords in England would get their share of the increased prosperity, whereas in Ireland they would never get it. Another point that had not been touched on was very important. As a general rule, during the period through which they had passed, the fall in prices had been, to a very great degree, caused by very abundant harvests. Therefore, although prices had diminished, a good deal of the produce which the tenant consumed himself had been gathered in such quantities that he had fed himself very cheaply.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD HALSBURY)
said the noble Lord had propounded a problem which it was absolutely impossible for Her Majesty's Government to solve. The question he had put was upon what principle the Irish Land Commissioners had lately reduced rents in Ireland? The noble Lord knew perfectly well that, rightly or wrongly, the difficulty of deciding what was a fair rent had been placed by Parliament in the hands of certain persons. Did the noble Lord think Her Majesty's Government could go to those persons who had been invested with that responsibility and ask them upon what principle they had proceeded? If any Member of the Government did so, he had a strong sus- 24 picion that he would receive a very short answer. He would probably be informed by the judicial person that he was acting under the direction of Parliament, and by Parliamentary authority, and that an attempt to interfere by the Government for the time being with the judicial discretion invested in him was so unconstitutional and improper that he was much surprised at any Member of the Government venturing to do so. If the noble Lord was right that there could not be an appeal on what he might call the substance of the matter, if upon this question of fair rent, as to what was law and what was fact was certainly beyond his judicial experience, he thought there ought to be an appeal that there was not now; that was a fair matter to be raised, and if the noble Lord thought it right, to introduce a Bill on the subject. But what he would point out was that the Government were as powerless as the noble Lord himself to discern what were the principles upon which the Commissioners had acted. The wisdom of Parliament had confided to them that duty, and the Government could not be expected to dive into the minds of those Commissioners and find out what were the principles on which they had proceeded. What the noble Lord really meant was that the decisions were very wrong, and that the Commissioners ought not to have arrived at those decisions by reason of the contrasts that had been made between the fall of prices and the reduction of rents. Be it so, but Parliament had set up that tribunal, and that House was not a Court of Appeal in which that question could be properly discussed. If any future legislation was brought forward in that House in which this question arose, as both the noble Lords seemed to assume would be the case, then would be the opportunity of pointing out what was the defect in the law as it stood, and what were the Amendments they would suggest.