§ "To move for a return showing, for the twelve months ending 31st March, 1898 (by counties)—
- "I. The number of cases heard by Sub-Commissions in which applications for rehearings were lodged and proceeded with:
- "II. The total amount of fair rent fixed by the Sub-Commissions:
- "III. The total amount of fair rent reported by the court valuers, namely—(a) the number of cases in which the court valuers agreed with the fair rent fixed, and the total amount of such fair rent; (b) the number of cases in which the court valuers recommended the fair rent to be increased, and the total amount of such increase; (c) the number of cases in which the court valuers recommended the fair rent to be reduced, and the total amount of such reduction:
- "IV. The total amount of fair rent fixed on rehearing, namely—(a) the number of cases in which the court confirmed the rent recommended by the court valuers, and the total amount of such rent; (b) the number of cases in which the court increased the fair rent recommended by the court valuers, and the total amount of such increase; (c) the number of cases in which the court reduced the rent recommended by the court valuers, and the total amount of such reduction."—(Lord Clonbrock.)
* LORD CLONBROCK
In moving for the Return which stands in my name on the Paper, I should like to say a few words as to my object in doing so. I am aware that a portion of the information which is asked for in this Return has been or will shortly be made public—that is to say, the number of cases heard by the Sub-Commissioners in which applications for rehearings were lodged and proceeded with, the amount of rent fixed by them, and the subsequent dealing 836 with those cases by the court of rehearing. But, besides that, there is an important matter—a link between the two—to which I wish to direct attention, and which is not in the same way made public, and that is to the reports of the court valuers as to the fair rent and the letting value of the farms. I believe that this Motion of mine is inaccurately worded, and I should like the permission of the House to amend it. Paragraph 3 (b) should run—The number of cases in which the court valuers reported the fair rent, or fair letting value, to be in excess of the rent fixed by the Assistant Commissioners,and so on. Owing to a change lately introduced the county court valuers do not now recommend the fair rent to be increased. What they do is to report on the fair letting value of the farm. This question of court valuers attracted the attention of the Fry Commission to a considerable extent, as is shown by the large space they allot to it in their Report. I mention this more especially, as one of their recommendations with reference to the court valuers was brought before the House on Thursday last—namely, that they should not be furnished with the pink Schedule, so that it should be clear that they formed a perfectly free and unbiassed opinion, and were not guided by the previous opinion of the Sub-Commissioners. This was brought before the House by my noble Friend the Duke of Abercorn; but, if my recollection serves me right, neither the noble Marquess who spoke from the Front Bench, nor the noble and learned Lord, alluded to it in their replies. I think it would be of great importance, not only to the landlords but to all interested in the administration of the law in Ireland, to know how far the valuers had formed an unbiassed opinion, and how far they varied in their estimates from the estimates of the Assessment Commissioners. I, therefore, hope that the noble Earl will assist us by giving us this Return. The noble Marquess at the head of the Government gave exceedingly sound advice to a deputation of Irish landlords whom he did the honour of receiving last year. He told them that those who did not complain went to the wall, and that if they thought 837 they were suffering injustice, they ought to take care that the injustice was not done in the corner. Well, my Lords, we have gone to the wall, there is no doubt of that, but it must be remembered that for a considerable time when the question of the integrity of the Empire was before the country we refrained from doing anything that would in any way embarrass the Government. We thought that to do otherwise would amount to an act of treason to our cause, and the party to winch we owed allegiance. We therefore forebore from pressing our claims, and the reward for our forbearance was the Act of 1896. We are most anxious to follow the sound advice given by the noble Marquess; we wish to lay our case before the public, but we wish to do so in the most open and straightforward manner, and to be very sure of the ground on which we stand. Now it seems to me to be far better that we should be able to rest our case on official, and, therefore, authentic figures, rather than on a gleaning and piecing together of isolated Reports and figures which might not give a fair estimate of the matter. I earnestly hope that the Government will see their way to grant this Return, and if I have not quite correctly expressed my object, that they will accept the spirit of it, and give it in some more accurate and convenient form, so that the reports of these court valuers may be made public, and also that we should not be made to wait until the next Report of the Land Commission, but be furnished with the information at an earlier date by means of the Return for which I beg now formally to move.
§ THE EARL OF DENBIGH
My Lords, the noble Lord has told us that he wishes to alter the terms of the Question which he has put down upon the Paper, but I hope he will excuse me for saying that I am afraid I cannot on the spur of the moment consent to his doing that. I can only give him an answer to the Question which he has put down. The information which appears to be sought in the first and second paragraphs of the suggested Return will be found on 838 reference to Tables 42 to 51 of the Appendix to the Annual Report of the Irish Land Commission for the year ended 31st March, 1898, which was presented to Parliament on Saturday last. I am afraid it has not been circulated to the noble Lords, but I have an office copy which I shall be glad to hand to the noble Lord if he would like to see it. In that Report figures are given which, for the period mentioned, show the number of applications for the rehearing of cases heard by the Sub-Commissioners; the number heard as well as the number withdrawn; and whether such cases were for a first or for a second statutory term. The returns also show the total amount of rent fixed by the Sub-Commissions, as well as the total amount of rent fixed by the Chief Commissioners after rehearing; and it, therefore, would appear unnecessary to prepare and embody in a separate Return the information asked for in these paragraphs. Then the remarks which I made at the beginning of what I said with regard to the noble Lord's request had more reference to the third and fourth paragraphs, and I was going to tell him that I am afraid it is impossible to give the very full and extensive Return mentioned for this reason, that until recently the court valuers did not purport to return the fair rent of the holding, but merely the fair letting value as it stood, on certain assumptions. Deductions, depending on many circumstances, may have had to be made from this sum in order to ascertain the fair rent. I am sure sure, therefore, that the noble Lord will see that it is impossible to give the Return in the exact terms in which he has asked for it. If, however, the noble Lord still wants further information, and will put down a Question on the Paper in the exact terms in which he would like it answered, I will make inquiries and see whether the information which he asks for can be provided.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at 6.30.