My Lords, I beg to ask Her Majesty's Government(1) whether their attention has been called to the statements made by Mr. W. F. Bailey as to his practice in fixing fair rents, as reported in the Belfast Newsletter of 12th May, and the Daily Express of 26th May; (2) whether his statements have the combined effect of saying that he considered he had jurisdiction to fix the actual fair rent, but that it had long been the practice of himself and his colleagues not to raise any rent unless the landlord had served a notice demanding an increase of rent; and that consequently there were many cases in which judicial rents had been fixed below what he and his colleagues believed would have been fair rents; (3) whether Her 152 Majesty's Government and the Irish Land Commission admit that the practice of Mr. Bailey and his colleagues is in accordance with the law; and, if not, whether any (and what) steps have been taken to instruct Mr. Bailey and the other Sub-Commissioners as to the legal practice in such cases; and (4) whether Mr. Bailey will be asked to furnish a list of the cases in which he admits that rents which were less than fair rents were judicially fixed by him or his colleagues; and whether the Land Commission in such cases will give the landlords an opportunity of having their cases reheard.
§ THE EARL OF DENBIGH
My Lords, I think it is unfortunate that the noble Viscount, if he desired information on this subject, did not ask his question earlier. I would call his attention to the fact that his question is based on reports which appeared in the newspapers so far back as the 12th and 26th of May last, and that the annual vacation of the Sub-Commissioners commenced on July 29th. Mr. Bailey, the Legal Assistant-Commissioner, who is referred to in the noble Viscount's question, is absent from the United Kingdom, and his address is not known; and, even if the Land Commissioners considered such a course proper, it would not be possible in the time named to ascertain from him whether the newspapers referred to have correctly reported his statement in the particular cases mentioned. As to the third question, whether Her Majesty's Government admit that the practice of Mr. Bailey is in accordance with the law, I would again remind the noble Viscount that it is not possible for the Executive to interpret the law.
I agree with the noble Earl that the matter ought to have been brought up earlier, but I think it is due to your Lordships to say that I placed the question on the Paper as soon after I was asked to do so as possible.