HL Deb 18 July 1901 vol 97 cc778-95

My Lords, I am induced to ask for a Select Committee on the recommendations of the Fry Commission owing to the unsatisfactory answers that I obtained about a week ago, when I addressed a series of questions to His Majesty's Government respecting the procedure in the Irish Land Commission. I am also prompted by the desire of an enormous number of land owners in Ireland who are most anxious that, whilst their property is being taken away from them, they should have some idea as to the procedure by which their rents are being year by year reduced. Your Lordships may recollect that on Thursday last I asked six questions of the Government respecting the recommendations of the Fry Commission to the Land Commission, with regard to those which they accepted, those which they declined to accept, and those which they also thought it better that they should not accept. That Commission was composed of five gentlemen. There were two competent British land valuers, one Nationalist solicitor, and an academic Unionist, and they were presided over by a gentleman who had been a most distinguished judge, and who was and is now a most eminent lawyer. It appeared to everyone that these gentlemen were the most competent to give decisions on the various points brought under their notice, but except in very minor cases these points have been almost entirely ignored by the Land Commission. To these questions I received no satisfactory reply from the noble and learned Lord who responded on behalf of His Majesty's Government, and I therefore feel constrained to ask your Lordships to grant a Select Committee in order that these points to which I have referred may be fought out and sifted.

There is no intention of asking that this Select Committee should be appointed to take over again any evidence on the subjects upon which evidence was taken by the Fry Commission. It would be limited almost entirely to ascertaining certain facts relative to the recommendations made in the Report of that Commission, and to a few questions which have arisen, or have become urgent, since that Report was issued. Least of all is it intended to examine the Judicial Land Commissioner, or any other judges of the High Court, as to their reasons for any decisions which have been given by them on questions of law. Therefore your Lordships will see that this Select Committee, if it be granted, will in no way interfere with the decisions of the Land Commissioners. It will simply inquire into the procedure adopted by the Land Commission, changes in which have been strongly and unanimously recommended by the members of the Fry Commission.

With regard to Reference No. 1 in my motion, the recommendations of the Fry Commission which have been already adopted are more or less known, but it seems necessary that they should be included in the reference, partly to enable the Select Committee to present a complete report, and partly to afford an opportunity of ascertaining how some of them are carried out in practice, and whether anything could be done to meet some of the objections to them in their present form which were mentioned by me in my speech in your Lordships' House on 11th July. With regard to Reference No. 2, the proposal to obtain a list of recommendations which have not been adopted is again a suggestion largely intended to enable the Select Committee to present a complete Report, but it also has a distinct connection with Reference No. 3 and Reference No. 4. I now come to Reference No. 3. There has always been considerable uncertainty as to the recommendations which could not be carried into effect without new legislation. It would, therefore, be important to have a definite report on this subject, as it would enable those interested to consider whether it would be desirable to ask for new legislation upon all or any of them. Reference No. 4 would enable the Select Committee to obtain from members or officials of the administering tribunals full particulars of the objections entertained by those tribunals to each of the Fry Commission recommendations which have not been adopted. Such a course could hardly fail to have a satisfactory result. In some cases the evidence might satisfy all parties that certain recommendations ought not to be pressed. In others, discussion might result in removing the objections hitherto entertained by the tribunals, or in the suggestion of modifications of the recommendations, or in the proposing of new and more acceptable recommendations. With regard to Reference No. 5, in his speech on July 11th the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor of Ireland said— he was told that the prices were circulated most carefully, and that every means was taken to enable people to know the prices. This statement gave no information whatever as to whether, and in what way, the prices of agricultural produce and stock are taken into account in fixing judicial rents, which is what we in Ireland are endeavouring to obtain from the Land Commission. With regard to Reference No. 6, experienced valuers have frequently said that "all the circumstances of the holding and district" are certainly not taken into account in the fixing of judicial rents, and the Fry Commission (at page 20 of their Report) explicitly say that— in point of fact, fair rents are now ascertained, with rare exceptions, by reference only to what we have called the technical line of evidence, and the circumstances of the case and of the districts do not receive that consideration which the Act of 1881 directs. The general object of this reference is to enable the proposed Select Committee to ascertain to what extent these statements are well founded. I know that this is a very dry subject, and one that can interest but few of your Lordships living on this side of the water, but it is of immense importance to those who live on the other side of the water. They feel it most deeply. I therefore respectfully and earnestly hope that His Majesty's Government will accede to my request for the appointment of this Committee, and I beg to ask, if the Government decline, for the sympathies of other noble Lords in supporting me. We are not asking for anything in any manner out of the ordinary way. We simply ask for justice. The people of Ireland, the landowners of Ireland, who have their rents, as I have said, greatly reduced, think it only right that they should be able to have a knowledge of the manner and the procedure under which their rents are so reduced. I think your Lordships will agree with me that this is a fair and reasonable request. In England when any land is taken away by compulsory means for any public object, railways, or anything else, evidence is taken on oath, and that evidence is the cause of the verdict for the appropriation of the land, and the amount to be given for the appropriation. We in Ireland under the Land Commission have no evidence on oath. Evidence is entirely voluntary, and the witnesses, as a rule, are men without any expert knowledge of the value of land, They are brought into court for the purpose of giving evidence in the manner that seems best to their own minds. Having made these few remarks, I beg to move that a Select Committee be appointed.

Moved, that a Select Committee be appointed to ascertain and report:—1. What recommendations of the Fry Commission have been adopted; 2. What recommendations have not been adopted; 3. What recommendations could not be adopted without new legislation; 4. What objections are entertained by the existing tribunals to recommendations which they have so far refused to adopt; 5. Whether, and in what way, the average prices of Irish agricultural produce and stock (as annually published by the Land Commission, and now published by the Department of Agriculture) are considered and taken into account in the fixing of judicial rents; 6. Whether, in determining the fair rent of a holding, pursuant to the provisions of Section 8 of the Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1881, there are any (and, if so, what) "circumstances of the case, holding, and district" (other than that specified in Section 8, Sub-section 10) which the Land Commission do not take into account, and what are their reasons for refusing to take same into account.—(The Duke of Abercorn.)


My Lords, in rising to second the motion I wish to support what my noble friend has said as to the apparent impossibility of getting the information we wish to have in any other manner. The Lord Chancellor for Ireland has spared no pains to give us all the information in his power. He has told us that all the points to which these questions refer are covered by judgments of the Court of Appeal and the Land Commission. These judgments are public, and are accessible to everyone. What we wish to know is the nature of the instructions that are given by the Land Commission to the Assistant Commissioners in pursuance of these judgments. We are told in general terms what the instructions are, but we wish to know the nature and the tenor of the instructions as a guide to people whose property comes under the Land Act of what they may expect as to the course of inquiry, and the points to which the most importance will be attached. Apparently my noble and learned friend Lord Ashbourne is not in a position to give the information. I think the reason is a tolerably clear one. He has repeatedly told us that the Land Commission is entirely separate from the Government; that they are not a Government department, or in any way responsible to the Government for the mode in which they administer the law; therefore we want to get the information from the fountain head. Mr. Commissioner Bailey, a legal Sub-Commissioner of very great experience, gave in February last his interpretation of the judgments, or some of them, to which reference has been made. Now, we wish to know whether the Land Commission concur in his interpretation of those judgments, and, if not, whether they have signified their dissent to him, because it is clear that otherwise his interpretation will be adopted by his colleagues. The interpretation appears to us to be open to objection, and therefore we wish to know whether the Land Commission concur with Mr. Bailey or not. The points are of an entirely technical description, and I do not propose to go into them in detail. I merely ask whether the Commission concur with Mr. Bailey, and if not, why not?

Mr. Commissioner Bailey, two years ago, gave a judgment, and the matter was brought before the House by Lord Templetown, and the answer then had to be given that Mr. Bailey was abroad, and therefore it was not possible to obtain any information as to whether the report in the newspapers was correct or not. But Mr. Commissioner Bailey on that occasion laid down that it was not the practice in valuing land, if the Commissioner thought a farm rented too highly, to reduce the rent unless the tenant applied to the Commissioners, and so similarly if they thought a farm too low rented it was not their practice to raise the rent unless the landlord applied. The result therefore appeared to be that Mr. Bailey and his colleagues fixed unfair rents on account of the omission of the landlord or the tenant, as the case might be, to apply for a change. We should like to know whether information has been given to Mr. Bailey or his colleagues as to whether that was a proper course for those who valued farms to adopt. I have put a question on the Paper which I think it would be more convenient that I should now submit. It is—

  1. 1. Whether it was at any time (and if so between what dates) the practice of the Irish Land Commission, or of their Assistant Commissioners, or of independent valuers, or court valuers appointed under Section 48 (4) of the Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1881, to value a holding on the assumption that same was wholly or partly in the landlord's hands, and to estimate what rent (on that assumption) he might expect to obtain from a prudent and solvent tenant.
  2. 2. In the case of Assistant Commissioners and valuers to what extent was any such practice due (1) to instructions from the Land Commission, and (2) to the initiative of the Assistant Commissioners and valuers themselves.
  3. 3. Under what circumstances was any such practice discontinued, and will His Majesty's Government ask the Irish Land Commission to furnish for the information of this House copies of any rules, minutes, orders, or instructions issued or made by them under which any such practice was discontinued.
I hope that the noble Lord in his reply will be able to answer the question with reference to the instructions which were issued a long time ago by the Land Commission to valuers as to the methods they should adopt in valuing land. I find that in 1882 the then Secretary of the Land Commission, writing to the valuer, Mr. Gray, said— You will give your opinion of the present fair letting value of each holding, irrespective of buildings, and on the assumption that the holding is actually in the hands of the landlord, and now to be let. In his instructions to valuers, dated February, 1882, Sub-Commissioner Ulick Bourke said— In ascertaining the value of these farms you will please to state what, in your opinion, would be the annual sum that a tenant of ordinary capital, skill, and intelligence could afford to pay, one year with another, for the several holdings as they stand, with all their surroundings, regarding the circumstances of the holding and district, and assuming that the landlord had the farms in his own hands to let to a solvent tenant for a period of fifteen years. Again, in February, 1882, Sub-Commissioners Roche, Lynch, and Morrison gave this instruction to an independent valuer— The present letting value of lands, exclusive of buildings, assuming them to be in the landlord's possession. It would appear, therefore, that in the earlier operations of the Land Commission they did request their valuers to value land on the assumption that it was in the landlord's hands. What I would like to know is when the instructions were given, when they were modified, if they have been modified, and when different instructions were given. This is a matter of the gravest importance, because if the position of an occupying tenant is so different from that of a new tenant, it is clear the occupying tenant must be possessed of something which the new tenant has not, and it is impossible for any ordinary layman to distinguish that from an occupation interest which has been ruled to be illegal, and not to be a basis to be considered in fixing, rent. The present reduction of rents is a matter which puzzles everyone. So far as prices go, the figures published by the Agricultural Department in Ireland show that prices are at least as high as they were fifteen years ago, and, in spite of this, rents are being reduced 20 or 25 per cent., and it is clear, therefore, that the reduction cannot be on the basis of variation in prices. This is a matter on which we would like information. It is desirable that some information should be given as to the basis for fixing rents. The county of Cheshire in England resembles Ireland in its agricultural and pastoral conditions, and I wonder if anyone connected with Cheshire would agree that the rents ought to be twenty-five per cent. lower than they were fifteen years ago.

I suggested last year that there were certain things which might be added to the pink schedule. The answer of my noble friend was that the Land Commission were of opinion that the pink schedule was already overloaded. We should like to know why they think so, because it is felt by people connected with land that too much information cannot be given in the pink schedule. The Land Commission try to persuade us that it is against the interest of the landlord to place this information on the schedule, but I think their chief objection to placing it on is that it would involve additional work. I will give your Lordships one particular point. I had a pink schedule in my hand last year in which "100 perches of fence" was mentioned, but it was not specified whether the fence was stone wall, mud bank, or wire, and, therefore, there was no way of ascertaining as to how far it was a permanent improvement. It seems to me very proper that in a case of that kind some description should be given of the fence and its position, and, if possible, that it should be accompanied by a map. I hope His Majesty's Government will see their way to grant this request, and I trust that we shall not be accused of attacking the Government. As the Government have assured us that the Land Commission is entirely independent of and not responsible to them, why our request for definite information should be regarded as an attack on the Government entirely passes my comprehension.


My Lords, I have been asked these questions more than once in several years, and I have loyally endeavoured to give the fullest possible answers. I have put myself in the frame of mind to give as full information as possible, and if I have not succeeded it is from no lack of desire on my part. It appears that I was particularly unfortunate on the last occasion, because the moment I sat down—it was at a critical time, ten minutes past eight—notice was given that my answer was so unsatisfactory that this motion would be made. I do not take it as an attack on the Government, as my noble friend asks me not to take it so, but, at the same time, its effect is none the less serious upon the working of an important public department like the Land Commission, because it must necessarily be a disturbance of the work of the Land Commission to be told that one of the Houses of Parliament is so dissatisfied as to their conduct that they have gone to the trouble of appointing a Select Committee to examinine into all their doings—


No, no.


Well, into a great many of their doings.




To inquire why they have done some things, why they have not done others, how far their decisions will be carried and which are to be considered final. It is obvious that such an inquiry would be far reaching, and if my noble friends are dissatisfied from their point of view, it may be that others who are dissatisfied from another point of view may ask also for an inquiry. It would be very difficult for a public Department continually called upon from one side or the other to satisfy Committee inquiries to properly discharge its duties. On the several occasions on which questions have been asked I have answered as fully and as fairly as I could. I told my noble friend Lord Clonbrock last year a great number of things that had been done by the Land Commission in deference to the Fry Commission Report. I read a long list showing that the Commission were doing whatever their experience told them was right. Last week I gave a list of eight recommendations of the Fry Commission, which, since the date that I was asked, had been adopted by the Land Commission, and now I am asked on the part of the Government what attitude I take in reference to a motion seeking for a Committee to inquire into the working of the Land Commission on all the points as to which I was interrogated on the last occasion.

My noble friend wants the Committee to inquire into and report what recommendations of the Fry Commission have been adopted. Why, I have told him three times over in this House. Then he wants the Select Committee to inquire into and report what recommendations have not been adopted. Those the noble Lord also knows, and the Landowners' Convention gave a list of them. He has nothing to do but to subtract one from the other. Why there should be a Committee of your Lordships' House to inquire into these points I cannot understand. Then the noble Duke wants to know what recommendations cannot be adopted without new legislation. I have given point after point in all the important matters that cannot be met without fresh legislation, and the report of the Landowners' Convention, of which I think the noble Duke is either president or chairman, shows that my noble friends are also in possession of that information. The next point they want the Committee to inquire into and report on is, what objections are entertained by the existing tribunals to recommendations which they have so far refused to adopt? I have pointed them out repeatedly in my speeches, and several times indicated the decisions of the Land Commissioners themselves, and of the Court of Appeal. The next point is on the subject of prices and the cost of production. I mentioned on the last occasion, and I may just refer to it, that there was a large volume of prices compiled by the Department presided over by my friend Mr. Horace Plunkett, and that that very careful document was circulated amongst those people who have the duty of considering how prices bear on value.

Then came what my noble friend admitted was a very special point. I quite recognise its importance—"whether, in determining the fair rent of a holding, pursuant to the provisions of Section 8 of the Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1881, there are any (and if so what) 'circumstances of the case, holding, and district' (other than that specified in Section 8, Sub-section 10), which the Land Commission do not take into account, and what are their reasons for refusing to take same into account?" It is hardly possible to imagine a more searching cross-examining question than that to be addressed to a tribunal, and it is obviously of very great importance. My noble friend presented to the House that it was obviously of the utmost importance in his eyes and those of all his friends. All his argument was addressed to that last point, because it really deals with what is the meaning of fair rent. More than half the speeches of my noble friends the noble Duke and Lord Clonbrock, have been directed to the point of getting not only at the definition of fair rent, but the elements that should go into the ascertainment of fair rent, obviously topics of the first importance. I see that my noble friend assents to that. The noble Duke, with the fairness and candour which always marks his dealings with the House, was good enough to send me a private memorandum on the last occasion on the sixth question, that what he particularly wished to know was this—was fair competition value taken into account in fixing judicial rents? The meaning of that of course was a reference to the fact that the Fry Commission had given a definition of fair rent, which rested on the assumption that the lands were in the occupation of the landlord, and that was the governing, pivoting set of words in the Fry definition of fair rent. That is a matter that came for decision before the Court of the Land Commission. Of course it was there as a recommendation from the Fry Report, but the Fry Report was not a judicial pronouncement; it was the suggestion of men in perfect good faith as to what they hoped might be made into a definition. But when the matter was submitted to a court of law, presided over by a judge of the High Court, and the points argued, the learned judge arrived at the conclusion that the words in the recommendation of the Fry Commission were not consistent with the Act of 1881, that they introduced the element of competition value, and that therefore he was unable to accept them as a definition applicable to all cases. That was the judicial decision of the judge of the High Court who presides over the Land Commission. That was not, of course, acceptable to my noble friends, who have always sought in some shape or form to get at this element of competition. Therefore it was that my noble friend, the noble duke, very kindly sent me a memorandum showing that what he now wanted was not the element of strict competition value, but the element of fair competition value. That is a very important question that I know has attracted a good deal of attention, and my noble friend Lord Clonbrock has supplemented it by drawing my attention by the series of questions he has made—very searching ones—to know whether certain decision of Mr. Commissioner Bailey, in Walker v. Lord Gosford, was accepted. That pivoted upon the words "fair competition rents," while the noble Duke used the words "fair competition value."

Now obviously these questions are of the very highest and of the most extreme importance. My noble friend Lord Clonbrock introduced the question whether in the early days of the Land Commission—I think he said February, 1882—there was not a letter sent by Mr. Godley, the then Secretary to the Commission, to Mr. Gray, a valuer, in which the words "in the landlord's possession" were used in reference to valuation. All I can say in reference to the matter is that none of the present Commissioners were in office then; they are only responsible for their own procedure, and their decision in reference to the matter is laid down with the most absolute clearness in the case of Ripley v. M'Naughten, that they could not and would not accept the words "in the landlord's possession." That is their attitude as to what they believe to be the requirements of the law in reference to the case, and it would not be right or proper for me to discuss that matter. The Court of Appeal was asked whether the Fry definition could be applied, and they declined to answer abstract questions. But Lord Justice FitzGibbon indicated that if the words were to be dealt with in an abstract way, he did not see how a definition could be made applicable to all cases which rested upon a false assumption of fact. I do mot discuss the matter at all. It may come up when I am present in the Court of Appeal, and when I may have to give an opinion upon it.

I am asked pointedly by Lord Clonbrock what I had to say in reference to the decision of Mr. Commissioner Bailey, who refused to allow "fair competition rent" as a test. My noble friend Lord Clonbrock said he wanted to know how far the Land Commission concurred in the decision of Mr. Commissioner Bailey. I am sure my noble friend cannot be aware that these cases are under appeal. The idea of suggesting to have a Committee of your Lordships' House to inquire into the developments of a case mow pending is obviously a matter which, if my noble friends were aware at the time, they would not have put forward. That is practically all that I have to say. The suggestion of having a Committee of the House to inquire into that case, and not only into the particular case under appeal, but it may be into other cases waiting decision, is a matter on which I could say more, but I do not think it would be reasonable to occupy your Lordships' time. I have said that it is a serious thing to distract a great department with an immense amount of work on its hands. It would be very undesirable to have a Committee of your Lordships' House, not composed of experts, to inquire into the decisions of the Commission. It would be outside the range of all precedent and fitness to suggest that cases that are waiting appeal should be submitted to the discussion and examination of a Committee of this House.


My Lords, on last Thursday night the debate came to a sudden conclusion, and I had not then the opportunity of answering the speech made by the noble and learned Lord. The speech made on that occasion was one that did not answer our questions. The noble and learned Lord on that evening made use of the following words:— He had to look at the matter from a reasonable standpoint. The legislation which they were condemning represented the law of the land. It must be fairly administered, and one must apply one's mind to it if one was to understand what was reasonable and proper in reference to all that was said on the subject. I quite agree with the noble and learned Lord as to the Act of 1881 being fairly administered as to the strict letter of the law, but it has been hardly administered. A great many of your Lordships must remember the circumstances maintaining in Ireland when that Act passed the Second Reading. To bear out what I say I should like to quote the words of the Lord Chancellor, Lord Selborne, on the Second Reading of the Land Act of 1881, on August 2nd. He said— Whenever you find that the customs, habits, and life of men have become developed beyond the letter and strict terms of the law; whenever you find that the interests of large and important classes have grown intermixed, entangled with each other in a way that makes some readjustment necessary for the safety of society; whenever that happens, however fixed the law may be, still the same moral necessity arises for the exercise of legislative power to make readjustments, whether they be large or small, whether they may seem violent or easy, which that state of circumstances renders necessary. Lord Selborne wound up the argument by saying— Under these circumstances the State has to discharge one of its greatest duties, the neglect of which might lead to injustice, and under some circumstances lead to revolution. We all know what that meant in those days. What was the answer of Lord Cairns to the speech of Lord Selborne? I will not quote Hansard, but in The Times the next day it was very briefly summed up in these words— He was not able any more than other opponents, or rather critics, of the Bill to deny that the Lord Chancellor's—that is to say, Lord Selborne's—plea of a paramount necessity was an irresistible one. A good deal of water has gone under the bridge since then, and circumstances have changed. Ireland is quieter, but the Act of 1881 is still vigorously applied to the revision or lowering of rents. Some call it confiscation of the property of the landlords. During times of revolution there is no doubt that edicts are passed that in more peaceful times are revoked. For instance, at the inception of the French Revolution on 10th October, 1789, the States General confiscated the property of the Church. In 1801 the Concordat restored the Church of France shorn of its wealth. This only shows that when times of revolution have passed away strong measures that were needed at those times, to say the least of them, require amending.

Passing away from the time of 1881 I turn to the Fry Commission. In the speech which my noble and learned friend Lord Ashbourne made on Thursday he said— The high prices paid for tenant-right cannot be accepted as demonstrating that the rents have been needlessly reduced. That was the sheet-anchor of the landlord's argument. The Commission had refused to accept that as a powerful argument against a large, lavish, and indiscriminate appeal against the Sub-Commissioners. That had been treated as mere idle talk and waste paper. Our sheet-anchor, he said, has been treated as mere idle talk and waste paper. That was a rough-and-ready way of answering us, no doubt, but I do not think it satisfactory. A foolish man gives a high price for a piece of bad land he loves. That is what is meant by paying a high price for tenant-right. What we say is that this fact has never been taken into consideration by the Land Commission. This is a cut-and-dried argument of the noble and learned Lord and other noble Lords who have answered for the Government on this question. They always seek to minimise the recommendations of the Fry Commission. We have heard it before, and doubtless we shall hear it again. I prefer to take the questions which were put by the noble Duke, and which were not satisfactorily answered, but before doing so I should like to draw attention to the question of fair rent. What the noble and learned Lord said last Thursday on this question was this— It was decided in 1881 that, fair rent was that sum which could be ascertained by the tribunal under the Act, having regard to the interests of landlord and tenant, and having regard to the circumstances of the case. Well, right or wrong, we have to live under that definition, and we have to live under the Land Law administered by the, Irish Land Commission. The noble and learned Lord has said, and I agree, that certain small recommendations have been adopted by the Land Commission. What are they? In reality they are only rules of procedure. What I desire to emphasise is that the land laws in Ireland are pressing very heavily upon us. We have to speak in. this House for those who have no voice in the matter, and who live the life of loyal country gentlemen in Ireland. Now, the first question of the noble Duke (the Duke of Abercorn) was, what recommendations of the Fry Commission had been adopted, and that was answered the other day by Lord Ashbourne in this way. He said that the list was so technical that he did not like to explain it in detail then. The second question was, what recommendations had not been adopted. What was his reply to that? He said, "Subtract one from the other and you will find it out." In all fairness is that the way to answer the noble Duke's question? I know what the noble Lord means. It is that the Irish Landlords' Convention have produced a paper, and that therein is given a list of recommendations which have not been adopted by the Land Commission. The third question was, what recommendations could not be adopted without new legislation, and that is answered generally by the statement that if a Select Committee is appointed we shall be interfering with a great judicial body. I think that was a simple question which could be easily answered. The question as to what objections are entertained by the existing tribunals to recommendations which they have so far refused to adopt still remains unanswered. I now come to the real point of the question with regard to prices. I have spoken about this before. One would think that when rents in any country were dealt with, the prices of agricultural produce and stock would be taken into consideration. The noble and learned Lord said that the new department had published tables and statistics which dealt with this I hold in my hand the volume to which the noble Lord referred. The tables are compiled by that clever public servant Mr. William P. Coyne, superintendent of the statistics branch of the new Department of Agricultural and Technical Instruction in Ireland, and he says— The prices of Irish agricultural products given in this long return relate only to agricultural products produced or manufactured in Ireland. In addition to the twenty-six annual tables which have hitherto been given in the Irish Land Commission returns, I have inserted in this return statements for each quarter of the year 1900. The diagrams which accompany the tables, without pretending to mathematical accuracy, will, it is hoped, illustrate the general tendency of the price levels of the various commodities and animals enumerated. You can see at a glance, in the same way as you read a barometer, exactly how the case stands. An examination of these tables shows that the average prices of the eleven years from 1890 to 1900 are higher than those of the three bad years from 1887 to 1889, during which the judicial rents fixed in 1881 and 1885 were temporarily reduced, and there could be no excuse therefore for further reducing those rents in the second statutory period. Now what generally is the result of the fixing of judicial rents by the Land Commission? I will repeat what I said last year— That the fact of the matter, with regard to prices, is that the Land Commission have an Agricultural Department which publishes prices, and a Department which fixes rents; the former are embodied in the tables I have mentioned, drawn up by the new Department which fix the rents, and it is impossible to reconcile these tables. For instance, the reduction in agricultural prices in given at 4.7 per cent., whilst the reduction in rents has been 24.7. I should like to draw attention to the fact that the noble and learned Lord stated that there was no precedent for the appointment of a Select Committee. There is a precedent, for on the 24th February, 1882, on the motion of Lord Donoughmore, a Select Committee was appointed by the House of Lords to investigate into the working of the Land Act of 1881. Mr. Gladstone's Government opposed the motion, but the House appointed the Committee, and they were reappointed in 1883. They examined a great number of witnesses, and made altogether four reports.

Now, what broadly is this system and these laws pertaining to land that we are forced to live under in Ireland? It is this, every fifteen years landlord and tenant, tenant and landlord are thrown into the melting pot of the law. They are taken out in the case of the landlords poorer and not wiser men. In the case of the tenant his condition, although it may be better, leaves him dissatisfied, and with the full knowledge that there may be an appeal, and also that after fifteen years his rent may be raised. I think I am right in saying that the framers of the Land Act of 1881 had no idea that this fifteen years' revision of rents would continue for ever. It is exactly like the case of the man who sits down at a gambling table on the Continent. A certain sum has to be put into a basket, in order to enable him to take the bank and deal the cards, and he has only to play long enough and everything by degrees will go into that basket. It is a system of legislation that exists in no country in the world, and no matter in what way one wishes to improve or develop property, no matter what schemes—commercial, agricultural, or industrial—one desires to embark in, these laws pertaining to land hit one in the face whichever way one turns. The remedy for a long-standing evil, or, rather, I will call it law, is hard to find, and the recovery must be gradual. In my opinion, and in the opinion of everyone I have spoken to in Ireland, the first step must be in the more generous application of the Voluntary Sale and Purchase Acts. It was the opinion of the Fry Commission that the practice of the Department, i.e., the Land Commission had been over strict in the matter of security, and that applications to the Department had been thereby discouraged. In the matter of procedure, it is most important that there should be a simplification of procedure in the courts dealing with the proving of title. I know that the noble; and learned Lord said that we may hope to see a Bill passed to facilitate land purchase. We have been told that "Hope springs eternal in the human breast," and we have been hoping for a long time. It is very easy to sell bad land in Ireland, but very hard to sell good land, because, if the tenant and the landlord come to an agreement as to the price and shake hands over the bargain, they may, by the present system, be placed in the same position as before. Anything which will facilitate land purchase will be a great benefit. This is not a landlord's or a tenant's question, for both have long agreed that this system hampers every possible development. To imagine that these terrible land laws are to go on for ever is impossible to any sensible man.

Grafton, D. Annaly, L. Headley, L.
Ardilaun, L. Inchiquin, L.
Abercorn, M. (D. Abereorn.) Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.) Kenmare, L. (E. Kenmare.)
Winchester, M. Kilmaine, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Leconfield, L.
Calthorpe, L. Macnaghten, L.
Abingdon, E. Carysfort, L. (E. Carysfort.) Monck, L. (V. Monck.)
Annesley, B. Castlemaine, L. Monckton, L. (V. Galway.)
Bandon, E. Castletown, L. Muskerry, L.
Drogheda, E. Chaworth, L. (E. Meath.) O'Neill, L.
Essex, E. Clifford of Chudleigh, L. Ponsonby, L.(E Bessbwotigh.)
Feversham, E. Clonbrock, L. [Teller.] Rathdonnell, L.
Grey, E. Crofton, L. Rossmore, L.
Lucan, E. De Mauley, L. Sherborne, L.
Mayo, E. [Teller.] De Ros, L. Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde.)
Rosse, E. Deramore, L. Stratheden and Campbell, L.
Verulam, E. Dunalley, L. Strathspey, L. (E. Seafield.)
Dunboyne, L. Sudley, L. (E. Arran.)
Clancarty, V. (E. Clancarty.) Dunleath, L. Suffield, L.
Frankfort de Montmorency, V. Fermanagh, L. (E. Erne.) Templemore, L.
Ventry, L.
Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.) Greville, L. Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)
Grey de Ruthyn, L. Worlingham, L. (E. Gosford.
Halsbury, E. (L. Chancellor.) Derby, E. Cottesloe, L.
Dudley, E. Cranworth, L.
Devonshire, D. (L. President.) Hardwicke, E. Glanusk, L.
Howe, E. Hatherton, L.
Salisbury, M. (L. Privy Seal.) Mansfield, E. James, L.
Morley, E. Kenyon, L.
Marlborough, D. Spencer, E. Kinnaird, L.
Northumberland, D. Stamford, E. Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)
Portland, D. Waldegrave, E. [Teller.] Lawrence, L.
Leigh, L.
Lansdowne, M. Cross, V. Ludlow, L.
Napier, L.
Pembroke and Montgomery, E. (L. Steward.) Norton, L.
Abinger, L. Poltimore, L.
Clarendon, E. (L. Chamberlain) Ashbourne, L. Raglan, L.
Bradford, E. Balfour, L. Stanmore, L.
Cawdor, E. Belper, L. Tweedmouth, L.
Dartmouth, E. Brassey, L. Wandsworth, L.
Denbigh, E. Churchill, L. [Teller.] Windsor, L.