Captain D'ARCY HALL
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that, in a recent case of compulsory redemption of tithe rentcharge at Knighton, in which the redemption money amounted to £271 17s. 2d. only, the fees and expenses of the Ministry of Agriculture relating to the transaction, which were payable by the tithe payer, amounted to £163 11s. 2d.; whether the scale upon which the above fees were founded is a maximum scale; if so, in what circumstances, if at all, fees less than the maximum are charged; what precautions are taken to inform persons contemplating the redemption of tithe rent-charge, before they are committed to such redemption, of the heavy liability for fees, etc., which they will incur; and whether, having regard to the fact that the imposition of fees so disproportionate in amount to that of the redemption money must seriously militate against the voluntary redemption of tithe rent-charge, he proposes to take steps to modify the policy or practice of the Ministry in the matter?
The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. The Ministry's fee is based on a scale sanctioned by a Rule made under the Inclosure, Etc. Expenses Act, 1868. I am sending my hon. and gallant Friend a copy, from which he will see that the scale varies according to the circumstances set out therein, but the Ministry is required to charge a fee calculated in accordance with the scale, and has no power to reduce the appropriate fee in any particular case. With reference to the last part of the question, my hon. and gallant Friend appears to be under some misapprehension in the matter. The redemption to which he refers has proceeded on the application of the owners of the tithe rent-charge, Trinity Hospital, Clun, Salop, and is compulsory as against the landowners concerned, by whom the expenses are payable. Prior to the application by the tithe owners it was open to the landowners to apply for the voluntary redemption of the annual tithe rent-charges in question, in which case the fee payable to the Ministry would have been £4 7s. 6d. Compulsory redemption, however, entails a survey of the lands,1454W the assessment of the shares of redemption money and expenses amongst all the landowners concerned, and the collection and recovery of such amounts. It is for these reasons that it is necessary to charge a very much higher fee in the case of compulsory redemption in order to ensure, as far as possible, that no expense is thrown on the Exchequer as a result of the Ministry exercising its statutory duties with regard to the redemption of tithe rentcharge.