§ MR. O'SHEA
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether, considering the great importance of the Land Law (Ireland) Bill, he will consider the expediency of ordering it to be occasionally reprinted during its progress through the House, the Amendments already passed being distinguished by italics or otherwise from the original text?
Sir, I find there is no regular course laid down in cases of the kind. There is some difficulty in determining when a reprint of this kind should take place. It would not be convenient to make such reprints very numerous, and some misapprehension might be produced if any reprint were made at the present stage, without the sub-section which was to be re-cast. It is usual, I believe, for the Chairman of Committees to consider what would be a convenient time for such reprints to be issued, and that course will be followed on the present occasion.
I had intended to have referred to that, and perhaps I had better say these two things now, without waiting until we are compelled to do so in Committee. First of all, we shall be able to lay upon the Table the form in which we shall propose Clause 7 to-day before the House parts. I think it would be convenient to say a few words in explanation of the form in which that part of the Bill appears. When the Cabinet first proceeded to consider this very important question the bias of their minds was towards the use of very general words, leaving the matter to the discretion of the Court, and not attempting to supply it with any directions as to the fixing of the rent more specific than the double injunction, that it was to hear all parties and examine all relevant circumstances. We 765 were, however, apprehensive that if we took that course, suspicion would be excited and objection taken to a discretion of that kind being given, and, whether we were right or wrong, we gave weight to that consideration. We then determined not to supply any definition; but we endeavoured to give a general indication to the Court, by adverting to what a solvent tenant would give on the one side, and to the consideration of tenant right on the other. But what happened in the way of comment, both outside and inside this House, very soon showed that that course had led to great misapprehension as to our intentions and as to what we thought ought to be done and would be the course of things under the Bill; and, as everyone knows, these misapprehensions, when once they have taken root, are exceedingly difficult to remove by any mere explanation. Upon the whole, we were led to the conclusion that we should do more wisely by proceeding upon the basis to which we were originally inclined—namely, that of giving general directions to the Court with respect to the hearing of parties and to the examination of all the relevant circumstances of the case—the same power that was exercised by the Courts in certain parts of Ireland in connection with the Ulster Custom, and also in certain cases arising under the Land Act—and the question, therefore, is not entirely new to them. Therefore, we intend to ask the House to part with all that portion of the clause referring to tenant right and the solvent tenant, and to give directions to the Court in a more general manner upon the double bases which I have described. I am only stating this with respect to the intention of the Government, and what they think best, with regard to a true and impartial consideration of this question, and without binding any other person, as far as I can gather, there is a disposition to consider this question impartially, and I do not really believe there is any essential difference in our mind as to the real basis upon which a fair rent ought to be estimated in Ireland.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, it was impossible to anticipate at that moment what would be the effect of this perilous change of front as regarded the 7th 766 clause, consequent upon the announcement made by the Prime Minister; but it would probably very much enlarge the domain of the Land Court. It was, therefore, now more than ever important that hon. Members should have some conception of the proposed Land Court. What he would respectfully ask the Prime Minister was, Whether, at the present moment, he was able to make any announcement respecting the constitution of the Land Court?
It does not appear to me, Sir, that this is a subject for a Question across the Table, even if it were with Notice, instead of, as it is, without. I do not see that the domain of the Court is going to be enlarged in the slightest degree; and, consequently, we should enter into matter of argument immediately between, the hon. Member and myself. But if he wishes to raise that question, no doubt he will be able to find an opportunity. I do not think we have as yet arrived at a point in the Bill at which it would be possible to entertain it with advantage. The House has not yet adopted the 7th clause, either in its present form, or with the modifications we propose.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, that if he were not in Order in asking a Question respecting the 7th clause, because that clause had not been reached, by what reasons did the right hon. Gentleman justify his own announcements regarding it?
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
said, he must remind the right hon. Gentleman that he put a Question some weeks ago, and from the answer he gathered that although he could not then communicate the names of the Commissioners, it was the desire of the Government to communicate them at the earliest convenient moment. He (Lord Randolph Churchill) should be glad to know whether he would give the names before they came to the 7th clause, which might be a very long time perhaps?
, in reply, said, that it would be difficult for the Government to give the names of the Commissioners until the House had determined that there should be Commissioners. He did not see how the names could be given before that time, otherwise they might be named to Offices which might never come into existence, 767 When the Government had a sufficient indication of the view of the. House, they would lose no time in making up their minds, and communicate the result to the House in time to enable them to take action if they thought fit.