These are two very important Sections, 28 and 29, and it would be well that we should get the hang of them in the beginning. The machinery of the Bill is, shortly, this. There is an appointed day which varies for different sections, different counties, different areas, as the Land Commission wish. When they are ready to name the appointed day in any area which they think is suitable, they name it for a specified area. There is no such thing as an appointed day for the congested districts, for instance. There might be an appointed day, for instance, for three parishes in the County Galway. I doubt if they will deal in parishes; they will probably deal in estates. The appointed day comes when the Land Commission ascertain a few very simple particulars: the name of the tenant and of the landlord, the area of the holding, etc. Then they can name the appointed day. They name the appointed day for all holdings except retained holdings. I will just read the Section on that point:—
The tenant of every holding of tenanted land vested in the Land Commission by virtue of this Act, and to which this section applies, shall be deemed on the appointed day to have entered into a subsequent purchase agreement for the purchase of the holding from the Land Commission at the standard price.
The second Sub-Section is rather important:—
There shall be payable by the tenant to the Land Commission an annual sum, equivalent to the standard purchase annuity for the holding, and the additional annuity (if any) in respect of compounded arrears of rent added to the purchase money, from the appointed day until the gale day next after the holding is vested in the tenant. The Land Commission shall have for the recovery of such annual sum the same remedies as they have for the recovery of unpaid instalments of purchase annuity.
So that from the appointed day, which can be fixed extremely quickly after ascertaining a few simple particulars, the tenant purchaser is paying a sum which is equivalent in amount to his standard purchase annuity. We do not call it purchase annuity. We call it an equivalent sum. The tenant purchaser has the example of the operations of the 1903 Act all round him, and we do not want to give the impression to him that he was the absolute owner in fee-simple of his holding on the appointed day, and that we were unable to re-arrange the estate, as estates have to be arranged under all purchase Acts. We want to give him all the advantages of being the owner in fee-simple for the time being. We are allowing him to pay a sum equivalent to his annuity, and not the old interest in lieu of rent which was always higher than the annuity, and no part of which went in redemption of the annuity, with the result that under the 1903 Act you have sales pending in the Land Commission for 7 or 8 years. You have tenant purchasers paying interest in lieu of rent which is higher than the annuity and not one penny of which goes in redemption of their advance. We want to abolish a long-standing grievance, namely, the interest in lieu of rent period. We have arrived at the appointed day and the date on which the tenant begins to pay the sum equivalent to his standard purchase annuity. Then:
There shall be payable by the tenant to the Land Commission on the gale day on which the first instalment of the said annual sum shall become payable by him an additional sum, equivalent to a proportion of the said annual sum in respect of the period between the said gale day and the day on which the next dividends are payable on Land Bonds issued under this Act. The Land Commission shall have for the recovery of such additional sum the same remedies as they have for the recovery of unpaid instalments of the purchase annuity.
Every holding to which this section applies shall be vested in the tenant by the Land Commission by vesting order or otherwise.
Now, we come to the second portion— namely, the date of vesting. In the 1903 Act there was the date of the agreement and the date of vesting. In this there is an appointed day, and the date of vesting. Under the 1903 Act, between the date of the agreement and the vesting, the tenant paid interest in lieu of rent. Under this Bill, between the appointed day and the date of vesting, he pays the equivalent to the standard purchase annuity.
This is an important section:—
All payments made by the tenant after the appointed day on foot of the annual sum payable by him to the Land Commission under this section shall, from and after the vesting of the holding in him, be treated for all purposes as if they had been payments in respect of purchase annuity.
That is to say that after the date of vesting we make an adjustment. It is only a matter of book-keeping. We give him credit for the sinking fund portion of his payment which he has been making between the appointed day and the date of vesting. That gets over the difficulty of the interest in lieu of rent period, without doing anyone any harm. It is perfectly obvious that if we had to make all the inquiries and all the arrangements, checking accurately, and have everything fixed before we could name the appointed day, that we would be back to the old procedure. We are not in a position to do that—to say the last word on every issue until the date of vesting. When we have all the details settled we vest, because we know that everything is fair and square. If we were to adjourn the appointed day until we had every detail settled, then the appointed day would not come for the long period that elapses between the date of the agreement and the date of vesting under the 1903 Act, which is sometimes two and four years and on odd occasions about 12 years. There are sales begun in 1907 still pending in the Land Commission for a good many reasons, chiefly the war. The average period is about five years. If we are to abolish this interest in lieu of rent period and give the tenant all the benefits of paying a sum equivalent to his annuity, and redeeming his holding from a very early date, we must retain any holding we have any suspicion about, that might have to be re-arranged afterwards. We must do it with a fairly wide sweep.
There will be 75 or 80 per cent. of holdings—ordinary economic holdings— where any inspector will know that the tenant is not going to be stirred. It is the minority that always make the trouble. We must, then, as I say, with a pretty wide sweep, exclude from that advantage, to start with, the holdings we have any doubt about, that we think may have to be re-arranged afterwards for any reason. Hence we exclude any holding in respect of which the standard price exceeds £3,000. Why? Our limit is £3,000, the same limit as the 1909 Act, and the same as the 1920 Bill. We may sell more, and we may not. We have not made up our minds. We cannot hold up the appointed day for the other 75 per cent. until we make up our minds.
The Sub-section reads:—
Any holding in the beneficial occupation of a tenant who is on the appointed day the proprietor of lands for the purchase of which advances have been made under any of the Land Purchase Acts, and whether redeemed or not, if the total amount resulting from the addition to the standard price of the amount obtained by capitalising at the rate of four and three-quarters per cent. the original annuities payable on such advances, exceeds £3,000.
That sounds pretty formidable, but it is simple with a little explanation. Any tenant who got an advance of over £3,000 under the 1903 Act, that advance was counted in for the purposes of the limitation under the 1909 Act, the principle being: how much is the State lending? It does not matter whether it is this Act or that. There was only one doubt as to the 1909 Act and it was this: Suppose a tenant got an advance under the 1903 Act and had redeemed it, was he entitled to the full £3,000 under the 1909 Act? There was a rather famous case, in re Mary Sweetman, which was taken to the Courts, and there it was decided that it did not matter whether the tenant had redeemed his advance or not It was to be taken into account.
That is the law of the land at the moment. That is not the law of this Bolshevist Government that is out to destroy property and play the deuce with the big farmer. That is the law of the good old British Government. That was a provision in the 1920 Bill accepted by all parties. It occurred to me that it was unfair in one respect and I altered the law for the benefit of the tenant. This is the case that occurred to me. A farmer may have two farms. He may have purchased one under the 1903 Act when the price of tenanted land was much higher. His advance may be £2,000. He has another farm which is not purchased yet and which is to be purchased under this Bill. If he had not the bad fortune to purchase under the 1903 Act the £3,000 might conceivably purchase both farms now because the price is low. He has got his advance of £2,000 already and has only £1,000 to spare. How to put that man in the same position as the man who had not purchased either farm under the existing law was the dilemma.
After a considerable amount of consideration we arrived at this principle: "If the total amount resulting from the addition to the standard price of the amount obtained by capitalising at the rate of 4¾ per cent., the original annuities payable on such advances exceeds £3,000." We took his original annuity. Under the 1903 Act it was 3¼ per cent. on his advance. The annuity capitalised at 3¼ per cent. would be a lot less. That is clear. We are, therefore, putting him in the same position as if he had never purchased and as if he was to get an advance under this Bill as near as we can do it. There is only one alteration in this Section from the 1920 Bill, and that is an improvement on the side of the tenant, and on the side of the big tenant. That cannot be gainsaid. "Any holding as respects which the Land Commission declare that it is not in the public interest that the holding shall be re-sold to the tenant as aforesaid, whether on the ground that the improvement of the holding is essential and practicable or otherwise." We might take such a holding for draining purposes or otherwise. We give ourselves wide powers to retain any holding we are suspicious of in the interests of the other 75 per cent.: "Any holding which in the opinion of the Land Commission ought be retained for improvement or enlargement or for utilisation in connection with the relief of congestion, all of which holdings are in this Act referred to as retained holdings."
No harm is done to the retained holding up to this stage and the tenant is not put out. He goes on farming his land in the same old way. A mark is put opposite his holding in the Land Commission and that is all that occurs for the moment. The other 80 per cent. of the tenants who are not retained start paying in sums equivalent to the purchase annuities immediately and get all the advantages they would have got if they had actually been vested. What happens retained holdings? "In the case of every holding retained by the Land Commission (1) The Land Commission shall have and may exercise all or any of the powers exercisable by them as respects holdings on estates vested in them, including powers of resumption of the whole or part of the holding, whether the holding is or is not part of an estate or subject to a judicial rent."