§ MR. VERNON HARCOURT
said, he would beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether he can inform the House what has become of the Royal Commission, appointed in January 1868, to inquire into the condition of Primary Education in Ireland, and which was directed by Her Majesty—To certify to Her from time to time their several proceedings as the same should be completed; and within the space of fourteen months to certify to Her the whole of their proceedings;whether the Commission in question, after the lapse of double the period so prescribed, has certified to Her Majesty the whole or any part of its proceedings; whether it is still sitting; and when it ceased to take evidence; whether it is true that, the original Grant for the Commission having been taken at £1,400, the actual expenditure for the year ending March 1869 was £8,905 (an excess of £7,505, which is explained in the Appropriation Accounts as due to "two paid secretaries and a considerable increase of the clerical staff"), with a further estimated expenditure since that date of £5,450; whether when the Vote was taken for the Commission in 1869, it was stated in the Estimates that the Commissioners expected to complete their Report in 1869, and that the actual and esti- 740 mated expenditure on the whole would not exceed £5,600, whereas such expenditure has reached the sum of above £14,000, and the Commission has failed to Report; and, if so, when the termination of its existence may be hoped for; whether it is the fact that the Commission has agreed to recommend the abolition of the National System of Mixed Education in Ireland; and, whether the proceedings of the Commission up to the present time will be laid upon the Table of the House before the further consideration of the Elementary Education Bill?
With regard, Sir, to the first portion of my hon. Friend's Question, I believe he is quite correct in the recital he has made with respect to the time which the inquiries of the Commissioners were originally expected to occupy. But upon application that time has been prolonged more than once; first by the Home Office, and afterwards by the Treasury, and for reasons which appeared to be very satisfactory. However, it is true that the Commission has taken a very much longer time than was expected. With regard to the second branch of the Question, I am not aware that the Commission has certified any portion of its proceedings. It ceased to take evidence a considerable time ago, and I apprehend I may so far meet the desire signified in the Question by saying that its sittings are at an end. The third part of the Question refers to the expenditure of the Commission, and I believe I may say that all the hon. Member's figures are correct. Whether they contain the whole case is another matter, and, of course, it would be idle for me to attempt to answer the Question as to the various explanations of which those items may be susceptible. But if my hon. Friend likes to move for a Return of the expenditure connected with the Commission, he will, of course, be able to obtain it, with all explanations that may be held to be requisite. The time for doing that would be very shortly—within, I think, a fortnight or three weeks from this time. Then with regard to the fourth portion of the Question, which asks whether the Commissioners had agreed to recommend the abolition of the national system of mixed education in Ireland, I may say that neither I nor Her Majesty's Government are cognizant of the recommendations of the Commission. The hon. Member's fifth 741 Question, is whether the proceedings of the Commission will be laid on the Table of the House before further consideration of the Elementary Education Bill? I cannot compare those two incidents accurately, because I cannot state positively the time for the one or the other. But I hope that in the second week in June, speaking generally, or thereabouts, we may be able to go on with the Committee on the Education Bill. With respect to the Report of the Commission, I am rather sanguine that it will be laid on the Table before that time; for an assurance has been conveyed to the Government from the highest authorities that the Report will be ready for presentation to Her Majesty by the 1st of June. Therefore I hope that immediately after the Whitsuntide Recess it will be laid upon the Table. Whether all the evidence will be also ready at that time I am not able to say.