HC Deb 17 July 1871 vol 207 cc1918-23

Resolution [July 14] reported. That a sum, not exceeding £268,122, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1872, for Public Education under the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland.


said, that it would be very inconvenient at that hour to commence the discussion upon that Vote, because it could only lead to the debate being adjourned; and if the Government could give them to-morrow, after a certain hour, it would be far more agreeable, and there would be, he was convinced, as much progress made under those circumstances as under any other. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government would make some conciliatory statement upon that matter, because it could hardly be supposed that that Vote would be agreed to sub silentio. The proposal that the discussion should be taken upon the Supplementary Vote could hardly be made, except in ridicule, for the prospect of being able to deal with so large a question upon a Supplementary Vote in Committee was not encouraging. It had been stated early in the evening that the attention of the Committee of Supply would first be drawn to the Votes connected with the Navy, and it would be, therefore, like postponing to the Greek Kalends any serious discussion upon the Irish Education Vote. He hoped, therefore, that the Government would, at all events, meet them half-way upon that question, and they would endeavour to condense their observations as much as possible.


said, he would agree that the present occasion was not the most convenient mode of taking the debate; but the hon. and learned Member for Dublin (Mr. Plunket) had given Notice that he would deliver his statement upon the Report of the Vote, and therefore it rested with that hon. and learned Gentleman to do so or not, as he should think fit. There was certainly nothing like ridicule intended, because the Chairman of the Committee had declared that the discussion could be taken in Committee. His objections to dividing the Morning Sitting between the Ballot Bill and the Irish Education Vote were two—first, that as regarded that which was said to be marked out as the special subject of discussion—namely, the provision made by Government with respect to the National School teachers, the Irish Education Vote was not urgent in point of time; and, secondly, he did not think that to divide the Morning Sitting would be a good method for securing progress either with the Ballot Bill or the Irish Education Vote. He did not at all agree in the observation about the Greek Kalends, and he could only say that the Government would do all that they could to promote the dispatch of Public Business. They would wait to hear whether the hon. and learned Gentleman was disposed now to make his statement, though he thought the best course would be to adhere to the understanding come to on a former evening, and take the general debate when the Supplementary Vote was proposed in Committee. The time of the Committee could not now be fixed, because it was necessary to make progress with the Ballot Bill, and when they did reach Supply the Naval Vote would be the one with which it would be proper, in the first instance, to proceed.


said, that it was with the utmost reluctance that he must trespass upon the House at that late hour, but he had no choice. Many persons interested in the Irish Education Vote had been long looking forward to an opportunity to discuss the whole question. There was an increase in the sum to be voted for school teachers; not to raise the salaries of the teachers, but to meet certain additional expenses. Two or three years ago a Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into the question of primary education in Ireland. That Commission brought up its Report early in the year 1870. Amongst the many valuable topics referred to were those connected with the status and payment of the National School teachers. Now, there was great hardship in the present position of those teachers. A deputation, at considerable expense, from Ireland waited upon the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government on this subject; but although the members of it were courteously received by the right hon. Gentleman, nothing came out of it. Questions were over and over again asked in that House in reference to that subject, but the invariable answer given to them was, that the time for considering them was when the Estimates relating to Irish education came on for consideration. Well, the Estimates did come on at length, but not until half-past 12 o'clock on a Saturday morning, when the House was utterly exhausted after a most fatiguing week's business. The recommendations of the Commissioners were very numerous, and amongst them were these—namely, that the pay of the National School teachers was wholly insufficient to secure the best candidates, and the most efficient teachers, and that it ought to be raised; that there should be three classes of teachers—the first class of male teachers £38, the second £30, and the third £24; that there should be a desirable residence in each of those schools for teachers of the first class, such residence to be rent free; the ordinary repairs of it to be made by the teachers themselves, but the permanent repairs to be effected by the locality; that the powers of appointing and dismissing those teachers should be in the hands of the local managers; and that as a condition of State aid, the managers should enter into a contract with the teacher specifying his duties and emoluments, and containing a provision that the engagement should be terminable on three months' notice given by either party. He (Mr. Plunket) submitted that that was a question of enormous and serious importance, and therefore it demanded the immediate consideration of the Government and Parliament. The Commissioners further reported that as regarded the second and third classes of teacher, the wages given them were very little above that of the labouring man. The only addition made by the Government to the salaries of those men was a miserable £1, which was confined to the third-class teachers; and those of the second and the first classes received not even that paltry amount; while the noble Lord the Chief Secretary, moreover, had not taken the least notice of the recommendations of the Commissioners concerning their residences, their pensions, or their status in case of dismissal. He had no alternative but to bring the question on at that unreasonable hour of the night, as no other opportunity would be afforded him by the Government; but he could not help saying that the Government ought to state their intentions more fully, and the House ought to have an opportunity of fully debating them. It was not his desire to diminish the present Vote. On the contrary, he desired to add a little more to it, in order that something like adequate compensation might be given to those unfortunate teachers.


said, he was sorry to take a course that would appear as if he opposed the Board of National Education in Ireland, but there would be no opportunity of discussing that question after that night. He believed the Government desired to see the position of the National School teachers improved, but there were other matters that required consideration—such as the management or control of the schools. It was only reasonable that the teachers should have due notice before they were discharged; but they went too far when they asked to be considered as civil servants and without the control of the Board. He regretted the small amount of local interest that was felt on the subject, from the amount of local contributions amounting only to 17.7 per cent, leaving 82.3 per cent to be contributed by the State. In Ulster there appeared to be more local support given to them than in the other Provinces in Ireland. The proposal of the Government to increase the remuneration of the third-class teachers would create unpleasant feelings amongst the other two classes above them. The total number of children attending the schools was returned at 998,991—a remarkable fact when it was said this system of education had failed. The increase of 7,630 in the number of scholars, and only an increase of 639 attendances, led him to doubt the accuracy of the figures. The proposal of payment by results was not fully understood by the teachers; and with regard to the Rule that any change in the Rules of the House should be laid on the Table of the House before they became law, that would have the effect of giving confidence in the national system of education in Ireland. He would suggest the postponement of the Vote, in order that a better scheme of remuneration might be devised for the teachers.


said, he quite agreed that it was necessary to increase the salaries of teachers. The Government, however, did not think that the recommendations of the Commissioners could be discussed in the present Session. It was impossible that the Government could deal comprehensively and finally with these recommendations without dealing with the subject of Irish education as a whole. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Plunket) had omitted to inform the House that the Commissioners stated that in their opinion the whole of the proposed increase in the salaries of the teachers should not be paid by the State. Such a question, and the proposal of a national rate in aid, would evidently raise the whole subject of Irish education. The Government proposed, therefore, to postpone the subject till next year, and the Queen's Speech notified that that course would be taken. It was not likely that the proposal now made would satisfy the teachers, but the Government did not put forward that as a final settlement. No doubt much yet remained to be done in order to ameliorate the status and pay of the teachers; but that was in great part the fault of the Irish people, for it was always contemplated that local sources should contribute towards the teachers' salaries. The proposal of the Government was a temporary one, and he hoped hon. Members would be prepared to discuss it as such upon the Supplementary Intimate.


said, the teachers considered that the most obnoxious part of the regulations affecting them was the arbitrary managerial control to which they were now subjected, and he regretted that the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland had not found time to deal with it. Some 6,000 of them had presented a Petition to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government on that and other points. What satisfaction was it to them to be told that the Government had the subject under consideration, and would, perhaps, deal with their grievances in the next Session?


said, he was relieved to hear from the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland that his present proposal was not put forward as a final measure of justice to that deserving class of persons.


said, that, notwithstanding the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, the Catholics of Ireland were determined to impress on every Government of every party, that an education based on religion was most in accordance with their feelings and wishes.

Resolution agreed to.