HC Deb 17 April 1877 vol 233 cc1372-5

rose to call attention to the present system under which Irish National Teachers receive gratuities upon retirement; and to move— That, in the opinion of this House, some other system should be adopted by which Teachers, when incapacitated by age or ill-health, may have secured to them adequate means of support. After explaining that the principle of pensions was admitted in Ireland, and urging the importance of pensioning off teachers who, through old age or incapacity, were inefficient, he pointed out that the present system of retiring gratuities was most unsatisfactory, and could not any longer be continued, and said that this fact was admitted by all parties. The hon. Member stated that he had been authorized, on behalf of the teachers, to make a proposal which he thought extremely fair and liberal. It was that they should provide themselves with annuities to a certain amount on condition that when these annuities came to be paid and they retired from old age or incapacity an equal amount should be paid by the Government; in other words, if a teacher subscribed to secure an annuity of one-half of his salary, Government should contribute by way of annuity the equivalent of the other half, That was the object of his Motion, and he should not detain the House by any further observations. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving his Resolution.


seconded the Motion, and observed that under the present system there was a young set of men who took no interest in what they were doing, and old men and women who were quite incapacitated. It was said that elementary school teachers, not being civil servants, were not entitled to pensions. Whether civil servants or not, they were most important servants of the State. They received but small emoluments for their labours, and they could not afford out of their small pittance to lay by sufficient to support them in their old age; but they were willing to contribute some portion towards the purchase of annuities, provided that the Government supplemented their exertions by contributions from the national Exchequer.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, in the opinion of this House, some system other than the present should be adopted by which Irish National Teachers, when incapacitated by age or ill-health, may have secured to them adequate means of support."—(Mr. Meldon.)


pointed out that the proposal recommended by the Royal Commission of giving to each individual according to his prudent habits removed many difficulties, because Government was merely asked to supplement the provision made by the teachers. The system in England and Ireland differed, and the change would not be difficult to introduce in Ireland. He hoped the Government would give this question their favourable consideration.


admitted that it would be a great advantage if some plan could be adopted which would really enable teachers to retire at the proper time with a sufficient provision for their old age. As to the present system of retiring gratuities, he admitted that it was in several ways unsatisfactory. It too often happened that a teacher held to his office to the latest day he could, and then his retiring gratuity was only granted a few days before he actually died, and went to the benefit of his relations rather than himself. There had been much discussion in the House as to the propriety of granting pensions to Irish National teachers. He would not enter into the general question of emoluments, for he was glad to hope, from what he had heard from the hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Shaughnessy), that the teachers would receive some increase in their salaries, and that from the source from which such an improvement should emanate—a local source. In dealing with the subject of pensions they were met with this objection—that this class of persons did not belong to the Civil Service. In saying that, he was not making a mere technical objection; they were not civil servants, because they were not entirely under the control of the Government, nor did they devote all their time to the service of the Government. He did not think they could be put entirely under the control of the Government; and therefore, as far as the granting of pensions was concerned, in the same way as pensions were granted to civil servants, he thought it well to state at once that anything of the kind was simply out of the question. But, of course, there was another alternative which had been suggested in former debates by the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. O'Reilly), and again that evening by the hon. and learned Member for Kildare (Mr. Meldon). It might be possible to require that teachers should secure for themselves retiring annuities, and these might be supplemented, at all events to a certain extent, by a Government pension. But, in considering this proposal, it must be remembered that the National School teachers in Ireland were not the only teachers of elementary schools in the Kingdom. If such a boon were granted to them it was possible that claims might be set up by teachers in England and Scotland for similar advantages. There was, however, a certain direct connection between the National teacher and the National Board of Education in Ireland, which did not exist between the elementary school teacher in England or Scotland and the Government, and thus far he thought a broad distinction might be drawn between the two classes of teachers. He had very carefully considered a scheme of this kind which he had brought under the consideration of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and a deputation of Irish National teachers had waited on his right hon. Friend and himself to explain their views on the subject. The ideas of the deputation as to the system of pensions that should be adopted appeared to him to be so extravagant, and the chances of their accepting any such scheme as he submitted to his right hon. Friend seemed to be so small, that he had felt it hopeless to persevere with the scheme any longer; and he had not anticipated being able to deal with the question at all. But what had fallen that night from the hon. and learned Member for Kildare, representing as he did the views of the great body of National School teachers of Ireland, did, he was bound to say, hold out some hope that something might be done. He would, therefore, look again into the matter to see whether, starting from the original basis which he had suggested, he could frame some scheme which would meet the views that the hon. and learned Member had laid before the House. It would, however, be difficult, if not impossible, to frame any scheme which would be applicable to existing teachers above a certain age. He did not see how any plan of the kind could do more than meet the case of new teachers entering the service after a certain date, or of teachers who were at present not so old as to be unable to pay a yearly sum sufficient to secure the necessary annuities for themselves. It was probable that the others must still remain under the existing system, so that the operation of any scheme which might be adopted could only be gradual. He said this without wishing to bind himself to any particular action beyond an undertaking to look into the subject again with the light which the hon. and learned Member for Kildare had thrown upon it.


remarked that the statement of the Chief Secretary was not unsatisfactory, and he hoped the hon. and learned Member for Kildare would not think it necessary to divide the House.


said, that after the statement of the right hon. Gentleman he would withdraw his Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.