§ MR. MELDON,
in rising to call attention to the claims of the National School Teachers, and to move—That 'The National School Teachers' (Ireland) Act, 1875,' and the other means adopted by the Government having failed to satisfy the just demands of the Irish National School Teachers, this House is of opinion that the present position of the Irish National School Teachers, and the discontent which prevails amongst that important body of public servants, calls for the immediate attention of Her Majesty's Government, with a view to a satisfactory adjustment of their claims,said, that the subject was one which concerned not only the well-being of at least 10,000 public servants, but also the educational interests of the entire country, and therefore it was of great importance. He did not propose to go into the general question, which had been discussed upon several occasions in that House, as to what were the nature of the grievances of which they complained; nor did he intend to seek to prove what those grievances were, which had really existed so far back as 1874, but to briefly refer to certain points affecting the question, which he hoped would command the attention of the House. He first introduced the subject on the 9th of June, 1874, when he called attention, in the first place, to the salaries of the National Teachers of Ireland, which he stated were quite insufficient for the work they did. He also then pointed out that they complained because no provision for them in their old age or any compensation was given upon their leaving their employment; and, in the next place, he further called attention to the fact that they could not efficiently and properly discharge their duties, inasmuch as they were not provided with residences near their schools, 1522 many of the teachers having to travel six or seven miles in some instances, in consequence of the arrangements for residences not being satisfactory. Upon the occasion he brought forward his Motion, the then Chief Secretary for Ireland, in reply to the discussion which was raised, asked the House to leave the matter in the hands of the Government, which would endeavour to meet the question; and upon this statement he (Mr. Meldon) was asked to withdraw his Motion, it being admitted that the grievances complained of did exist. Notwithstanding that there was great indisposition on the part of several of his supporters to withdraw the Motion, he ultimately consented to do so on the understanding that the Government would take the matter up; but down to the present time, with the exception of some alteration in regard to the residences, there had been no advantage given to the National Teachers. In the year 1875, the subject was again before the House, and the Chief Secretary had said, with reference to the training schools, that the emoluments of the teachers were not sufficient to induce them to remain in the service, and he had given it as his opinion that it would be the duty of the Government to improve their position. Subsequently, the National School Teachers' Act was passed. With regard to the question of the salaries of the teachers, the average amount in 1875 was about £43 a-year, and the Act in question, which was passed, increased the emoluments which could be earned by the teachers by way of the result system, and it was proposed that an increase of £120,000 a-year should be added to what the teachers then earned by way of results. He did not move this Motion in a way hostile to the Government, for he cordially admitted that, so far as one could judge, they were well-disposed towards the teachers, and the Act of 1875 had been of benefit to education generally, and for years to come the teachers would derive a very large amount of benefit from the exertions made; but he must say that both of the schemes which had been tried were only experiments so far as the teachers were concerned. In regard to the scheme of the Teachers' Amendment Act, introduced in 1875, the £120,000 was to be contributed towards payment of the teachers by results; but 1523 the Act did not provide for it being a certain payment, it being only conditional, over which the teachers had no control. The Act provided that the Boards of Guardians should have permission to vote, if they so pleased, out of the rates a sum of £60,000 for the purpose of remunerating the teachers, and the Government, in order to induce them to do so, promised to add an amount equal to that which was subscribed by the Guardians. Now, if the Boards of Guardians all over the country had contributed, the teachers would be entitled every year to the entire amount which they might have earned by results; but those Boards had done nothing of the kind. The Chief Secretary for Ireland, after the passing of the Act, had urged the teachers to go to the Guardians and endeavour to induce them to vote the money necessary, and the teachers had accordingly exerted themselves to the utmost to get the Guardians to become contributory. Well, in 1875 there were 163 Poor Law Unions in Ireland; and in that year 35 Unions in Ulster became contributory, and ninerefused. In Munster 14 contributed and 36 refused, in Leinster 13 contributed and 27 refused, and in Connaught 26 refused, while only three became contributory; the total result being that, while in 1875 65 Unions were contributory, 98 refused to become so. In 1876, 70 contributed and 93 refused; but, in point of fact, it was not really open to the Boards of Guardians in all cases to vote themselves non-contributory until 1877. In that year 18 Unions ceased to contribute; in Munster only three voted themselves contributory out of 14 which had done so in 1875, and 47 refused to contribute; in Ulster only eight Unions became contributory, and 32 refused; and in Con-naught 28 refused, while only one Union became contributory. Thus, out of 163 Unions, there were only 38 contributory in 1877, and 125 passed resolutions to the effect that they would not contribute— that being really the first year in which the Act had been fairly tested. On the 31st of March last, throughout the entire of Ireland, only 26 Unions were contributory, while 137 had voted themselves not contributory; and since that time he understood that the number of Unions voting themselves contributory was not more than 12 or 14. That state of things operated so that the teachers 1524 never knew at the beginning of a year what their salaries might be. When the Act was passed, it was stated by the then Chief Secretary for Ireland that it was only an experiment which he was willing to try as to whether money could be obtained for educational purposes, and that it was only a temporary measure. He (Mr. Meldon) contended that he had shown that the Act had thoroughly and entirely failed; and, even if it were not so, the system would be unsatisfactory, inasmuch as the remuneration of the teachers did not depend upon what they could do, but upon a system which had been fairly tried, had worked unsatisfactorily, and which had wholly failed. By it gross injustice was done to a large number of teachers of Ireland. The Act of 1875 had failed, and the teachers had not received the amount which by that Act it was intended they should receive. The result was, with all the assistance given by the Government, that the average salaries of the teachers was £50 a-year. Was such a sum fair remuneration for a National School Teacher, and a fair payment for a class of educated men, to whom the education of the youth of the country was intrusted? Upon the teachers depended a great deal what the youth of the country would become in after life, not only in educational accomplishments, but in social position; and how could it be expected to secure men of ability and good social position, men to whom the people would look up to with respect, for the miserable pittance of £50? And not only so, but this salary was dependent upon contingencies and circumstances over which the teacher had no control. In tributory Unions, they were dependent upon the will and wishes of the Boards of Guardians; so that it was clear their position was, at the present time, not such as was contemplated in 1875. The intention of the Act of that year was to augment the incomes by a sum of £120,000; but in 1876, the year when the Act worked most successfully, the amount contributed by the Unions was £30,499, and by the State £52,183, so that the only portion of the £120,000 in that year received was £82,682. There were then 70 contributing Unions, and now there were only 26; so that in the year gone by there would be a reduction of £20,333, and, notwithstanding 1525 all the exertions made, the amount reached only £62,349. It would be a great pity if the National system of education in Ireland should fail or receive a shock in consequence of the nonpayment of teachers. The system introduced in 1875 was by way of trial, and up to the present time had proved a failure, and should be put aside, and could not be relied upon. In a speech of the Chief Secretary, in 1876, it was admitted that the success of the Act was not such as had been hoped, and that something must be done to meet the case of teachers in non-contributory Unions; but now, up to May, 1878, not one single thing had been done to redeem the oft-repeated pledge given by the Government to increase the emoluments of the National Teachers of Ireland. The National system, as compared with 1857, was working satisfactorily. In that year there were 5,337 schools in all Ireland, with an average attendance of 321,683 pupils; while, according to the Report of the Commissioners, there were, in 1876, 7,334 schools, and an average attendance of 416,586. That showed a satisfactory progress of classed or certificated teachers. There were 10,277 in the service, but the classing these showed the absolute necessity of doing something for the teachers. They were divided into three classes, one and two being again subdivided. Of these 10,000, there were of the first in the first-class, 243; in the second-class, 2,956; and 6,389 in the third-class. Surely that offered matter for serious consideration, and showed a state of things that should not be allowed to continue. Out of 10,000, only 243 were in the first-class, and this, although he could say immediately—and, indeed, the opinion was confirmed by the Report—that the teachers were men most competent and with high ability. The reason was, that the teacher joined the service in early life, when a remunerative salary was not an object; but, having had some years of State-training, he found opportunities for a better livelihood, and so left the service, instead of rising into the first-class. Last year 688 left the service, and there were no inducements to men of ability and talent to remain in the service. No doubt there was good ground for the system of education to work on year by year. The average attendance was increasing, and the standard of efficiency rising; but 1526 still, although the grievances of the teachers were admitted, nothing was done to meet their moderate demands. To show the inadequacy of the remuneration they received, he might mention that while the average pay of a teacher in England and Scotland was over £100, in Ireland it was £50 only. What was it that he now asked in their behalf? No more than he had asked in 1874—namely, £2 a-week for teachers of the first-class—not a high salary for educated men, and below the income of a tradesman—£1 10s. for those of the second-class, and £1 for teachers of the third-class. Surely that was a very moderate demand? With respect to the question of pensions, the teachers had a stronger claim still. He brought forward the question in 1874, when he received an assurance that it would receive the consideration of the Government. In March, 1875, he moved in the matter again, and the then Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) said that the question of pensions was a difficult one; that the hon. and gallant Member for Longford (Mr. O'Reilly) had suggested a system of deferred annuities; that a scheme for the purpose had already received careful consideration; and that he was in communication with the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to the possibility of its being carried into effect. Subsequently, the Chancellor of the Exchequer consented to receive a deputation of the teachers on the subject. On that occasion, they were asked what they wanted? They had left their case in the hands of the Government; and not being, therefore, prepared for such a question, they could only reply that they wanted pensions, pure and simple. This was considered an extravagant demand; and, when he, shortly afterwards, asked a Question in the House in reference to the matter, that was stated as a reason for the whole thing having fallen to the ground. A congress of teachers from all parts of Ireland was then held at Dublin, and a second deputation waited upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and stated that the teachers were willing to accept whatever the Government would give them, and they mentioned the proposal as to the deferred annuities. That proposal was that each teacher should subscribe from the time he entered the service for a deferred Post Office annuity, and upon reaching a certain age, and 1527 still remaining in the service, the Government should supplement the amount subscribed with an equal amount; so that, for instance, say, that when a man reached 60, and had subscribed sufficient to purchase an annuity of £20 a-year, the Government would enable him to purchase an annuity of £40. Inquiries were then instituted as to whether the teachers, as a body, were willing to agree to this scheme. The response was that the entire body were willing that the deferred annuity system should be made compulsory. Then, as to the pension scheme, the teachers were led to believe that it would come into operation; but in this they had again been disappointed. The present system of gratuities to teachers on their retirement was most unsatisfactory. Teachers held on until they were almost dying, and the result was that the gratuity went to their friends and families. It was not too much now to hope that the scheme prepared in 1875 would be carried out, because the teachers were now in a worse position than in 1874. Since July last, however, they had not heard a word of the intentions of the Government, and, therefore, he thought he was not now pushing matters too far when he asked that the terms agreed upon a few years ago, with regard to salaries and pensions, should now be carried out. He did not dwell on the matter of residences, because he believed it was only a question as to the administration of the scheme brought in by the late Chief Secretary which prevented this point being settled. At present, only 20 per cent of the 10,277 teachers had residences. It might be asked of him— "What do you want?" He wanted for the three classes of teachers, £2, £1 10s., and £1 a-week respectively secured to them. He wanted the principle of the Act of 1875 carried out, and that the teachers should have secured to them the sum of £120,000, which was to be added to their remuneration in the shape of results. He asked that the scheme of 1876, for providing them with pensions, should be carried out. That was all he asked; and he must say he thought that these unfortunate men, after having been kept waiting so long—ever since 1874—should not be put off any longer. He hoped he should not again have to worry the House on the subject. Unless better provision were made for the 1528 teachers, it would be more and more difficult to obtain the men fit for the purpose, and the cause of education must suffer proportionately in Ireland. The hon. and learned Gentleman concluded by moving his Resolution.
§ MR. RICHARD SMYTH
Sir, although my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kildare (Mr. Meldon) has presented a very complete argument in favour of the Motion which he has submitted to the House, still I think it may not be unsatisfactory to make it clear that it has the support of the various sections of Irish Representatives. The movement for the increase of pay and the granting of pensions to Irish National School Teachers has made some progress since 1874, when my hon. and learned Friend, for the first time, submitted his proposals on their behalf. I must say that the right hon. Gentleman the present Secretary of State for the Colonies entered into the question with an evident desire to bring about a satisfactory settlement. Unfortunately, his measures were tainted with that permissive element which, if I may be allowed to express an opinion, has enfeebled our legislation in recent years. The right hon. Gentleman, however, was in earnest; and, whilst the special plans he adopted may not have brought us to the goal we desired to reach, they have cleared the way for some other measure which may prove more successful. We are entitled, also, to take some encouragement from the words which fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary in addressing a deputation recently in Dublin. I gathered from his words that he is well disposed towards the Motion now before the House, and that he will not be behind his Predecessor in endeavouring to advance the interests of Irish elementary education. If I had been framing the Motion, I would, perhaps, not have given it quite so personal an aspect as it presents; but my hon. and learned Friend, being a skilled Parliamentary tactician, has thrown it into that concrete form, which is generally the most practical, and, therefore, the most acceptable to the House. But this is not solely, or even principally, a question about National School Teachers. It is mainly a question about National Education. If we had no interest to consider but that of a class of public servants, and if the 1529 beginning and end of our discussion was to find out how we ought to treat them or pay them, then we might leave the whole thing to be settled by the ordinary laws of supply and demand. The teachers being shabbily treated could find their own remedy, and leave the Government to seek the services of such men as they could get for the money offered. No doubt of that; but what would become of education? The public interest would suffer, and it is from the point of view of public interests that we ought to look at this question. There are some works—such as cutting down a hill—which are only estimated by the amount done—so many cubic yards cut away, and it does not signify much how the thing is done if the work is accomplished; but, in education, everything turns upon the way in which the work is done, and, rather than have a set of incompetent men and women to carry on this work, it would be almost as well not to have it done at all. We shall very soon be face to face with serious difficulties in Ireland in the matter of education if the present discontent is not allayed. I daresay those who are already in the service of the country will hold on, as a general rule, because it is not easy for a schoolmaster or schoolmistress to adapt himself or herself to other employments. But the evil will be this—that the future supply will be cut off, and education will suffer. These are not groundless alarms; they are but too well-founded. Now, it so happens that Ireland wants some things—shall I say many things?—which Parliament is unwilling to grant, because they run counter to the prevailing political opinion, and are thought to be detrimental to Imperial interests. Well, that being so, I think this House of Commons would do wisely to indulge Ireland; I do not say do justice to it, for I believe in my heart that there is not an English or Scotch Member in this House who is not as anxious to see justice done to our country as any Irishman could be; but, if a sense of justice prevents you from doing certain things for Ireland which the people of that country would like to have done, we make bold to appeal to your sympathetic consideration when we have proposals to make which you do not oppose on the ground of principle. Of this class is the proposition now before you. It is a matter of 1530 detail, but of most important detail. Of course, money is always important; but this is more than money, it is the education which money buys that we are now considering. During the present Session, the House of Commons has not shown itself stingy in money matters. A current of unexampled liberality has been running along these benches, and all that my hon. and learned Friend is now doing by his Motion is to throw himself into the stream, and allow himself to be carried along in the current of Supplementary Estimates. I trust the House will pass this Motion, and that the Government will give effect to it; because it contains a proposal which violates no prejudice, is opposed to no recognized theory of government, and is, I hope, in harmony with the generous sentiments of this House. I second the Motion.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the 'National School Teachers (Ireland) Act, 1875,' and the other means adopted by the Government, having failed to satisfy the just demands of the Irish National School Teachers, this House is of opinion that the present position of the Irish National School Teachers, and the discontent which prevails amongst that important body of public servants, call for the immediate attention of Her Majesty's Government, with a view to a satisfactory adjustment of their claims."—(Mr. Meldon.)
§ MR. CHARLES LEWIS
said, this was the fifth occasion during the present Parliament on which he had ventured to give his support to a Motion of this kind. He thought that hon. Members who did not represent Irish constituencies should recollect that this was in no sense a political or religious question. It was a subject on which the Representatives of all parties in Ireland were united. They ought also to recollect, that long before National Education in England was really dealt with, Parliament undertook to legislate for National Education in Ireland on altogether exceptional principles. It was in consequence of the manner in which Parliament had thus dealt with the subject, that this question came before Parliament and not before any local board. He did not deny that the principle of payment by results was a good one, so far as it tended to stimulate to energy and exertion. But it ought to rest upon the basis of a salary adequate for the ordinary wants of the teachers. Could it be a good thing that the teachers of Ireland should not have 1531 salaries adequate to their actual wants, and that they should be compelled to travel miles in the worst weather to attend to their duties, because no adequate provision of residences had been made for them. It was, he thought, quite clear, that while this was the case, the efficiency of the system of National Education must suffer. No doubt, an amount of local cooperation had been expected from passing the Act of 1875, but that had been only partial and incomplete; in fact, but one-sixth of the Unions of Ireland were contributory. He had strong reason for believing that even this result was a diminishing quantity. It did not appear to him that the onus lay upon hon. Members who supported that Motion of declaring in what precise way the object of the Government and of the Legislature in 1875 should now be carried out with respect to National Education in Ireland. The present arrangement as to the payment of teachers was most unjust, and they desired to remedy the evil. He asked the House cordially to support the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Kildare, unless they received some counter-proposal from the Government to carry out the object they had in view. He observed that the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren) was looking uneasy. He had no doubt they would be told by him how much Scotland had done on behalf of education, and that the Irish were a thriftless nation. But he would ask the hon. Member to recollect the vast differences in the religious arrangements of Ireland and Scotland, and the difficulty of carrying out a system which could be so easily worked under totally different circumstances in England and Scotland.
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, he could assure his hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Charles Lewis) that he was entirely mistaken as to the direction of the remarks he (Mr. M'Laren) was about to make. He entirely approved of what had been said as to these teachers, and he thought it was perfectly fair and exceedingly moderate, if the National system were to be kept on foot, and its schools were to be maintained at all, that stipends of that amount should be paid. But, agreeing that the Government should do something in the matter, and that things should not remain as they were, the question was, what ought the Government to do? It was suggested that they 1532 should make an addition to the poor rate, but he would venture to suggest that a school rate should be levied all over Ireland in the same manner as it was levied all over Scotland, and those parts of England where school boards were established. The poorest parish in Scotland had its poor rate, including a school rate, levied upon it; every cottar and householder above £4 rack-rent paying his proportion; and why should not the rich landlords and the householders in Ireland also be made to contribute towards educating their tenants and their families? In the Report, which came out about a fortnight ago, there was a table of the sums received by all the public schools in Scotland for the last four years—and by public schools he meant those under school boards, and did not include the schools of the Church of Scotland, Free Church, Episcopalians, and Roman Catholics. In the last four years these school boards had spent over a million and a-half—£1,547,000. Of this amount, £430,000, or less than one-third, came from the Government, the school rates produced £598,000, and the school pence of the children amounted to £471,000. Then, there were about £63,000 of voluntary payments and items from other sources, so that the result was as he had said. He had not looked into the Report of the schools in Ireland recently; but, from recollection, he thought he was pretty safe in saying that the whole of the school pence in Ireland did not amount to more than £60,000, while the subscriptions were very small, and did not amount to more than £20,000; and there was no school rate, which showed that at present no large burden was cast either upon the poor children or the rich landowners, who might subscribe liberally if they chose. He contended, therefore, that in Ireland, just as in Scotland and England, a small school rate should be levied upon the owner, who should be entitled to recover one-half of it afterwards from the occupier. It should not be called a burden, because it would be a payment for the benefit of the people themselves; and, although there might be some grumbling at first, yet when it was done, he was satisfied that in a few years there would be no rate that would be paid more pleasantly, when it was seen that people were better 1533 educated. It might be said that Ireland was poorer than Scotland, and he admitted that it was so upon the average; but there were scores of parishes in Scotland as poor as the poorest parishes in Ireland, and yet in every one of these the school rates were paid. The other alternative was the vulgar expedient of asking the Chancellor of the Exchequer to find the money. Such a course as that was wrong in principle, and attended with most unhappy results. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer were to grant £100,000 for this purpose, Scotland would pay about £11,000, Ireland about £10,000, and England the remaining £79,000. He was not going to object to England paying £79,000 if she thought fit to do so; but if Scotland rated itself to the extent of £200,000 to £300,000 a-year, he did not see why it should also pay £11,000 to save the pockets of the landowners in Ireland, and to enable them to escape those rates which the landowners in Scotland and England paid without grudging. He therefore altogether objected to the plan of making the Chancellor of the Exchequer provide the money, and would recommend instead, that the plan of a school rate should be adopted.
§ SIR JOHN LESLIE
said, that it was his intention to support the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Kildare. He had for seven Sessions sat in that House and patiently listened to the merits of this question, and he thought that the claims of the National School Teachers to better salaries were just, and that no one would be found to disagree to that proposition. As to the amount to which the salaries should be raised, that was another question. It appeared to him that the original cause of the failure of the system in existence was that from the first—namely, in 1831—the salaries of the teachers were placed too low, and the Government had ever since failed to correct that mistake; instead of acknowledging the original error, they had endeavoured, by every ingenuity possible, to postpone doing anything. Two things were absolutely necessary for the success of the system of National Education in Ireland. One was the just and impartial administration of the National Education Board, the other was the high qualification of the teachers. With regard to the first, he regretted to say, that judging from local experience, and 1534 especially in the county he had the honour to represent, great dissatisfaction existed at the present time; but that, perhaps, was not the time to advert to that subject. However, there was but one opinion with respect to the excellence of the teachers, and he felt convinced that the moderation of the scale of salaries put forward by the hon. and learned Member for Kildare must commend itself to every reasonable mind. Knowing the practical mind and great judgment of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, he looked forward with some hope to hear him announce to-night that the status of the National Teachers should be immediately improved.
§ MAJOR NOLAN
said, there could be no doubt that the teachers were very much underpaid, for this had always been allowed by the Government. Now, there were only two ways by which an increase of the payments to them could be effected. One was by levying a rate of some kind on Ireland, and the other was an augmentation of funds from the Exchequer. The latter plan had been denounced by the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren), who said that Scotland would have to pay a very large part of any increased sum which the Irishmen got from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But, if the Irishmen succeeded in getting that sum, they would be only following the example of the Scotch Members. Since the present Government came into Office, the Education Estimates in Scotland had increased by no less than £340,000; while, if the object of the hon. and learned Member for Kildare (Mr. Meldon) was attained, only £120,000 would be granted. He admitted that Ireland obtained an advantage of £100,000, but Scotland had received £340,000. It could not be said that the Irish Members came begging to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if they only asked to be put on a footing of equality with Scotland in this respect. It might, perhaps, be said, that before the additional sum of £340,000 was granted to Scotland, that country received less money for education than Ireland. This fact he granted, but at present Scotland was receiving a much larger sum than Ireland in proportion to her population. Scotland was receiving 3s. 1¼d. per head of the population, while Ireland received only 2s. 4d. The difference of 7¼d. per head 1535 amounted to more than the £120,000 that was required in order to place the National School Teachers on a proper footing and to enable them to live in a respectable manner. He took the case of Scotland rather than England, for the latter had a much more dense population—twice as dense as Ireland—and, therefore, it was much easier to educate a given number of children than in Ireland. It was impossible to propose that a rate should be levied, unless Irishmen were to decide what kind of education should be given. If the Irish people were to be allowed to settle their own system of education, he would support the plan of a rate, if, as was practically the case in Scotland, they could choose their own education. If the Government would allow the details of the education to be settled by the votes of the Irish Members, he would also willingly consent to the proposal, and would also agree to a conscience clause, so that the opinions of the minority should be respected. But he knew there was not the slightest chance of the Government agreeing to such a proposal. There was another plan which might be followed—that of making the rate compulsory in Unions; but the same objection would apply there, unless the determination of the system of education was left to the elected Guardians only. It was unfair to levy a local tax for the education in Ireland, unless the local people were to have a voice in deciding how the tax was to be applied. In the present condition of Ireland, it was hardly possible to expect better results than those now presented. They would never get the same voluntary contributions in Ireland as were obtained in England and Scotland, yet the voluntary contributions in Ireland were much larger than was generally supposed, because many of them were never shown in Returns. For instance, the convent schools were maintained by voluntary contributions, and these never appeared in any Returns that were made. In his place of residence £10,000 were raised in voluntary contributions by religious orders for the education of the people. For the Government to levy a local rate was totally unfair, unless they allowed the people to have some control over its disposal. They ought, certainly, to give them the privilege, or put them on the same footing as Scotland. The Irish 1536 Members, in this matter, did not appear as beggars; for the people of Ireland contributed their fair share of taxes, and they simply asked that they should receive their fair share towards the National Education of their country from Government.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
said, it was only fair that he should at once admit the very reasonable, and, he should add, the very conciliatory, manner in which the hon. and learned Member for Kildare (Mr. Meldon) had introduced this question. The hon. and learned Member had embodied his views in a Resolution, and had asked the House to adopt that Resolution. He (Mr. J. Lowther) confessed that, looking at the terms of the Resolution, it was not one which he was disposed to call in question; for he thought that a slight verbal alteration would obviate any differences that might arise between them. Before he went into details, he desired to point out one or two matters which he considered the hon. and learned Member had failed quite accurately to place before the House. He referred, principally, to his description of the treatment of this subject by Her Majesty's Government hitherto. It was quite true, as the hon. and learned Gentleman had observed, that promises were made by the Government in 1874 and subsequent years upon this subject; but he thought the hon. and learned Gentleman had rather overstrained his case, when he said that practically nothing had been done. The fact to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Galway (Major Nolan) had referred—namely, that the contributions from Parliamentary Grants were now upwards of £100,000 more than they were at the time those promises of the Government were made— ["No, no!"]—was in itself sufficient to show that the Government were quite prepared to consider the claims put forward by Ireland on this question. He believed he was strictly correct in saying that the Parliamentary contributions towards the promotion of National Education in Ireland were larger by £100,000 than they were in 1874. The hon. and learned Gentleman had referred to the Bill which had been introduced by his (Mr. J. Lowther's) right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1875. That was a measure in which the Government 1537 attempted to meet the grievances of the National School Teachers. It proposed to enable Unions to contribute towards the support of the teachers; and, in the first year of its operation, 65 Unions, out of a total of 73, voluntarily contributed towards the object in view. Therefore, at the outset, the Government were justified in hoping that considerable progress had been made towards redressing the grievances which were then urged. He also thought that they were justified in hoping that practical results would accrue; but he must admit that these hopes had been disappointed, for the number of Unions contributing, instead of increasing, as they expected, had decidedly decreased, and the Act of 1875, therefore, had failed. Again, he must refer to the Act of the following year, which was an Act which placed non-contributory Unions upon the same footing as contributory Unions. That Act had been a decided success. [Mr. MELDON: It is not an Act, but a Regulation.] It was a Regulation which, unlike the Act of the previous year, which it supplemented, had led to very satisfactory results; because, while the sum contributed by Parliament had been considerable, the sum obtained from private sources had increased—a matter which was very commendable, and one which ought to be encouraged. He would like to remind the House that local efforts in Ireland in the cause of education did not correspond at all with those made by England and Scotland; and, therefore, any scheme framed by Government with the object of stimulating local effort ought to be viewed with satisfaction. The Government, therefore, had not only been anxious to do whatever they could to carry out their undertakings on the subject, but they had already done a very great deal towards it. The question of residences had been practically settled; while, as to the salaries of the National School Teachers in Ireland, the hon. and learned Gentleman had said that he would be quite content if the proposal he originally made was carried out—namely, that the first-class teachers should receive a salary of £2 a-week, the second-class £1 10s., and the third-class £1. If the hon. and learned Gentleman would refer to the figures in his possession, he would see, without going into the source from whence the income was derived, that, taking the 1538 average of the salaries received, the teachers were really in receipt of those sums. The question of pensions had also been raised, and as regarded it, he had avoided, so far, from referring to any of the sources from whence any augmentation of the incomes, or from whence pensions could be derived. He would admit that there was a great deal to be said in favour of a settlement of this question in the direction indicated by the hon. and learned Gentleman. His Predecessor, the present Secretary of State for the Colonies, had promised that the subject should be taken into the consideration of the Government, and it had accordingly been considered. He (Mr. J. Lowther) had only been a short time connected with the Department in charge of Irish affairs, and he could only say that he had been endeavouring to arrive at a settlement of the question. He could assure hon. Gentlemen that already the subject had engaged the attention of the Government, and he trusted that no very considerable time would now elapse before some satisfactory conclusion would be arrived at. It was in the hands of the Treasury, and there was no chance of its being indefinitely postponed. It had been found necessary to submit the figures bearing upon it to an actuary, whose Report, he trusted, would be in the hands of the Government before long. As he had said, he desired to refrain from speaking of the sources whence provision would be made for carrying out the object he had referred to, and other hon. Gentlemen had studiously done likewise. The hon. and gallant Member for Galway was the only exception, and he had boldly advocated the old familiar remedy of an addition to the Parliamentary Grant. That was a remedy which he (Mr. J. Lowther) thought the House would say Her Majesty's Government were not justified in holding out hopes of their intention to support. The hon. and gallant Gentleman had pointed out objections to certain sources; but he at once joined issue with the proposal of the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren), that compulsory rates should be levied in Ireland for these purposes, and not without reason; because local rates involved the essential element of local control. Various suggestions had been made to him, and he might mention, amongst others, one for the appropriation 1539 of a certain portion of the surplus arising from the Irish Church property. That, however, was a question for the consideration of the Government, and he should not like to commit himself upon the point further than to say it was being so considered. He had shown that the Government were fully prepared to carry out all the promises they had hitherto made on this subject, and he said that he hoped that before very long time had elapsed something definite would be arrived at. He thought that if the hon. and learned Gentleman who had introduced the Question would consent to a verbal Amendment which he would now suggest, the House might be spared a division on the question. If the hon. and learned Gentleman would consent to leave out in his Motion the words—"And the discontent which prevails amongst that important body of public servants"—for he (Mr. J. Lowther) could not assent by any means to the National School Teachers of Ireland being described as public servants, according to the general acceptation of the term, nor to that part which said that discontent prevailed amongst them, which he looked upon as an inaccurate assertion—the Government would give his Resolution their support, and he would promise that the attention of the Government should be engaged upon the subject.
§ MR. MELDON
said, he had no objection to omit the words to which the right hon. Gentleman objected. He should, therefore, amend his Resolution in accordance with the suggestion of the Chief Secretary.
To leave out the words "and the discontent which prevails amongst that important body of public servants call," in order to insert the word "calls,"—(Mr. James Lowther,)
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and negatived.
§ Word "calls" inserted.
§ Main Question, as amended, put.
§ Resolved, That "The National School Teachers (Ireland) Act, 1875," and the other means adopted by the Government, having failed to satisfy the just demands of the Irish National School Teachers, this House is of opinion that the present position of the Irish National 1540 School Teachers calls for the immediate attention of Her Majesty's Government, with a view to a satisfactory adjustment of their claims.