HC Deb 22 April 1884 vol 287 cc400-3

said, that, notwithstanding the lateness of the hour (12.45), he intended to proceed, in accordance with the Notice he had on the Paper:—To call attention to the subject of the National system of Education in Ireland, especially as to the position of the Irish National Teachers; and to move— That, having regard to the Resolution passed by the House of Commons on the 7th May 1878, and to the pledges since given on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, this house deprecates the delay which has occurred in removing the admitted grievances of the Irish National School teachers, and is of opinion that it was the duty of Her Majesty's Government to have acted in conformity with such Resolution, and to have submitted proposals to this House for a satisfactory adjustment of the claims of the Irish National School teachers. He thought he should be able to satisfy the House that the facts he would have to bring before it would entitle him to claim its verdict for his Resolution. The grievances of the Irish National Teachers were brought before the house so far back as the year 1874—on June 7th, he believed. A complaint was then made that the salaries of the Primary School Teachers were insufficient, that they were entitled to pensions, and that the number of residences supplied for them was insufficient. The manner in which the Motion was met by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), who was then Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, was by making an entire admission of the case brought before the House. That admission was of the most unqualified kind, and the right hon. Gentleman had asked the House to allow the matter to remain in the hands of the Government until it was settled, the right hon. Gentleman giving an undertaking that satisfactory proposals would be made for the removal of the three grievances. Nothing was done until the following year, when, in the month of June, the right hon. Gentleman brought forward his proposals. He (Mr. Meldon) proposed to deal with only two of the grievances which had been submitted for the consideration of the House. The first was the question of salaries, and the right hon. Gentleman proposed to deal with that in two ways. He added a sum to the existing salaries of the National School Teachers amounting in the aggregate to £60,000 a-year. The right hon. Gentleman stated that it was the intention and the wish of the Government that the House should add a further sum to the remuneration of teachers with respect to payment by results, and that the results earned by the teachers should be divided into three parts—one-third, by examinations, from Parliament unconditionally; one-third from Parliament conditionally; and the remaining third was to depend upon the discretion of the Board of Guardians, and carried with it the second, on conditional Government payment. The Parliamentary Vote arrangement was agreed to, and he had nothing to say to that; but the other portion of the scheme had wholly and entirely failed. He would state, very shortly, what the nature of the arrangement was. The pupils in the different schools were to be examined for results; and, in the case of those who passed, the fees to which the teachers were to be entitled were to be divided, as he had said, into three parts—the first to be paid unconditionally, and the second to depend on the Guardians taxing themselves for the third. It was foretold that the condition as to Boards of Guardians would necessarily be a failure; but a pledge was given to Parliament, to the teachers, and to the public of the most explicit character. When it was pointed out to the then Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland that the scheme would necessarily fail, he made use of these words, which constituted a pledge, which, to the present moment, remained unfulfilled both to Parliament and the Irish teachers. He said—"We do not intend this to be a permanent measure. I consider it highly important to get Boards of Guardians to contribute, and I should like to train them up to it. If it succeeds, well and good, the teachers will be reasonably remunerated; if not, the Government will take steps to secure that the remuneration now intended shall be paid to them." These were, in effect, the words spoken by a Minister of the Crown nine years ago, and the gravamen of his (Mr. Meldon's) charge now was, that that promise remained at the present moment entirely unfulfilled, the remuneration it was intended they should have remaining unpaid. It was foretold that this "Permissive Act," as it was called, would remain a failure. In 1875, 65 Unions out of the entire number contributed; in 1876, 70 Unions contributed; and so on until the year 1881–2, when there were but 16 Unions which contributed; and last year the number decreased to four. They might assume that the substantial failure of the Act was proved to demonstration in 1877, when the number of Unions contributary had fallen to 39. They were entitled to have the pledge given in 1875 fulfilled, and to have the Act, which had proved a failure, remedied in some way. Up to the present time, however, nothing had been done to remedy the failure of the Act. The Unions in Ireland, or the great mass of them, had declined to become contributory, and the thing was going from bad to worse. The teachers, in every Union not contributory, had been debarred of a third of the hard-earned result fees the Government had given them in 1875. Under ordinary circumstances, it would have been two-thirds; but the case really was so flagrant, that the Government were obliged to step in and say—"We will not insist on the condition that the Guardians are to contribute before Parliament gives the two-thirds; but, if you will get made up from other sources, local or otherwise, a certain sum of money, we will contribute out of the Parliamentary grant as much as you get." But so far as the result fees were concerned, they had been absolutely lost in those cases where the Unions had not been contributory. That was the position in which the salary question remained at the present time. As to the pension question, nothing was done from 1875 to 1878; and, as to residences, a Bill had been brought in which, for other reasons, had not worked satisfactorily. However, he confined his complaint to the two points he had mentioned. Nothing had been done up to 1878 in regard to pensions, and nothing had been done to redeem the pledge made to the House by the Government. Every kind of pressure had been brought to bear on them to make them redeem their pledge. The teachers had been obliged to bring their case before the House.

Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members not being present,

House adjourned at One o'clock.