HC Deb 25 February 1886 vol 302 cc1228-44

(1.) £460, London University.


I wish to call the attention of Her Majesty's Government to the fact that the University of London is treated in a manner in which no other University in the Kingdom is treated. The fees of the University are paid into the Public Chest, and every 1d. paid by the University has to be accounted for to a Public Department, and has to be voted by this House. If hon. Members will turn to the next Vote they will find that University College, Wales, is allowed the sum of £4,000 to spend as it likes; £2,550 has already been granted to that Body, and this is a Supplementary Vote for £750. If hon. Members will look at the Vote for the Scotch Universities they will find that a sum of money is also given to them to spend as they like. Now, the University of London has already existed for 50 years. Earl Granville is the Chancellor of the University, and Sir James Paget Vice Chancellor; and, in my opinion, the University, through its Senate, is in every way capable of managing the affairs of the University if it has a suitable grant given to it by Parliament. That, I believe, would be a much better course than to retain the present system of asking the House to vote particular items. If hon. Members will look at this Vote they will find that the sum of £460 which appears in the Estimates has come from the extension of the work of the University. As a member of the Senate of the University, I may say that there are many other extensions of the work of the University which might be undertaken by the University, if it were not for the trouble caused by the necessity for their being submitted to the scrutiny of the Government. About two years ago an appeal was made to the late Chancellor of the Exchequer for an allowance to the University of London for the purpose of giving it autonomy in these matters; and that proposal was viewed by him with favour, and would have been acted upon if special circumstances had not arisen which caused a postponement. If hon. Members will examine the Estimates, they will find that a larger sum is received from fees this year than was received in the year before; and that result, instead of being brought about by the grants made out of the Revenues of this country, is due to the system of examination adopted by the University of London for many years past, and which has been of so sa- tisfactory a character as to induce a larger number of students to enter the University. It is hardly fair, however, that the University should receive no benefit from its growing prosperity; and I, therefore, claim on its behalf that in future the Government should give a lump sum to the University, instead of putting down in the Votes every year the charges which have to be borne by the University. I find that the amount received from fees last year was £10,900, while the total amount required for the expenses of the University was £12,000. Consequently, the University only cost the Government at the present moment £2,000; but in some years it has cost £4,000, £5,000, £6,000, and even £7,000 above the fees; therefore, in my opinion, if a grant of £5,000 a-year were given to the University, which would be a less sum than is given to some of the small Scotch Universities, the University of London would only be put on the footing it is entitled to occupy. I earnestly hope that the Secretary to the Treasury and the Chancellor of the Exchequer will consider this matter with the view of no longer placing a detailed charge upon the Estimates with regard to the University of London, but of giving a lump sum of £5,000 to the University, on the same principle as large sums are now given to the Scotch Universities.


I think the suggestion which my hon. Friend has made is a very valuable one; but I would submit that the case which the hon. Baronet has to urge would come with greater force when the Vote for the University of London is proposed for next year. The present Vote of £460 is only a Supplementary sum in order to make up a deficiency which has occurred. As far as the main questions are concerned, the grant from Parliament for the Universities is practically decreasing. If it is proposed now to make a new departure it will require considerable discussion, and may, perhaps, raise the grave question whether, under existing circumstances, Parliament ought to make any grant at all to this University. It must be borne in mind that the circumstances which exist in 1886 are very different from these which existed in 1836 when these grants were first made, and the proposal of my hon. Friend might raise the whole question whether the House would be justified in making any grant at all. I do not wish, however, to forestall the discussion of that question; but I shall be happy, when the regular Estimates are brought forward, to discuss the matter at greater length. I do not know that any information is needed by the Committee as to this particular Vote; but I may say that, so far as the Public Revenue is concerned, the additional amount seems to be more than counterbalanced by an increase of fees.


It seems tome that the aim of the Government ought to be to encourage the University of London to do better and better work. If the work done 50 years ago was worth a certain sum per year, it seems to me that it is now worth at least twice the same amount of money.


The late Chancellor of the Exchequer, now Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Childers), was good enough to say, after he had examined the matter, that he thought a grant ought to be given to the University of London; because, instead of inducing the University to spend as little as possible, they ought to be encouraged to spend more. I must confess that, in my opinion, it is by no means liberal—nay, rather somewhat shabby—for a public official who seems to know nothing of the matter to say that it is questionable whether the only public money voted for University purposes in the South of England ought not to be done away with altogether, when upon the very next Vote the same hon. Gentleman will have to stand up and support a considerable Vote for a University in Wales.


I expressed no opinion as to the propriety of the Vote at all; and, so far from being ignorant of the merits of the question, I was speaking from information which had been supplied to me by the highest authority. No doubt, my hon. Friend is correct in the statement which he has made with regard to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and with regard to that matter I expressed no opinion whatever. I think there can be no desire on the part of the Government to make a profit out of the University fees. The net charge in regard to the University of London is £3,600; and all I suggested was that, if a proposal were made to increase that grant, the question might be raised whether the State ought to be called upon to make any grant at all.


I quite agree with the Secretary to the Treasury that the Committee will be able to discuss the matter in a more suitable manner when they come to the main Vote. But, at the same time, I think the remarks made by the Secretary to the Treasury, if they are left uncontradicted, would produce an erroneous impression out-of-doors. It might be supposed that, although there was a strong case for a grant when the University of London was first founded, it is less needed now, on account of the action which has since been taken by the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. On the contrary, the fact is that a much larger number of persons now take degrees in the University of London than at any former period, and there are a very large number of persons for whom the University of London is the only University open. So far from the case of the University being weaker than it was at the time of its foundation, my hon. Friend will find, when he takes into consideration the amount of work done and the number of persons who take degrees, that it is very much stronger than ever it was. I think that the University of London may fairly claim that the small sum voted by this House is well spent, and that the University has never been doing more or better work than at the present moment.


I quite agree with my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury that this is a matter which had better be discussed when we have the regular Estimates before us. I am not inclined to differ from my hon. Friend the Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock) as to the fact that the University is doing more work now than in former years. If it is, it is compensated, to a certain extent, by the amount of fees it receives; and I believe that the fees it receives amount to a larger sum year by year. I believe that, as my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury has stated, there is no disposition on the part of the Government to make a profit out of the University. What the Government do is this—they pay a sum of money which is considered by the best authorities to be the sum necessary to maintain the University of London in a state of efficiency; and it appears that the fees received by the University itself gradually approach nearer and nearer the sum voted by Parliament. But I do not suppose, if the fees were so increased as to become in excess of the Vote, that under such circumstances the Government would wish to keep back any portion of them. On the contrary, I think there is a general desire that the University of London should have every support it can obtain in that way. But I wish to remind the hon. Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock) that there is some difference in the situation of the University now as compared with what it was some years ago. We have now Universities springing up in other parts of the Kingdom; and I am glad to think that an important University—the Victoria University at Manchester—has not only the power of granting degrees, but that it has other important educational advantages which it is able to confer upon a very large and populous district. It is quite clear that if we are to make this a question of increasing the grant to the University of London, it will be necessary to open up a much wider question than my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras (Sir Julian Goldsmid) imagines.


My hon. Friend does not appear to be aware that the Scotch Universities receive a grant from this House, and that they, nevertheless, appropriate the fees paid by the students to their own purposes. My contention is that the University of London should be allowed to use the fees paid by the students in the same way that other Colleges and Universities do which receive a Government grant. If that course were followed, I believe that it would be of great advantage to the University itself. I may add that the University of London is the only great institution in the South of England which has the power of conferring degrees in the way required by a large number of students; and therefore I think that a considerable grant in aid ought to be given to that University, especially when we find that a sum of £4,000 is to be given to a little pokey College in Wales. I cannot understand why, under such circumstances, a sum of £5,000 should be considered too much for the University of London, which has been in existence for 50 years, and which has in its Senate a body of the highest distinction quite capable of managing the affairs of the University without submitting them to the supervision of the Treasury. I hope that the matter will be thoroughly considered before the regular Estimates are brought on this year.


I am quite sure that the hon. Member who has just sat down has never extended his travels as far as Aberystwyth, because I am satisfied that if he had ever seen that remarkable and beautiful building he would never have alluded to it as a "pokey little College." I am proud to say that I am a member of the Senate of that College.

Vote agreed to.

(2.) £750, University Colleges, Wales.

(3.) £27,700, Public Education, Ireland.


Before this Vote is agreed to, I wish to call the attention of the Committee to the condition of the National School teachers. They have many grievances to complain of; but I will only trouble the Committee with those which are most pressing, and the first of them is the insufficiency of the remuneration which they receive. They are very much under-paid as compared with the elementary school teachers of England and Scotland. They do not receive quite two-thirds of the salary of the English elementary teachers, and they are not as well paid as the ordinary artizans of Ireland; in fact, their emoluments are very much below the pay received by the ordinary Police Force. But there is another and, perhaps, a still greater grievance in the manner in which they are housed. It is only in the towns that accommodation can be had by the teachers. I have been informed, and in some cases I am aware, that in the country districts they have to walk throe, four, and, in some instances, five miles from their residences to the schools. Even the female teachers have to do the same. I think the Committee will admit that that is a state of things which ought not to exist; but, at the present moment, they can find no accommoda- tion nearer the schools than miserable cabins totally unfit for educated people, with any nicety of taste, to live in. Therefore, I consider that the condition of the teachers, as regards the manner in which they are housed, ought to receive immediate attention at the hands of Her Majesty's Government. Another matter of complaint on the part of the teachers is that they are not placed on the Pension List like other public servants. I maintain that they ought, at least, to be treated as well as the junior Civil servants—at any rate, as well as the Excisemen and the Policemen. That, however, is not the case. As they discharge duties second only to the clergyman of the parish, and they ought to be placed in a position that would, at least, command for them the respect of the people. If nothing is done to improve their condition it is quite evident that they will be unable to exercise authority and discharge the duties necessary to the position they occupy. The duties thrown upon them are of a very arduous nature, and every effort should be made by the Government to secure for them the necessary respect of parents and pupils. There is one other point which I desire to mention, and it is this—the desirability of introducing without delay technical teaching into the schools. Last autumn very exhaustive evidence was given on that subject before Sir Eardley Wilmot's Committee; and I believe there was a consensus of opinion in that Committee that technical education was a subject which ought to receive immediate attention at the hands of the Government. Now, I consider that we ought, in this matter of technical education, to begin at the beginning, and that is in the elementary schools. I am pleased to learn that a beginning has been made by the Commissioners by the introduction of that admirable text-book, Handicraft for Handy People; but, instead of requiring the pupils to buy it, there ought to be 50 copies presented free to each school. In the second place, we should have normal or district schools, perhaps one or two for each county; and they ought to be established so that they would be able to educate technically the youths in such districts in the trades and manufacturing operations suited to the locality, and which required to be developed. I believe that we have al- ready existing in Ireland institutions which might take the place, for the present, of these technical schools—I allude to the workhouse schools; but I consider that the education given in these workhouse schools is such that youths so instructed, when sent into the world, are unable to shift for themselves; and I regret to say that in consequence they very often go from the workhouse into the gaol. Such a state of things should no longer be allowed to exist. They should be taught the use of their hands and eyes. Instruct them in some useful trade or occupation, so that when they go abroad they will be able to find some employment, and no longer become a burden upon the public. We have also other institutions in Ireland—the industrial schools, where, already, the managers of the schools are very ably carrying out the intentions of the founders. They are instructing the youths placed under their care in trades that will fit them to find a ready means of employment after they leave these establishments; but I think the Government ought to give increased grants to these industrial schools, so that the technical education carried on should be made more perfect. In the first place, however, the Government ought to apply themselves to the workhouse schools, and place in each two or three men trained and capable of imparting instruction in some particular trade or occupation. I hope, therefore, that before the Estimates of the year are brought on these matters will receive the attention of the Government, and that some steps will have been taken in the direction I have indicated.


I am very glad that the attention of the Committee has been called to the subject of the inadequacy of the pay of the National Schoolteachers in Ireland, and I am glad that I am able to speak on the same side of the question as the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. It is a fact, and a notorious fact to anyone who knows anything of the subject, that the National School teachers of Ireland are not sufficiently paid; and I venture to remind the Committee that there is no body of men to whom we must more look for the future of the young of Ireland than the teachers of the National Schools. I would not have presumed to occupy the time of the Committee if the hon. Member who has just sat down had not omitted one other part of the claim of the National teachers, which calls, I think, for the immediate interference of Her Majesty's Government; and that is that their pay, inadequate as it is, is worse than inadequate, because it is uncertain. What I refer to is the power which now rests with the Boards of Guardians in Ireland either to increase or not to increase the pay of the National School teachers at their will or discretion, by voting a sum of money per annum as an addition to their ordinary remuneration. In the Board of Guardians with which I am acquainted, it not un-frequently happens that in one year a sum of money is voted for the teachers in the Union; but after they have enjoyed it for one year it is possible by some accident—perhaps by a whip being made by some of the Guardians who are careful of the public purse—that the decision formally arrived at is reversed, and next year the pay the teachers thought from the previous vote of the Board of Guardians they were entitled to receive is cut down, and they are deprived of an addition to their salary of £20 or £30 a-year, which they thought they wore fairly entitled to look forward to. I therefore urge upon the Government to take into consideration whether the pay of the National School teachers of Ireland should not at least be made certain. I can hardly hope that Her Majesty's Government will be guided altogether by the views of the hon. Member who has just sat down upon technical education; but I sincerely trust that they will, at any rate, take the subject into consideration. It is one which the people of Ireland have much at heart. It is one in which I have myself taken a deep interest, and I know of no subject which is more calculated to confer advantage upon the country.


I am anxious to say a word in support of the view which has been expressed by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge (Mr. P. Fitzgerald). There can be no doubt that the uncertainty which exists in regard to the salary of the National school teachers is one of the most pressing of the immediate grievances this deserving body have to complain of. The salary of the National teachers in Ireland is derived from three sources. One portion of the salary is a certain fixed annual sum, another portion of it is made contingent on the will of the local Guardians as to whether they will throw it upon the rates or not, and a third portion of their emoluments is derived from the gratuities given to them from the parents or guardians of the children. The system works in such a manner that, in the richest districts in Ireland, where the National teachers have a fair allowance from the parents and guardians of the children in the shape of school fees, they have also the other two portions of the salary made certain; because, as a general rule, it is in the wealthiest parts of the country that the Guardians contribute out of the rates, and by so doing enable the school teachers to derive the whole benefit of the system. But in the poorer districts of Ireland, where the Guardians are not able to make a contribution out of the rates, and where the parents contribute very little, if at all, in the shape of school fees—and these are the very districts where education is most required— it will be found that the teachers are very inadequately remunerated. The only emolument they receive is the salary granted annually by the National Board of Education; and because the local Boards of Guardians are so poor, or so ungenerous, as not to contribute a certain sum out of the rates, the teachers are not only deprived of that portion which the Guardians do not contribute, but are also deprived of that portion which the National Board are willing to give contingent upon a certain sum being provided by the Guardians. I think this is a matter which deserves the immediate attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant; and I am sure that when he applies his mind to the case he will see that this is a pressing grievance, falling heavily upon the poor teachers of Ireland, which demands a remedy.


I would like to make a remark upon one of the suggestions which has been made by the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. P. M'Donald)— namely, that the Government should give pensions to the Irish schoolmasters. Now, there are many taxpayers in this country who think that the pension system has already been extended quite far enough. We, who have to find the money to pay pensions to other people, have nothing in the shape of pensions provided for ourselves except the poor rates or the workhouse. No doubt, it is a very pleasant thing to receive a pension; but, seeing the difficulty of raising the money which is necessary in order to pay pensions, I would respectfully submit that the time is come when, instead of making any extension of the system of pensioning our public servants, we ought rather to be disposed to inquire, in our future arrangements for the Public Service, whether it is not desirable to adopt the system which prevails in regard to private employment— namely, to pay a workman for the full value of the work he performs, leaving him to make a provision for his own future maintenance.


I sympathize with what the hon. Gentleman has stated; but I am afraid that he is not very much acquainted with this particular subject. He is labouring under the embarrassment of applying an abstract theory without having made the particular subject to which he wishes to apply it a matter of investigation. Our complaint is not so much of the inadequacy of the pension itself, as of the fact that the men and women we employ are obliged to serve so long before they become eligible for a pension that the pension is of no use to them when they get it. A man commences to serve as a teacher at the age of 18 or 20; and it is only when he reaches the age of 65, and in the case of a woman when she reaches the age of 60, that a pension of a very reasonable amount comes to them. We think that the pension ought to be made available at an earlier age than that. I will also tell the hon. Gentleman another fact—namely, that the British Exchequer has accomplished a remarkable feat in connection with the matter of Irish education. Formerly an annual payment of £7,000 was made out of the Imperial Purse; but a few years ago another system was established by which the grant of £7,000 from the Imperial Purse was discontinued, and the cost placed upon the local ratepayers. I think it is out of the sphere of argument that the National School teachers are wretchedly paid, and the advantages which have often been promised them have been too long deferred. The only question now is, in what manner and to what extent the Government are pre- pared to give them redress? We should all regret if it is thought necessary to postpone the consideration of the subject until after that other question of Imperial politics which is about to be brought forward. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary will consider whether the two questions are inextricably blended; but if not, I trust we may indulge in a hope that he may be able to make some cheering statement to-night.


I am fully prepared to endorse the statement of the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. P. M'Donald) in regard to the defective accommodation for the housing of the school teachers. In many instances, owing to the difficulty of obtaining suitable accommodation, they have to walk four or five statute miles to the school, teach the children all day, and then return to their homes. I hope the Government will see their way to the making of some concession in this matter, and that, at any rate, something will be done to make the salaries of the teachers more certain than they are at present. I must remind the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary that the Government have themselves to thank for the salaries of these persons being so uncertain. If they had made the education of the Irish people in harmony with the wishes of the Irish people, I venture to say—and I speak from some experience—that the majority of Unions in Ireland would have readily become contributors towards the salaries. They are not contributors at present, because they believe they would stultify themselves if they were to contribute towards the maintenance of a system which they oppose, and which, under the name of National, is as anti-National as can well be imagined. I hope that, as vacancies occur in the National Board of Education, the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who has shown his sympathy with the Irish people in many respects, will endeavour to place upon the Board individuals who are more in harmony with the feelings of the Irish people. The National Board, as at present constituted, does not possess the confidence of the Irish people; and it acts in a most dictatorial way upon many subjects. In the constituency which I have the honour to represent— Waterford—some time since the managers of a convent school decided on placing their school under the National Board. Over the building where the schools were conducted stood a stone cross. The National Board of Education compelled the nuns to remove this cross, contending that its remaining there was against the spirit of the National Education in Ireland. Can it be imagined that in the 19th century, and in a Catholic country, a National Board, supposed to govern the education of the people upon National principles, should have been so anti-National in their proceedings as to insist upon the removal of this cross? I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary will undertake to bring in a measure upon this question, if it is not included in that other measure to which reference has been made; and I trust that some endeavour will be made to render the education of the Irish people in conformity with the wishes of the people. If this is done, the taunt which has been cast against the Irish Board of Guardians will at once be removed, and they will readily become ungrudging contributors to the cost of National Education.


I have listened with great interest to the remarks which have been made by hon. Members from Ireland, and by the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Penrose Fitzgerald). I have long been aware of the great interest which is taken in Ireland in the question of the position and remuneration of the National School teachers. Although I have only been in Office for a very short time I have not been idle. I have endeavoured to acquire all the information I could as to the position of these teachers; and I have listened to their demands, and considered the weight which ought to be attached to them. But I think the Committee will see that this is hardly the occasion on which I might be expected to enter upon so wide a question. The hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. P. M'Donald) goes very far indeed when he asks me to say whether this matter will form part of another question with which Her Majesty's Government will have to deal. I must certainly defer giving an answer to that question at the present moment. What has been very truly pointed out in regard to the condition of the National School teachers is its liability to fluctuation; but, so far as tie present Estimate is concerned, it is satisfactory to find that the fluctuation in the amount is a fluctuation in the right direction. All Parties in tie Committee will feel satisfaction in voting money for what all must admit to be a good cause. There is a larger number of pupils on the books than in the previous year, an increase in the average daily attendance, and, what is most satisfactory of all, an increase in the general results achieved. The consequence of all this is directly favourable to the teachers themselves. It has re-acted upon them. They have been stimulated to make more zealous efforts for their own self-improvement, and to seek for a higher standard of classification and inspection. The opening of the denominational Training Colleges has also stirred them up to renewed efforts, and awakened in them a natural desire for promotion. The result of the examinations accounts for the increase in the expenditure, that result having been beyond the calculation which was made at the time the original Estimate was framed; and of this Supplementary Vote of £27,700, no less than £6,000 arises from an increase in the salaries of the teachers, £8,000 from the result fees classified as unconditional, and £7,000 from gifts; so that no less than £21,000 go in the direction of meeting some of the complaints which have been made in the course of the discussion. I can only promise that when the general Estimate is framed I shall be prepared with rather more mature views on this question than I am able to express at the present moment.


Upon this question I only desire to say a few words. I accept the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary that he will look into the whole matter between this and the framing of the general Estimates of the year; and I trust that the House will then be much better informed as to the intentions of the Government with regard to the wants of the National School teachers of Ireland than they are now. For myself, and speaking for other Members of the Irish Party, we might say a great deal about the treatment which the Irish National School teachers have received at the hands of successive Governments. During the past 10 or 12 years promises have fre- quently been made that their position should be materially improved; but, like most promises emanating from the British Government, they have been invariably broken. I trust that a new order of things will now prevail; and that the right hon. Gentleman now at the head of the Irish Department will carry out the intentions he has expressed to-night, and be able to do something substantial for a very deserving, although hitherto a very unfortunate, class of the Irish people — the Irish teachers, to whose charge is committed almost the whole care of the future education of the Irish population. I am glad that in this matter I am able to agree with the aims of the Patriotic and Loyal Union of Ireland; and, having regard to the remarks of the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Penrose Fitzgerald), I can only regret that the hon. Member was not in Parliament when his Government were in power, and able to give valuable assistance to the Irish Members in this direction. If he had been, I have no doubt that he would have exerted himself to better the condition of the Irish National teachers. I am glad to find that no serious opposition is likely to be offered to any proposition that may be made for assisting the National School teachers. I have only one word more to offer, and it is on behalf of the teachers employed in the workhouses. These teachers have not been as well treated even as the ordinary teachers; and it is a great shame, I think, that they who are confined within the walls of the workhouses in Ireland, having the lowest class of children to instruct, should not receive more consideration than that which they at present obtain from the National Board. I strongly object to the way in which these teachers are treated; and one result of the system is that the instruction of the pauper children in these establishments is left entirely in the hands of young and incompetent teachers, as is now the case; because when a young workhouse teacher passes his examinations and becomes a first or second-class teacher he resigns his position and takes up a school outside. I consider that the duty of the workhouse school teachers is infinitely more arduous than that of the teachers of the ordinary National Schools. They have to deal with a totally different class of people; and if the condition of any teachers in Ireland calls for immediate improvement, I would venture to suggest that particular attention should be paid to the position of teachers in the workhouse schools. As regards the industrial training in the workhouses by the National School teachers, I think that is a question which must be left over for a later Vote; but it is one which ought not to be overlooked by the Chief Secretary in the course of any inquiries he proposes to make. I scarcely think that the employment of National School teachers to instruct children in this useful branch of education will commend itself to the Committee; nor do I think it is the proper mode of conducting such instruction. On the contrary, I think that the industrial training of children in the workhouses is a matter which ought to be dealt with by itself, and it is certainly one of the most important questions which can be brought before a Committee of this House. I will only add that I feel perfectly satisfied, after the speech we have heard from the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, that there will be a full and satisfactory provision laid before us when we come to discuss the matter more formally.

Vote agreed to.