THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. J. MORLEY, Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
I rise to ask the House for leave to bring in a Bill to amend and explain the Irish Education Act passed by the late Government in 1892. I trust the House will allow me to read the Bill a first time to-day, but it is not without importance, and I will take care that it is not put down for Second Reading until ample time has been allowed for its consideration, both in this House and in Ireland. The Act of 1892 has been found by experience to contain two defects. The first is administrative, and the second relates to expenses. By the Act of 1892 the School Attendance Committees have to be chosen half by National Boards and half by Local Authorities. Half of each Attendance Committee is to be chosen from Managers or Trustees of schools. Owing to the legal interpretation put upon this provision of the Acts, it has been found to be impossible to get a proportional representation of the Religious Denominations upon these committees. This Bill will make it discretionary for the Local Authorities and the National Board to say what proportion of each committee shall be School Managers or Trustees. The second defect in the Act affected the expenses of its administration. The draftsman used the expression "local rates"—a phrase which has no particular application in Ireland—and we propose by this Bill to enact that the Local Authority shall be able to devote to the expenses 1198 for carrying out of provisions of the Irish Education Act any local rate or funds it may have under its control or to levy a special rate for the express purpose of the administration of the Act. The Bill itself is very short and very plain. The need for it is urgent if there is to be a carrying out of the intention of Parliament expressed in the Act of 1892. With the promise that gentlemen from Ireland shall have ample time for the consideration of the Bill, I hope the House will now allow me to introduce it.
§ MR. KNOX (Cavan, W.)
said, he wished to raise a strong protest against the introduction of the Bill. When the Education Act of 1892 was passed, it was on the distinct understanding that the schools of the Christian Brothers should be included in the national system of education. The object of this Bill was to bring the Act into operation in those places in Ireland where the strong feeling of the people had prevented it from coming into operation on the ground that the schools of the Christian Brothers had not been included in the system of national education. He failed to see where the obstacle for the inclusion of the Christian Brothers' schools in the system of National education lay, unless it were in the Chief Secretary himself. The pledge given by the right hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Jackson) when Chief Secretary on the passing of the Bill in 1892 was that this matter would be referred to the National Board. It had been referred to the National Board, which had decided in accordance with the feelings of the vast majority of the Irish people; but the Lord Lieutenant had put aside the decision of the National Board, and had refused to include the Christian Brothers in the national system of Education. He (Mr. Knox) could not refrain from raising a protest against what was, on the part of one Party or the other, a breach of faith with the Irish Members. The Christian Brothers had already, by the operation of those clauses of the Act which were in force, been put to very great difficulty. There were many places in which they 1199 were now carrying on their work under much greater difficulties than any other people who were engaged in elementary education in the United Kingdom. Members above the Gangway complained because their voluntary schools in England had to raise about 5 or 10 per cent. of the total cost of education by means of local subscriptions, but the Christian Brothers had to raise the whole cost of their schools by means of subscriptions from the people. He confessed that he looked at this matter as much from a secular educational point of view as from the point of view of the Christian Brothers. The Christian Brothers had built up what educationalists in this country had long been striving for—a bridge between the elementary system and the University system. Boys of poor parentage were enabled to pass by degrees from the elementary stage in the Christian Brothers' schools through the secondary stage to the Universities, and he protested in the name of education against this effort to strangle the attempt of the Christian Brothers to give to the poor children in Ireland the means of bettering themselves in life. He believed this Bill was not justified by the circumstances in Ireland, and, therefore, even at that initial stage, he raised his voice against it.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
Under the Standing Order I can only allow an explanatory statement to be made on behalf of the different sections of Members.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
May I submit, Mr. Speaker, that the Standing Order does not apply to Thursdays? Otherwise, how could we have debated the Welsh Disestablishment Bill as we did?
§ * MR. SPEAKER
That is specially provided for by the Standing Order relating to matters at the commencement of Public Business.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I have not the Standing Order by me, Sir; but surely the Welsh Disestablishment Bill was brought in at the commencement of Public Business and was debated?
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The Standing Order I am referring to relates to the introduction of Bills at the time of Public Business. That is a technical term 1200 which refers to the period before the Orders of the Day are entered upon.
§ MR. W. REDMOND
asked whether he would be in Order in inquiring of the Chief Secretary whether he could hold out some hope that the pledge given by his predecessor in Office would be fulfilled?
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. J. Morley and Sir J. T. Hibbert.
§ Bill presented, and read first time. [Bill 247.]