HC Deb 06 February 1895 vol 30 cc129-31
MR. SEXTON (Kerry, N.)

I wish to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland a question, of which I have given him private notice. I wish to ask him if he has any statement to make on the question of Primary Education in Ireland.


I will tell my hon. Friend, as well as I can on such short notice, how matters stand. The Education Act of 1892 only came into operation on January 1, 1894, and the Government did not conceive that they would be able to take a complete review of the operation of the Act of 1892 until they had had one year's experience of it. That year did not expire until February 1894. The Act affected 118 places. In 29 of these no School Attendance Committees under the Act have, been appointed. In 89 places such Committees have been appointed, but in 53 only Attendance Officers have been appointed, without whom the Act can scarcely be enforced. In 18 places difficulties as to funds have been found to exist and as to the statutory powers of raising the necessary funds; and the operation of the Act has been thereby to a considerable degree impeded. This is one head of the comparative failure of the Act, but it is owing to certain defects in the Act. It is partly due also to the refusal of the Local Authorities in upwards of 20 places to put the Act in operation so long as certain classes of Schools are excluded from participation in the grant. It will be my duty, in dealing with this first head of failure, to re-introduce as soon as possible the amending Bill I laid before the House last year; and, further, in reference to the second head of failure —namely, the refusal in 20 places (including such places as Cork, Waterford, and Limerick) of the Local Authority to put the Act in operation—I have felt it right to address a communication to the Commissioners of National Education, inviting them to consider the expediency of making such alterations in the rules of the National Board as would admit of the extension of State aid to Schools which may be recognised as efficient for the purposes of the Education Act of 1892, in proportion to the amount of elementary secular education provided by them in localities affected by the Act, in which the Commissioners shall be satisfied that adequate provision exists for the elementary education of pupils of the several religious denominations, either in National Schools or else in Schools managed by the same religious denomination as the pupils. The matter will be considered by the Commissioners in a few days, and I hope they will be able to assist the Government in devising some remedy for what is an admitted breakdown of a most important Act.

SIR T. LEA (Londonderry, S.)

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will await the reply of the Education Commissioners before he introduces his Bill into the House; and also whether the House will be made acquainted with the text of the reply of the Commissioners?


Has not the right hon. Gentleman already waited two-and-a-half years, and would it not be better not to wait any longer?


In answer to my hon. and gallant Friend, I have waited two-and-a-half years in order to ascertain how the Act of 1892 would work. In answer to the hon. Baronet, I have to say that I shall at once introduce the amending Bill, because it deals with matters for which I am responsible, and in that Bill the opinion of the Commissioners is sought. With regard to the second question, I shall consider whether what the hon. Baronet asks can be done. I have no desire to keep anything back from the House.

MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, K.)

I should like to know whether the right hon. Gentleman can give us the text of the communication he has made to the Board. Every word of that communication ought to be weighed.


I will, of course, consider that. It will probably be more convenient to lay the letter on the Table with the answer.

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