Motion made, and Question proposed:
That a sum, not exceeding £616,077 (including a Supplementary sum of £3,375), be granted to Her Majesty, to complete a sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1897, for the Expenses of the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland.
§ MR. VESEY KNOX (Londonderry)
said he wished to call attention to several questions affecting the National Education Board. In the first place, he thought it was an unfortunate circumstance that the unusually important Report of the Board had not yet been distributed to Members. He dared say it was not the fault of the Government, but he simply mentioned it as an unfortunate fact. He noticed from the Report that the Commissioners had instituted an Inquiry, and had asked for reports from all their inspectors on the 82 payment by results system in Ireland. That system was an entirely antiquated one, and had been long ago abandoned in this country. It was in no way in the interests of good education, but did a vast deal of harm to the schools of the country, and ought to be abolished as soon as possible. He was also glad to find that the Commissioners had been led to do what they could to increase the amount of manual education in Irish schools. He did not refer simply to technical education, which he looked upon as a comparatively small part of the work of schools, but to manual education, such as was taught on the Swedish and Kindergarten system, which had hitherto been almost entirely unknown in Ireland outside one or two of the big towns. There was the greatest need for further manual education in all the schools throughout the country. He was glad to hear that the matter was to be dealt with, and he hoped the Chief Secretary would use his influence to expedite matters, and to get over any difficulties. There was also the matter of the need of further expenditure on the continuation schools in Ireland. Great progress had been made in England, chiefly owing to the work of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Rotherham when he was at the Board of Education, but in Ireland they had lagged behind. The payment given to the teacher in a case of a continuation school was not sufficient to induce any effort, and as there was a great need in the towns for a further development of these schools, he hoped the Chief Secretary would endeavour to get the same liberal grants for them as the Member for Rotherham got for similar schools in England. He also desired to call attention to the need of improving the position of the assistant teachers in schools. The present payment was only £63, and as that included the assistants in tolerably big schools in towns, it would be seen that in some cases the payment was very small. He noticed that there was no increase of expenditure on model schools. He did not object to model schools, though outside Dublin they existed almost entirely for the benefit of the Protestant population, and in the north mainly for the benefit of the Presbyterians. They were doing good work, and he should 83 deprecate any interference with their work. He would ask, however, that the same principle should be applied all round. The Christian Brothers' schools were practically model schools for the Catholics and were one of the most effective educational agencies in the whole United Kingdom. There was no reason why the grant should not be given to them without raising any complicated questions. The principal matter, however, to which he wished to call attention was one which concerned the Secretary of the Treasury and the attack which he had thought fit to make on the Commissioners of National Education. The position of that Board was rather a peculiar one. There was nothing like it in England or Scotland. Ireland had the advantage of the unpaid services of the leading men of the country, and they received no reward whatever. What differences there might be as to the system, he should have thought that the Board deserved from Ministers somewhat more consideration than was ordinarily given to paid officials. Nevertheless the Secretary of the Treasury thought fit to make an attack on the Commissioners. In his speech on March 30th dealing with the question of the deficiency in the payments, the Secretary of the Treasury expressed surprise that the Commissioners—who were mainly Conservatives—had never raised the question until the present Government came into office. That was a most extraordinary charge. [Cheers.] It was an allegation that the Commissioners of Education had abstained from performing their proper duty by not demanding the sum to which they were entitled. ["No!"] Certainly there was an insinuation that the Commissioners had abstained from doing their duty for some political reason, ["Hear, hear!"] These gentlemen, who, whether Catholic or Protestant, were mainly Conservatives, had been accused of refraining from pressing their legitimate demand because it would embarrass the Home Rule Government then 84 in office. A more absurd charge never was made by a Government in a difficulty to get out of that difficulty. What were the circumstances? It was undoubtedly a very large sum to which the National teachers would have been properly entitled. Altogether under the Act of 1892 £816,000 had been paid or voted for the purpose of free education, but if the proper sum had been voted it would have been £945,000, so that Ireland had been deprived of £129,000 to which she was properly entitled under the Probate Duty grants—9–80ths of the whole. The principle of that duty was that the different parts of the United Kingdom were to contribute to the common purse in certain proportions—that Ireland was to pay 9 per cent., Scotland 11 per cent., and England 80 per cent. In dividing up this money, which was in the nature of a grant for the relief of local taxation, it was held that, in accordance with those figures, Ireland should receive 9–80ths of the sum that England got. But, while year by year Ireland had been paying her full quota of taxation to the common purse, England had been taking out of that purse more than her fair share, and to the disadvantage of Ireland. Conduct of this kind between partners in ordinary business would give a right of action against the offending partner in the Court of law of any country where honesty was enforced, and the partner who had thus taken more than his fair share of the common purse would be ordered to refund that which he had fraudulently taken. ["Hear, hear!"] He claimed that this analogy of ordinary partnership should be applied to England in this case, and that the English Treasury should be called upon to refund the amount of which she had deprived Ireland. Explaining the circumstances under which Ireland came to lose the large amount referred to, the hon. Member pointed out that under the Irish Education Act of 1892 Ireland was to receive £210,000, or such amount as Parliament might determine, having regard to the fee grant 85 under the English Act of the preceding year. But in the first year (1892) Ireland received only £156,000 in consequence of the Treasury having failed to take the necessary steps to get the money voted by the House before Parliament dissolved. The Commissioners of Irish National Education were, therefore, obliged, under the circumstances, to be content with what they could get from the Treasury, which was the amount for three-quarters of the year. But when the English Government discovered the mistake they had made, why did they not bring in a supplementary estimate to make the deficiency good? ["Hear, hear!"] The Commissioners claimed that deficiency as still due to them. ["Hear, hear!"] In the following year, 1893, Ireland was short by £31,000. At the time the Commissioners made their estimate for that year they had no means of knowing, and did not know, what would be the English estimate, so as to be able to fix the amount of the 9–80ths. But at that time the Treasury knew very well—must have known—what was going to be the claim of the English Department, and if they had shown common frankness and honesty, they would have communicated the fact to the Irish Education Board in order to enable them to make their estimate in just proportion. But they carefully concealed that fact, and even refused information on the matter when applied to. Those facts were a crying scandal. (Nationalist cheers.) It would be hard to find in the whole history of international relations a more open case of designed, conscious, and well-considered fraud. [Nationalist cheers and loud Ministerial cries of "Oh!"]
§ THE CHAIRMAN (Mr. WODEHOUSE)
did not think the hon. Gentleman was entitled to charge a Department with fraud.
§ MR. KNOX
said it was impossible to describe it in any other way. [Mr. T. M. HEALY: "It is true!" and several HON. MEMBERS: "Stick to it."] He 86 maintained that they were guilty of conduct which, had it taken place between private persons, would have been described as fraud by every Court in the wide world. [" Hear, hear!"] In 1895 the facts were discovered. He took the credit to himself that he discovered what was going on and called attention to the matter. During the financial year ending 1895 application was made for the arrears. Those arrears were refused. Then a claim was made for the deficit in the actual year in which they then were, and that was refused. [Mr. HANBURY: "By the late Government."] This was not a Party matter. There had been three Governments. [Mr. T. M. HEALY: "Forty thieves."]—a Conservative Government, a Liberal Government, and again a Conservative Government—and they all acted alike. [Mr. GERALD BALFOUR: "It was the Government of 1893."] It was the Government of 1892 which failed to put any estimate at all before Parliament and made no provision for carrying out the Act. He did not suppose any English gentleman were anxious to cheat the Irish—[Mr. T. M. HEALY: "I do"]—but they certainly persisted in refusing to do financial justice to Ireland. There was only one possible excuse for the late Government not paying the money, and that was that at the time they were hard up; that was the year in which they had great difficulty in squaring their accounts. The present Government could not offer such an excuse. They had plenty of money. There was, perhaps, some excuse for a man who was hard up not paying his debts. [Mr. HANBURY: "You are getting it this year."] Yes; but why should not the Government pay the arrears? Suppose a tenant who owed several years' rent only paid one year's, what would the landlord say? A process would issue. He asked them to apply the same principle to this national matter that they would apply in a case of an Irish tenant; he asked 87 them to make restitution of the amount they had wrongfully taken. The matter was so plain that he did not wish to dwell further on the point. He now came to the principle which had been applied this year in making up the estimate. At last the Government had discovered that the principle of the nine-eightieths was not always an advantageous principle for England if strictly applied. When free education was introduced the Irish asked that the 10s. a head should be applied in the same way in Ireland as in England. That was refused because it would have meant too much money. The English population had increased and the Irish had decreased, especially the school-going population. Things had so changed that nine-eightieths would next year give to Ireland more than 10s. a head. He found that the Secretary to the Treasury on the 6th of July, in answer to a question of his, gave the following history of the matter:—The Estimate first submitted by the Education Board put the grant for 1896–97 at nine-eightieths of the original estimate of the English grant for 1895–90, but it took the English grant of the past instead of the current year, an arrangemeut obviously disadvantageous to Ireland. Instead of this, the Treasury, with the concurrence of the Irish Office, now suggested that the new grant should not be calculated on the equivalent basis, but should be made a capitation grant as in England. The immediate effect of this proposal was to increase the estimate by about £12,000, and the Education Board accordingly accepted it, adding that they did so 'without prejudice to their claim for nine-eightieths of the English fee grant.'The Education Board made their estimates on the figures of a prior year. They put them in alternative form, asking for a particular sum, or for nine-eightieths of the English grant. They were refused both by the Treasury and by the English Education Department, information as to what the English education grant was. They then had a letter from the Treasury saying they would give them an estimate which would increase the amount by £12,000. It would turn out, however, that they would only get £3,000 even if there was 88 no Supplementary Estimate for English free education this year. In certain circumstances the English Treasury would gain in future years, whilst the Irish Treasury would lose by the adoption of the principle which the English Treasury had so artfully substituted, for the principle which they had found might work against themselves. He asked that the Treasury should make restitution of the sums that had been kept back from Ireland, and that instead of trying to throw the blame upon gentlemen who were performing unpaid service in Ireland, the Treasury should acknowledge that it was itself in the wrong. He asked, in the second place, that in future the Government should keep to the principle laid down by the right hon. Member for St. George's Hanover Square, that Ireland's contribution should be nine-eightieths of the probate grants; and, in the third place, he asked that the Irish National Board, upon whom the heavy responsibility of framing these estimates was placed, should be given at the earliest possible moment in each class the fullest information as to which was going to be the estimate, original and supplementary, for English education.
§ MR. H. O. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Belfast, W.)
associated himself with the hon. Member opposite in his criticism of the policy of the Treasury. This was not a theoretical question, but a question which affected directly the incomes of school teachers in Ireland. In consequence of what had taken place there were teachers who were not receiving the addition which Parliament had intended that they should receive. That nine-eightieths of the probate grant would be applied to Irish purposes had been distinctly stated, but the understanding had not been kept. The Act of Parliament laid down that the grant should be £210,000, or such amount as Parliament might determine having regard to the amount of the grant under the English Elementary Education Act 89 of 1891. The representatives of the Treasury said that the letter of the law had been observed because £210,000 had been given to Ireland in successive Sessions. The spirit of the Act, however, had not been complied with. It was impossible to know at the beginning of a year what would be the number of children in England entitled to the 10s. grant, and, therefore, a certain amount of the grant had been given at the beginning of the year and it had been supplemented afterwards. This supplementary grant to English schools, if it formed part of the grant first made, would have largely increased the sum divisible between this country and Ireland, and the result would have been a considerable addition to the amount available for Irish teachers. The arrears due to the National Board he calculated at £74,000, and he asserted emphatically that those arrears ought to be paid to the Board. He was not sanguine enough to hope that the whole amount would be paid over this year, but unless some arrangement was arrived at this question would be brought up again and again. ["Hear, hear!"] He suggested that the payment of the arrears might be spread over such a period as might be thought reasonable. He trusted they might have not only an acknowledgment of the justice of the claim made for this year and the coming year, but a clear promise also that these arrears would be paid back.
§ MR. CLANCY
directed the attention of the Committee to the various pleas set up by the Secretary to the Treasury whenever this matter was brought before the House on previous occasions. The first answer which the right hon. Gentleman gave in reply to a question or this subject was, if he knew all the facts, a most disingenuous one. He stated on the 23rd March 1896, that—up to the year 1891–5 the inclusive Estimate was accordingly fixed at £210,000 at the in-stance of the National Board for Ireland themselves.The implication in that statement was 90 perfectly clear. It was that the National Board knew what they had a right to claim, and they claimed that amount. The Report which had been referred to by his hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry contained 10 or 12 page's upon this subject, and it was absolutely impossible for any man to read that Report and afterwards to say what the Secretary to the Treasury said in that House on the 23rd of March. From the year 1893, when they first discovered they were entitled to more than the £210,000, the National Board every year, in one shape or another, made a demand for more money.
§ MR. CLANCY
hoped the Secretary to the Treasury would not compel him to read the Report. What they said was that a Supplemental Estimate for £22,300 was submitted to Parliament by the Treasury as requisite for the purposes of the English grant for the year 1892–3,—But this Estimate was not presented until the 14th of February 1893, whilst our Estimate for the Irish Grant for the year 1892–3 had to he forwarded by us to the Treasury on the 31st of the preceding month. At the time we neither knew, nor had we any reason to suppose, that the amount of the original Estimate for the English Grant as presented to Parliament in February 1892 was insufficient, and that a supplementary Estimate for a considerable amount would have to be presented before the end of the financial year in March.They went on to say that—It is essential to direct special attention to the dates. Our Estimate for 1893–4 has to be made up by our officials towards the close of the year 1892, and was forwarded to the Treasury in due course in January 1893.That was in quite time enough for the Treasury to inform them of what they were going to do—As a matter of course it was prepared on the only basis upon which it was then possible for us to proceed—namely, the £210,000 specifically mentioned in the Act of 1892. All that has been stated in connection with our Estimate for 1892–3 is equally applicable to that for 1893–4. The last-mentioned Estimate was, in fact, prepared and forwarded to the Treasury somewhat previous to the Estimate which had 91 to be made out, under such exceptional circumstances, for the year 1892–3. Throughout all this time, as has been already stated, no supplementary Estimate had been presented for England, and nothing occurred to us to suggest that the amount specifically named in the Act, £210,000, the only amount then in question, did not adequately represent Ireland's share.Would the right hon. Gentleman, after that statement, persist in saying or implying, as he did on the 23rd of March, that the Board knew their rights and asked for them. If the right hon. Gentleman did so after what he had read from the Report, the only conclusion he-could come to was that he regarded the statements made by these gentlemen as false. The right hon. Gentleman now appeared to blame them for not putting forth their full demands in time. But the English Treasury knew what they ought to have demanded, and, knowing that, they kept silence—not only kept silence, but refused to answer their letters, and deprived them of the very information on the basis of which they might have made their demands. He had no hesitation in saying that that was a fraudulent and dishonest transaction. The words of the Act were that Ireland should receive £210,000 per annum, or whatever other sum corresponded in proportion to the amount of the grant which England received. Ireland was to have more or less given to her, having regard to the amount which was given to England. The proportion fixed by the statute was that 80 per cent. was to be given to England, 11 per cent. to Scotland, and 9 per cent. to Ireland. Those were the amounts which the Parliament of 1892 fixed as the several proportions which the three countries were to receive. But, in fact, Ireland had never received her due proportion of the grant, and the Estimates had not been increased as they should have been in order to enable Ireland to receive her fair proportion of the grant. The right hon. Gentleman had said that that was the fault of the last Government, and not of the present Government. He did not care in the least 92 which Government was in fault, because both Governments appeared to be acting together in this matter with the view of depriving Ireland of her just rights. In his view, both Conservative and Liberal Governments had robbed Ireland of her due share of the grant. The Treasury appeared to be masters of the situation, notwithstanding the clear and distinct provisions of the Act of Parliament. The next point taken on behalf of the Government was that the Irish Members had not objected to the course that had been taken. But the Irish Members did object to it in 1894.
§ MR. CLANCY
said that the Irish Board had not objected to it because they were kept in ignorance of the circumstances. The Irish Members had been guilty of the folly of putting their trust in the Irish Board, and now a Treasury official came down to that House and said that the Irish Board did not complain. It was perfectly monstrous that the Government should act in such a matter. He did not believe that any change had ever been voluntarily made by the English Government in favour of Ireland; on the contrary, whatever change was made in the arrangement was sure to be to the disadvantage of that country. It was obvious that as the population of England was increasing and that of Ireland was diminishing, the former would in the future receive an increased grant and the latter a decreased grant, and, therefore, if population were to be taken as the basis of the grant, Ireland would not receive her allocated proportion of it. He hoped the admission of the circumstances would be acted on by the right hon. Gentleman in practice, and that he would not take advantage of the ignorance of the Education Board. He believed that all speeches addressed to the Secretary to the Treasury were perfectly fruitless. The Treasury had made 93 up their minds. They had their accounts cooked. They kept their opinion to themselves. They were kept, he believed, even from the Chief Secretary himself. But he would address himself to the Chief Secretary, and ask him whether he was content that Ireland should he cheated in this manner by the English Treasury. The right hon. Gentleman was supposed to be the guardian of the interests of Ireland. Was he going to take up the. line of the National Board, or the line which would undoubtedly be taken by the Secretary to the Treasury? The constitution of the National Board was well-known. They were all men of eminent position. They had no sympathy with the National movement in Ireland, or, so far as he knew, with the attacks upon England. They had simply found out that a glaring piece of jobbery was being practised at the expense of the country in which they lived, and, being Irishmen, they had—and he said it to their credit—declared in the most emphatic manner that it was a piece of dishonesty. Was the right hon. Gentleman going to take their side in this case or the side of the English Treasury which had, through the mouth of its officials that night, virtually called them liars?
MR. T. M. HEALY,
who said he objected altogether to the right hon. Gentleman replying. The Government ought to have the Chancellor of the Exchequer there. The Secretary to the Treasury was only a subordinate official, and he objected to a subordinate official being allowed to get up and repeat the answers he had given to his hon. Friend. [Cheers.] This was a matter of vital principle to Irishmen, and they would not take the replies of the right hon. Gentleman. The British Chancellor of the Exchequer was responsible to them in this matter, and he ought to be present listening to the Debate. It had been shown on incontrovertible evidence 94 that Ireland was being robbed of £125,000, and were they to be replied to by a mere Barabbas on the Treasury Bench? [Cries of "Order!" and "Withdraw."]
THE CHAIRMAN (Mr. WODE-HOUSE)
The hon. Member will feel, I am sure, that that is not a proper expression to use, and I hope he will withdraw it. [Cheers.]
MR. T. M. HEALY
The Colonial Secretary was allowed to call Mr. Gladstone Herod. ["Order!" and "Withdraw."
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. J. CHAMBERLAIN,) Birmingham, W.
I beg pardon, Sir; I never did anything of the kind.
MR. T. M. HEALY
I will do so, Sir; but I say the right hon. Gentleman is a committed party, and he ought, at any rate, to have the good sense to hold his tongue in this business. If the right hon. Gentleman carried into his private life and his private business this system of conducting transactions, he would say the less anyone had to do with them the better. [Cheers and cries of "Oh!"] This was only a matter of £125,000, but it was of the system of the robbery of Ireland. Irishmen had proved that they had been robbed of £3,000,000 per annum since the Union, and this particular sum had been ear-marked for Ireland. It was only the National teachers of Ireland who had been robbed, but the principle was the same. The Secretary to the Treasury said, "Why did not the Irish Members find this out before?" [At this point the Chancellor of the Exchequer entered the House.] He saw it was a laughing matter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Colonial Secretary. It might be that the right hon. Gentleman had never heard of the matter before; but he would like to give him the defence of his subordinate. 95 The Secretary to the Treasury said that the Irish Members should have known of this before. If he was going along the street and somebody picked his pocket and he was unaware of the fact, was that acquiescence in the robbery? That was the defence of the Secretary to the Treasury. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer made a bargain with Ireland in 1881 and ear-marked the amount Ireland was to get as nine-eightieths. She had not got it. In 1896 they had got the full amount of nine-eightieths, but they wanted the money back for 1895, 1894, 1893, and 1892. The Scotch, too, had been robbed of £30,000. Fancy, £30,000 in bawbees! [Loud laughter.] The Irish admittedly had been robbed of £125,000. Who had got the money—the predominant partner I The predominant thief. [Nationalist cheers.] This was a laughing matter to gentlemen with £5,000 a year, but it was no laughing matter to the poor teacher with £1 a week. It was £125,000 this year; it might be a million next year. So this atrocious system of misgovernment by aliens would continue, with only a feeble protest by those who happened to be in the House. The National Board applied to the Treasury for information, and they refused it. The Board applied to the English Education Department, and, in collusion with the Treasury, information as to the amount coming to Ireland was refused again. [Laughter.] Yes, but would their laughter put the money into the pockets of the Irish teachers? Do them the decency not to laugh at them after robbing them. He was glad that Lord Justice Fitzgibbon had resigned, and he believed that he had resigned as a protest against such treatment. He expected before long more resignations; he hoped there would be. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer denied them justice he did not see how any self-respecting member of the Board could remain a member. If they had demanded more than their share, would they have got 96 it? They had not demanded their proper share, and the Treasury exclaimed—These ignorant Irish, this unpaid Board, do not ask for the £125,000 to which they are entitled. We are the predominant partner, and we will put it into our predominant pocket.Although the matter was a small one in amount it was a large one in point of principle. What the Nationalist Members wanted was the basis of the settlement of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1891. The whole transaction was a disgrace to England. It was like levying a charge upon India for the Soudanese expedition—exactly the same kind of thing, only a little more shady. He asked any Unionist—was it any wonder they kicked against the Union? If the Treasury would not yield to necessity let them yield to arithmetic. Let them keep to the engagements they had made. The Nationalists would bring it up again and rub it in until they were sick of the subject, as the Nationalists of Ireland were sick of any union—political or financial—with England. [Irish cheers.]
§ * MR. HANBURY,
in replying on behalf of the Treasury, said it, was not necessary to go into the large question of the financial relations between Great Britain and Ireland, for a Commission was now considering it. It would be enough for him to deal with the issue before the Committee. The hon. Member for Derry had fairly presented the leading facts of the case. He did not dispute either his figures or his dates. In spite of the rather violent attack made upon himself by the hon. Member for Louth, his one desire, as far as he had any influence, was to do the fullest justice to Ireland. What was the real difficulty of the case? That they were merely carrying out the statute enacted by Parliament and the practice of the late Parliament, and there must be a certain amount of continuity in these matters. The policy now condemned by the Irish Members was not the policy of the present Gov- 97 ernment. The Act of Parliament distinctly laid down two alternatives—that Ireland should receive £210,000, or such other sum as Parliament should decide.
§ * MR. HANBURY
Yes; he should have stated that. But Parliament did undoubtedly, under the directions of the Government then in power, vote £210,000. The complaint of Irish Members generally against the present Government was that they did not carry out the policy of the late Government in Irish matters. But in this matter the present Government were carrying out the policy of the late Government—a policy embodied in an Act of Parliament—and yet attacks were made upon them. He should say that there had been neglect both on the part of the Irish Members and on the part of the Commissioners of National Education in not applying for Ireland's full share of the grant. It could not be said that that, neglect was entirely due to ignorance of the position of affairs. There was a Statute in existence, and if the Irish Members had paid attention to the needs of Ireland they would have seen from that Statute that the £210,000 was not necessarily the full amount.
§ * MR. HANBURY
said the contention was that the duty of applying for the full amount ought to have been discharged by the Treasury. But it was not the duty of the Treasury to frame the Estimates of the various Departments. The Estimates had to be submitted to the Treasury by the Departments, and it was the duty of the Treasury to cut down rather than to increase those Estimates. But the Treasury did not cut down the Estimates in this particular instance—they granted the whole amount asked for by the Irish Commissioners of Education. Of course, if it were the fact that information as 98 to the exact amount was refused by the Treasury, under the late Government to the Commissioners, he was not ashamed to say that the Treasury ought not to have refused it. However, it was not until the end of 1894 that the hon. Member for Derry discovered that during the two preceding years the full 9–80ths had not been given to Ireland, and an appeal was made to the Treasury for the arrears. It was impossible for the Treasury to open up the accounts for 1893–4, but as the appeal was made to the Treasury before the year 1894–5 had expired it was possible for the Treasury to grant the whole 9–80ths for that year, but it was refused by the late Government. But the present Government had not treated Ireland in that fashion. Hon. Gentlemen opposite were bound to admit that the present Government had given in the year for which they were responsible the whole of the 9–80ths to which Ireland was entitled. He had been accused of charging the Commissioners with not having claimed the whole of the nine-eightieths before because their Party were in power. That charge was based upon a misapprehension. What he had said was that the Commissioners had never raised the question until 1894, and that possibly the Irish Members had not raised the question because the Party with which they were connected were in power. He had never suggested that the Commissioners had not acted because a certain Party were in power. He. had, he thought, shown that there must be a certain amount of continuity of policy in these matters, and that the present Government could not undo the action of the late Government up to the year 1894–5 inclusive. He had also shown that during the year that the present Government had been in office they had given Ireland the whole amount to which she was entitled. But then it was said that they had made a certain alteration this year because they wanted to evade giving Ireland in the future the whole nine-eightieths. 99 He held that a charge of that kind ought not to be made unless there was more foundation for it than the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Louth disclosed. What were the facts? The amount of the capitation grant given this year was considerably in excess of what was granted last year, and more than nine-eightieths of the original English grant for this year. [Mr. T. M. HEALY: "Keep it, and give us our money."] If hon. Members did not want the extra £2,000 or £3,000 that the Treasury was giving to Ireland, the Department had no wish to press it upon them. In fact it looked rather as if the Government were giving more than was absolutely necessary. [Laughter from the Nationalist Members.] He wondered whether the hon. and learned Member for Louth had read the last Report of the Public Accounts Committee presided over by the hon. Member for East Donegal. That Committee, in going through the appropriation accounts for 1894–5, were struck by the fact that the National Education Commissioners had returned £866 out of the sum of £210,000. The hon. Member for Louth would doubtless say that it was the wicked Treasury which had forced them to refund this amount; but that was not the opinion of the hon. and learned Member for East Donegal. The Committee said that it was agreed by the Comptroller and Auditor General and by the Treasury that this balance of £866 might have been expended instead of surrendered. It might be assumed that the Education Commissioners had some difficulty in distributing the whole of the money.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
said that the report to which the right hon. Gentleman had referred had not yet been circulated. As the right hon. Gentleman appeared to be anxious to cast some responsibility upon him, he would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether in the Committee he did not bring the matter forward and urge upon the right hon. Gentleman that 100 there ought to have been no surrender to the Exchequer of the amount in question? ["Hear, hear!"]
§ * MR. HANBURY
admitted that that was so, and said that he was about to give the same explanation to the Committee. He agreed with the hon. Member for East Donegal that the National Commissioners would have been perfectly justified if they had not returned this money. But they did return it, and the presumption was that they were not able to spend the money. However, this year the Government had raised the Estimate to £255,000. If the English Supplementary Estimate this year was only up to the level of the Estimate for last year, the amount that was being given to Ireland would be about equal to 9–80ths of the original and supplementary English grants. In addition to that, the present Government, having already provided a sum which they anticipated would be fully equal in the year that was coming, as in the past year, to 9–80ths of the total English grant, was also going to grant a sum of £10,000 towards the teachers' pension fund. He thought, therefore, he had shown that, whatever might have been the faults of the late Board of Treasury—and he did not want to defend them—at any rate since the Unionist Government had come into power they had dealt honestly by Ireland in this matter, and had not only given the whole 9–80ths, but were going to exceed it this year by £10,000.
called attention to some of the grievances of Irish national teachers. In his opinion the Irish teachers ought to receive at least the same salaries as were granted to English teachers. Again, the system of payment by results still continued in Ireland, although it was discontinued in England. Some time since an Act was passed to grant a certain amount of public money to the teaching of agriculture, but so far as he was aware no money had been actually devoted to this purpose up to the present. 101 The absence of proper school apparatus was also very much complained of, and in many instances the teachers were badly housed. The teachers' pension fund also was in a most unsatisfactory position, the accounts not having been properly audited for the past 12 or 13 years, and the quinquennial report of the Treasury not having been furnished for 10 years the teachers really did not know how the matter stood. With regard to the £125,000, he thought the reply of the Secretary to the Treasury was eminently unsatisfactory. He was entitled to the restitution, and the money which was owing to them by reason of the solemn agreement made by a former Chancellor of the Exchequer. He, as a business man, could not understand the morality of the arguments brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman. He trusted that before the Debate ended the the Chancellor of the Exchequer would give a more reassuring reply to the Irish Members in regard to this question, for he could assure the Committee they were not going to allow it to rest.
§ MR. T. HARRINGTON (Dublin, Harbour)
said it was impossible for the right hon. Gentleman to acquit the Treasury of culpable negligence in connection with this transaction. The words of the Act were, "£210,000 or such other amount as Parliament may determine, having regard to the amount of the free grant of the English Elementary Education Act, 1891." It was the duty of the Treasury to supply the National Board of Education with the necessary information. The right hon. Gentleman said that in the past two alternative propositions were made to Parliament—(1), the payment of £210,000; (2), the other, the voting of nine-eightieths; and Parliament elected to vote the £210,000. That was not how the matter stood. Parliament was not put in possession by the Treasury of that which the Act directed them to give—namely, the alternatives. But someone appeared to have supplied information in connection 102 with the annual provision for Scotland and their proportion of the Free Education Grant, but no such information had been supplied to the Irish Commissioners. The right hon. Gentleman said that what the Commissioners applied for they got, but the Report showed that there was some correspondence between the Commissioners and the Treasury, a portion of which had evidently not been published. The Commissioners said:—Accordingly, when the preparation of our Estimates for the financial year 1894–6 was about to he taken in hand in the autumn of 1893, we called the attention of the Treasury to the provision in the Irish Act of 1892 which regulated the amount of the Irish Grant 9–80ths. In consequence of the reply then received we did not insert in our Estimates for the then coming year 1894–5 any other amount than the £210,000 originally mentioned in the Act.He wanted to know what the reply of the Treasury was, because it was clear that the Commissioners were precluded from publishing it; but in consequence of the reply they received only £210,000 was presented. How, then, could the right hon. Gentleman maintain that any portion of responsibility attached to the Commissioners for what had occurred. He thought that the answer of the right hon. Gentleman was most unsatisfactory. It was not the ordinary charges that would suffer by the smaller amount voted, but it was an amount that would have gone into the pockets of the national teachers. If the £210,000 had been given to the National Commissioners, they would have distributed it to the teachers in accordance with the scale of grants apportioned by them; but because it was not given to them, and because they happened to have £9,000 to spare, it was, therefore, forsooth, endeavoured to be proved that they did not really require the other amount at all. The mere fact of the return of the £9,000 was not a shadow of an argument against the claim which the Commissioners had for the whole amount. If the right hon. Gentleman would read the Report of the Commissioners, he would see that every year application was made by the 103 Commissioners for information on the question both to the Irish Government and to the Treasury, and upon no occasion could they get the necessary information to enable them to put that Estimate before them. They also stated that they had no basis on which they could form an estimate except the £210,000, and they implied that the Treasury precluded them from making an estimate for any larger sum than the £210,000, and he charged it as the duty of the right hon. Gentleman to find out why it was that the Treasury, though they had two alternatives in the Act of Parliament, tied the Commissioners down to the one alternative, and gave them no opportunity of presenting another Estimate.
§ MR. EDWARD CARSON (Dublin University)
thought it was impossible the Government should understand that Members of all political opinions for Ireland were entirely united upon this question. For his own part, although in one respect he thought the reply of the Financial Secretary was entirely satisfactory—namely, as to what the Government intended to do in the matter of refunding this money which was plainly owing to Ireland—it was entirely unsatisfactory. He was glad the Financial Secretary had been able to announce that at all events the present Government would be no party, in the financial years over which they had control, to taking from Ireland the sum which was due under the Act of Parliament, and under the compact entered into in 1891. That was so far satisfactory, and he would have been glad if the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, or somebody who had control of the finances at the time that this petty pilfering from Ireland went on, had been present to explain under what circumstances they thought themselves justified in refusing to Ireland her proper proportion of this grant. Various reasons had been put forward. It had been suggested that it might have been a mistake. Whenever the Treasury made a 104 mistake, they always made it, he feared, against their poor country. But, if it was a mistake, surely that great Department and that great English Government were not going, because a mistake was made, to take away from the Education Board in Ireland this to them enormous sum of £125,000. It had been said it might have been negligence on the part of the Treasury. It was also suggested, and he might say entirely, as it seemed to him, without ground, that it might have been negligence on the part of the National Board. Even if it was so, were the national teachers in Ireland—because he believed it really came out of their pockets—to be deprived of this very substantial sum of money? There was only one other way in which it could have occurred, and that was that it was done purposely by the Treasury. He could hardly believe that the Treasury would have purposely perpetrated an act of that kind; but he must say, in view of the correspondence read out from this Report, it seemed to him that the Treasury, to say the least of it, sat rather tight on the information in their possession, and were very much inclined to put off as eminent and as trustworthy a body of men as there was in Ireland by giving them the very scantiest information possible. How did the matter stand? Simply in this way. An agreement was come to, an agreement sanctioned by Act of Parliament in 1891, that a certain portion of these duties should go to Ireland as an education grant. It was not denied by the Secretary to the Treasury that they had had it. It was admitted that the sum was in or about £125,000. What was the sole explanation given by the Secretary to the Treasury? It was that this had already happened in the Treasury, and they must have a continuity of policy. If they put it as a question of continuity, it was a continuity of wrong, and did the Treasury really mean to suggest that, when there had been a wrong of this kind perpe- 105 trated towards Ireland, they were not going to try to find some remedy by which this money should be returned to the National Board. [Cheers.] He knew that all the Chief Secretary's sympathies were with Ireland, and he thought it was the right hon. Gentleman's business to fight the Treasury to the bitter end over this question. [Cheers.] This was no question of politics, and whenever hon. Members opposite claimed that this money should be repaid to Ireland he should be always most ready to support them. [Cheers.]
§ * THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir MICHAEL HICKS BEACH,) Bristol, W.
remarked that, when the present Government came into office, they carefully examined this matter in the light of what happened in the past, and they were completely satisfied that the course which had been followed was not one in their judgment that was proper and light. They therefore decided, in the first place, to give to Ireland as much as had been claimed for the year 1895–6. Further, having in view the utter impracticability and want of logic of the system under which the fee grant to Ireland had been fixed—not in regard to the number of children attending schools in Ireland, but with regard to the number attending schools in England—which was quite another thing—they decided, after conferring with the Irish Government and the Irish National Board, to alter that system, as they were advised they could under the provisions of the Act of 1892, in order to give to Ireland the same fee grant as was now given to England of 10s. per child in attendance. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member for Louth rather seemed to object to that principle for the coming year. All he could say was that, in his belief, it would give to Ireland more than she would obtain under the system of 9–80ths, and certainly much more if, as they hoped, compulsory education before long should be introduced into that country. ["Hear, hear!"] As to the past, the present Government were not responsible for what occurred from 1892 to 1895. During those years the grants Ireland recieved were, as his right hon. Friend said, the grants which were asked for by the National Board. They were not, as it appeared now, what the National 106 Board might have asked for at the time, and what probably would have been given if they had been asked for; therefore, hon. Members asked that payments should now be made to Ireland in respect of what were called arrears. He was bound to say he utterly demurred to the calculation of those arrears, which he did not think could be brought to anything like the sums named. As had already been stated, in the course of the present year they were going to give £10,000 towards the deficiency in the Irish Teachers' Pension Fund. That amount of £10,000, he was afraid, would have to be continued for a considerable time, and, in his belief, what they should have to give in making up the deficiency in the Pension Fund would far more than compensate for the amount claimed to be duo by hon. Members opposite, which could not now be divided among the teachers between 1892 and 1895, because of the changes that had occurred. The Government had, therefore, chosen the only practical way to remedy what certainly in his mind was an injustice. [Cheers.]
§ And, it being Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Resolution to be reported upon Monday next; Committee also report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.