§ *MR. KNOX
rose to call attention to the distribution of the Fee Grant between England, Ireland, and Scotland. In the year 1891 the then Chancellor of the Exchequer—the present First Lord of the Admiralty—found himself able to give free education to England. In the first year the right hon. Gentleman estimated that the comparatively small sum of £900,000 would be necessary for the purpose, and when he gave the present larger sum for free education to England he admitted that it was only fair that an equivalent sum should be given to Ireland and Scotland. Scotland had partially free education at the time, but Ireland had not, and it was found impossible to give it to her that year, having regard to Parliamentary time. But the right hon. Gentleman laid down the principle that he would make an equivalent Grant to Ireland and Scotland, based, not on the educational needs of these countries, but on their contributions to the revenue 473 of the United Kingdom. He agreed that the equivalent grant to Scotland should be eleven-eightieths, and the equivalent grant to Ireland nine-eightieths of the English grant. The Secretary to the Treasury had denied that there was any Parliamentary contract, hut he could satisfy the House that there was. In 1891, in answer to a question by the hon. Member for the St. Rollox Division of Glasgow, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer said: —My Budget Estimate was prepared upon the basis that the Education Grant would be distributed in the proportion of 80 per cent. to England, 11 per cent. to Scotland, and 9 per cent. to Ireland.On another occasion, when the right hon. Member for the Stirling Burghs had urged that the Lord Advocate's statement in introducing the Bill was not explicit enough on the point whether Scotland was to have the benefit of an increase in the grant, year by year, in proportion to the increase in the English grant, the Lord Advocate said:—I thought I made it clear enough that this amount is to vary in the proportion I have indicated, as the English amount varies.When the Scotch Bill came on for discussion, in 1892, this point was gone into in considerable detail. He could give many instances, but he would select a few. The Solicitor General for Scotland at that time said:—The proportion fixed by the Treasury officials has been borne out by the experience of three successive years. Further, the matter has not been concluded once for all. By the words which now find a place in the Bill, it will always be open till the House comes to a more perfect state of knowledge on the question.Now, precisely the same words were used in the Irish Bill of the same year that were used in the Scotch Bill, and therefore, what was said about the one Bill applied to the other. The matter was raised in even a more precise form by the hon. Member for Caithness. The hon. Member took up the ground that the principle was altogether a false one, and he moved an Amendment to leave out the £265,000, and he used these words:—We have 540,000 children in average attendance, and the Grant of 10s. per head would amount to £270,000, £4,000 or £5,000 more than we get under the Bill474 The question, he added, affected Ireland even more vitally than Scotland, and would probably make a difference in her case of £80,000 or £100,000. As a matter of fact that was an exaggeration, but it did make a difference of £70,000 to Ireland. The point of the hon. Member was evidently considered to be one of great importance, because the right hon. Gentleman the present Leader of the House replied to him and argued that the balance of advantage was on the whole in favour of the scheme proposed by the Government. The right hon. Gentleman added that the only other principle on which to allocate the money was that stated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer— namely, to pay each country an amount proportionate to that which the country paid to the general Exchequer of the Empire; that was the plan adopted in the Bill, but if it should turn out in future that the average attendance in England was changed, it might be necessary to modify the proportion of Scotland, so as to make it bear a better proportion to the English grant. But they could not treat Scotland and Ireland as if they were on the same basis as England. They were not on the same basis. This was the right hon. Gentleman's contention, and showed very clearly that the proportions were fixed, not on a consideration of educational needs, but on a consideration of relative contributions to the Exchequer. The matter was argued out on the Scotch Bill, and he defied any reasonable man to read through the reports of what took place on that Bill, to say that there was not a Parliamentary contract by which eleven-eightieths of the English grant should be paid to Scotland and nine-eightieths to Ireland. Would the Government promise that there should be a Select Committee to inquire into this matter, or a special reference made to the Public Accounts Committee? He pledged himself that he and his hon. Friends would absolutely abide by the decision, without trying to raise the matter again. The question was so clear that he would be glad to lay the matter before any independent body for decision, and to abide absolutely by what it said. The same words were used precisely in 475 the two Acts. The Irish Act said that:—There should be an annual grant of £210,000, or of such other amount as Parliament may determine, having reference to the amount of the fee grant under the Elementary Education Act, 1881.That solemn Parliamentary contract had not been carried out in any single year since it was made. As far as Ireland was concerned, she ought to have got in each year £210,000, or such other amount as Parliament determined, having regard to the English fee grant. The first full year was 1892–3, and England got £1,942,000; Ireland, in proportion, should have received £218,000, but, as a matter of fact, Ireland only received £156,000. The Irish Education Act did not come into force until a portion of the financial year had gone by, but Ireland was not compensated for the loss which she thereby suffered. There was, therefore, a breach of the spirit of the contract entered into by the right hon. Member for St. George's. If the Government were unable to employ the money for free education in Ireland, then it was their duty to see that the money was employed for some other educational purpose. But they kept the money in the Treasury. In 1893–4 Ireland ought to have received £238,000, but she only received £210,000; and in 1894–5 Ireland received £33,000 less than she ought to have got. It was the business of the Treasury to see that the Act of Parliament was carried out in letter and in spirit. They tried to shift the responsibility on the Irish National Board; but that did not avail them, for the National Board was itself the creation of England. It was true that the composition of the Board had been improved recently by the addition to it of the Archbishop of Dublin and certain other gentlemen, but when the Board was appointed no pretence was made that it represented the feelings of the Irish Representatives. For the Treasury to shift the blame on the National Board was merely for one English Department to shift the blame upon another. The Treasury knew perfectly well that the Irish grant should have been annually increased, for year by year the Treasury did increase the Scotch grant, which was ruled by the 476 same words precisely as the Irish grant, but they did not increase it enough. They made no allowance for the Supplementary Estimates which were made for English education in each year, and in no year did they give Scotland her proportion of these Supplementary Estimates though they did give her her proportion of the ordinary Estimates. The Treasury had deprived Ireland of this money knowing that Ireland ought to get it. He was not attacking the Secretary to the Treasury personally. He was not then at the Treasury. It was a matter of principle. Governments might come in, Governments might go out, but the Treasury still ground Ireland year by year. It was the policy of the Department he was objecting to, and he submitted that if there was—and he was ready to prove it before any impartial tribunal, the Public Accounts Committee if it was desired—if there was a solemn Parliamentary contract by which these proportions of the English grant should be given every year to Ireland and Scotland and it had been broken, was it not a miserable thing that the Treasury of this rich country should say that the responsibility did not belong to them, but that the blame must lie on the ignorance of the Irish Education Department? The right hon. Gentleman had suggested another defence, namely, that the Irish Members ought to have called attention to the matter sooner. Other Members had at times access to official information. The Irish Members never had. They always stood outside the departments trying to get justice done without any inner knowledge of what was going on. The Irish Members had done their duty in these matters, but they had been frequently over-reached by the Treasury. It was not fair to lay the blame on the Irish Members for it was by them that this mistake was first discovered. He had raised the question in 1894. It could only have been raised one Session earlier; and that was the Home Rule Session, when it was not possible to raise these questions of detail. The strain on the minds of men was quite exceptional during that Session, and he did not think that the fact that they omitted to raise the point then could be used as evidence of laches on their part. In the Session of 1894 he raised the 477 question several times. At first he found the Chief Secretary had no know-lodge of the matter. Subsequently the right hon. Gentleman said he had made out a primâ, facie case, and by degrees he got out of the right hon. Gentle man an important answer in the early part of the Session of 1895. The Question he asked, on the 11th February 1895, was as follow:—I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, whether he has been able to arrive at a conclusion as to whether, under the Education Act of 1892, the Irish For Grant, instead of being a fixed sum, should increase with the increase of the English grant, bearing to that grant the proportion of 9 to 80.To that the late. Chief Secretary (Mr. J. Morley) replied:—The Treasury, on the representation of the Irish Government, have admitted that, under the Education Act of 1892. the Irish Fee Grant, instead of being a fixed sum, should increase with the increase of the English grant bearing to that grant the proportion of 9 to 80; and they have agreed to insert in the Estimate for the coming year the increased amount asked for by the Irish Education Commissioner.There was also some reference to past arrears, he believed, although it was not mentioned in the Official Report, and he should have pressed the matter further, but the existence of the then Government was brought to an end. The Treasury reluctantly admitted the principle, and the principle applied to the past as well as to the present year. But they did not attempt to put it in force in its application to past years, and they refused at this moment to put it into force in relation to past years. They did profess to put it in force in reference to a future year—that was the year which was just closing. But how did they do it? They first made a large blunder in the figures of about £9,000. He never understood the basis of the blunder or who made it, but the error was to the disadvantages of Ireland. They then brought forward another Estimate to make up that error, but again they were wrong, the Estimate being so framed that it was still £3,500 short. He understood the right hon. Gentleman was willing now to rectify that blunder, but he claimed that there was still a large sum of arrears, and until that was dealt with England would not have 478 cleared herself of her financial dishonesty towards the poorer country. Irish Members had been frequently told they ought to respect contracts. Poor Irish peasants had been run into jail for not respecting contracts, and why, he asked, should not the Treasury keep its contracts on a big scale as well as the poor Irish tenant on a small scale? The only difference was that there was no remedy at Jaw by which Parliament could be made to disgorge any sum which should have been paid over under any Parliamentary contract. They could cover themselves, if they liked, under that defence, just as a man who owed a just debt could plead the Statute of Limitations or infancy or any such plea without, he thought, increasing his credit in the eyes of his fellow men. But they did not get rid of the fact that they made a solemn contract with Ireland, and that they had broken that contract. If an agreement made between the two sides of the House was to be broken in that way, there would be no finality about anything that was done in this House. It was the duty of the Government to carry out the intention of Parliament when the Act was passed, and to see that these arrears were made good, and that they got their nine-eightieths of the, English grant from the time when the Act was passed. There was another defence which the. right hon. Gentleman urged, and that was that the need for this money was not so great in Ireland as in England. That defence was not one which was really open to the right hon. Gentleman, for educational needs were not the basis of the arrangement. The basis was that it should be an equivalent grant, and as a matter of tact nobody who knew the condition of schools in Ireland, and the very small payments given to the teachers in. Irish schools, could say that really this money was not needed for this purpose in Ireland. From time to time hon. Members opposite, taunted them with the amount of illiteracy in Ireland, and yet they refused to keep a contract which was entered into in order that they should have a constantly-increasing sum to apply to the needs of their education in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman had adopted a different principle in the Act of this year. It was a principle to which he did not object, 479 and if it had been adopted from the first he should have seen no grievance in it. The fee grant was for the future to be divided on the principle of 10s. per head. That was the principle which was originally contended for, and if it had been given at first Ireland would have got £70,000 a year more from the beginning. What he objected to was not that this new principle had been introduced, but that it had been introduced by the Treasury without making up for the arrears which had arisen from the neglect and breach of the old principle. The matter was one of such great importance that the Archbishop of Dublin had brought it prominently before the Irish public, while both Unionist and Nationalist newspapers had supported it. It was a point of such absolute clearness that, as he had said before, he ventured to ask the right hon. Gentleman, if he could not at once give the Irish Members an affirmative answer, to place the whole subject before a Committee or the Public Accounts Committee, and the Irish Members would be perfectly ready to abide by their decision.
*THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. R. W. HANBUEY,) Preston
said, the hon. Member had laid great stress upon an alleged breach of contract. If any contract had really been broken, he would say at once that everything he claimed for Ireland ought to be granted. But upon what was the allegation based? The hon. Member based it upon Amendments which were proposed during the passage of the Bill, and on certain theories which were broached while the Bill was under discussion. What the Government rested upon, however, were not Amendments of that kind, but upon the Bill as it now stood in the Statute Book, and that Bill made no reference whatever to the nine-eightieths upon which the hon. Member based his whole case. What the Bill said was that the grant to Ireland should be £210,000 a year, or such other sum as Parliament should determine, having regard to the English educational fee grant. That was exactly what had been done, and, therefore, could not constitute a breach of Parliamentary contract. The hon. Member must admit that Ireland had had the £210,000 a year specifically mentioned in the Act. Then he went 480 on to the second portion of the sentence which provided that if the £210,000 was not paid then there should be paid such other sum as Parliament might direct during that year. But Parliament had made no direction of that kind. Why had £210,000 been paid instead of this other sum? For the simple reason that no request of any kind for anything beyond the £210,000 had ever been submitted to the Treasury. It was in the power of the hon. Gentleman to raise the question.
§ *MR. HANBURY
remarked that in that case the hon. Gentleman raised the matter when a Government favourable to his political views were in power, and they refused his request. These Estimates were submitted by the Commissioners of Education for Ireland, amongst whom there were some very powerful friends of the hon. Gentleman. Why had the Commissioners never till this year raised the question? Why was this claim never raised when the hon. Member's Friends were in Office?
§ *MR. HANBURY
believed, but was not sure, that the Commissioners raised the question about February 1895, and there was a refusal. Up to the present year Ireland had received everything in accordance with the Act. No Parliamentary contract had been broken, because the sum directed by Parliament had been paid to Ireland. What had been the position of the present Government since they came into Office? The hon. Gentleman said the Treasury always ground Ireland down. Was that to be laid at the door of the Treasury during the present year? On the contrary, the hon. Gentleman had had from the Treasury the utmost he had asked. When the late Chief Secretary for Ireland promised that Ireland should have nine-eightieths of the English grants, the promise was hardly carried 481 out strictly, because the nine-eightieths was not based upon the original grant of this year but upon the grant of last year without taking the Supplementary Estimates into account at all. The present Treasury had given Ireland her nine eightieths of the original grant for this year, which represented a much larger sum than if based on the Estimate of the preceding year, and he promised the other Gentlemen they would also take into consideration Ireland's share of the Supplementary Estimates. Ireland had had from the present Government the whole of her share. They had gone even further than that. Under the new system they had given her everything asked for, but what they did not do was to undo the work of the late Government. The late Government, or the late Parliament, refused to give to Ireland her fair share as the hon. Member had said. That might be so or not, but Ireland had the money in strict accordance with the Act, and it was utterly impossible that the Government could re-open the account. He thought if there was any blame in the matter it must rest entirely on their predecessor's and not on the present Treasury, which had provided not only for this year but for future years.
§ MR. CALDWELL (Lanark, Mid)
said, they were told that they were giving nine-eightieths of the English grant to Ireland, and eleven-eightieths in the coming year to Scotland. Why-were they giving that in the coming year? What right had they to give it unless an Act of Parliament authorised them to give it? [Ironical cheers.] They could not go beyond the present year. They did not get the money, and then they were asked, "Why didn't you get it?" ["Hear, hear!"] This was not a Party question. It was all a matter of simple calculation. It would be found that Scotland had not got within about £30,000 of the amount she really ought to have got for these fee grants. He objected altogether to its being; said that it was the duly of the Liberal Government when in power to carry out this undertaking; it was not a Party question. According to the Government's own interpretation of this Act, it was clear that Scotland had not got that amount which she ought to have got.
§ MR. FLYNN, continuing, said, the hon. Member who had last spoken had made out a clear case. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury had given away his entire argument when he said that Scotland was getting eleven-eightieths; if that was so, Ireland demanded her nine-eightieths, to which she was entitled. The Scotch Act and the Irish Act were worded exactly alike, the only difference being in the figures. In 1891 the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was now the First Lord of the Admiralty, in answer to a question, referred an hon. Member to the term 144 for an indication of the manner in which the percentages 80, 11 and 5 were originally arrived at, and said that in adapting this to the distribution of the Education Grant they had been guided not only by the calculations from which the original percentages were derived, but also from recent inquiries which confirmed the accuracy of the figures. They contended that that statement was a Parliamentary contract. He intended to be very brief, and he promised the House that he would not occupy more than a few minutes in making his remarks. The figures showed that Ireland had, he would not say been defrauded of, but underpaid some £32,000 per annum in respect of her share of the Education Grant. It was no sufficient answer for the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury to say that it was the fault of the Liberal Party that this injustice had been done. Whether it was the fault of the Liberal Party or of the Tory Party, he did not care- -all he knew, was that the injustice land been committed, and therefore, he said, "a plague on both your houses." If the National Board of Ireland had not made its demands upon the Treasury, in accordance with the provisions of the Act of Parliament, that certainly was not the fault of the Irish people.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
Order, order: All these matter's which the hon. Member is discussing have been already dealt with.
§ MR. FLYNN
said, that he did not desire to address the House at any undue length, but he suggested that either the right hon. Gentleman should agree that the Treasury should pay over to Ireland her fair share of the grant, or else that the matter should be referred to the Public Accounts Committee. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman the present Chief Secretary for Ireland would give the House an assurance that he had some regard for Irish Education, and would not allow the interests of Ireland to be overborne by the unfair and unjust action of the Treasury.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
rose in his place, and claimed to move:—"That the Question be now put."
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I hope that hon. Members will be of opinion that the subject has been sufficiently discussed, and that it will be unnecessary that the Closure should be applied.
§ Another HON. MEMBER rose to speak, whereupon,
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 162; Noes, 27.—(Division List, No. 85.)
§ Main Question put accordingly, and agreed to.