§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
This second; Bill dealing with education in Ireland has been introduced in order to facilitate the carrying out of a reorganised scheme for the payment of teachers which has been already adopted by the Commissioners of Education, and which is embodied in the Blue-book laid on the Table of the House the other day. Over three-fourths of the sum available for the payment of teachers in Ireland the Commissioners at present have the right of free disposal. It is only as regards a sum of about £250,000 that the Commissioners are in any way limited as to the manner in which it should be distributed. The effect of this Bill, if passed, will be to give the Commissioners, the same free hand over the distribution of this £250,000 as they already have over the remaining three-fourths of the total sum available for the payment of teachers. When I introduced this Bill I said that it was not absolutely necessary for the purpose of carrying out the new scheme that the Bill should be passed. Perhaps I ought to explain a little more in detail what I meant by that statement. The payments which the teachers will receive under the schedule will in every case include all the remuneration they now receive. Their present incomes will, as a matter of fact, be covered by the consolidated salaries paid to them under the provisions of this Bill, and the reorganised scheme could have been carried out from a legal point of view without this Bill at all. It may be asked, then, why we have decided to introduce it. One reason is that it is desirable to have this Bill on the Statute-book, because, although it is not necessary for the purposes of the scheme, yet it will remove certain difficulties which, although they do not amount to legal obstacles, it is desirable should be removed. It may be 527 frankly admitted that the schedule did not contemplate consolidated salaries to the teachers, and, therefore, it is just as well that this Bill should be put on the Statute-book. But there is another and more practical reason why this Bill should be passed. Unless it is passed, the Commissioners may be called upon by any teacher to show that, as a matter of fact, the consolidated salary to be paid to him covers the remuneration he now receives. There would be no difficulty in proving that in every case the necessary conditions have been fulfilled, but it would impose a very considerable amount of labour indeed on the staff of the Commissioners. I understand that the Synod of the Church of Ireland have raised certain objections to this Bill, on the ground that it will take away some of the advantages which small schools now possess. In my opinion, and in the judgment of the Commissioners, that view is absolutely unfounded. It is admitted that small schools, having from ten to nineteen pupils, will undoubtedly benefit pecuniarily under the scheme, and I think also that schools having from twenty to twenty-five pupils will also benefit pecuniarily. It is perhaps right that I should call attention to the fact that the Commissioners have not yet published the salaries of the different grades, because a great deal of calculation is required before the salaries can be finally fixed; but I may safely say that the consolidated salaries will cover every part of the teachers' present remuneration, and if the Bill is passed there is absolutely no fear of any injustice being done, or that any teacher in any small school will suffer under the new rules. But, as I have already stated, the Bill is not absolutely necessary for the scheme of the Commissioners, and if there is a disposition on both sides of the House that the Bill should not be insisted on I will give way to that pressure, because the Loader of the House has already stated that it is not our intention to press any of these Irish Bills if they are opposed.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ * MR. SPEAKER
This will be a convenient time to inform the hon. Member for Waterford that the Amendment on 528 the Paper in his name, by which he proposes to raise the question of the teaching of the Irish language in elementary schools, is not in order. The Bill proposes merely to abrogate the rules under which the distribution of grants-in-aid is now made, and to authorise new rules for that purpose, and any Amendment raising discussion as to the subjects or methods of education would be out of order.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
After your ruling, Sir, it is impossible for me to discuss on this motion the question I was most anxious to raise—namely, the teaching of the Irish language in these schools in Ireland. I must only bow to your ruling, Sir, and postpone that question until to-morrow, when we will have the Education Vote before us. That topic of discussion having been taken away from me, I do not propose to detain the House. The right hon. Gentleman has stated that in his opinion this Bill is not absolutely necessary, and that if it were so desired by the Irish Members he would have no objection to postponing it. I have had no opportunity of gathering the opinion of the Irish Members on the subject, but I do not think that I am very far wrong in interpreting them to be in favour of the postponement of this Bill. We take a very strong view of the action of the Government in not affording us an opportunity of discussing the system of new primary education in Ireland. It is true we may discuss it to-morrow, but one sitting is quite insufficient for the discussion of the question of the Irish language and also for the discussion of this elaborate system. We feel very strongly that we have not been properly treated by the Government in this matter, and as we are practically prevented from discussing the details of the scheme, I, for my part, think the best course would be to let the Bill stand over. If necessary, let it be introduced next year, when we will be in a better position to understand the working of the new system. For these reasons I will move the adjournment of the debate.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
If the Government propose, as is suggested, to adopt the view of the hon. Member, the better course would be to move that the Order be dis- 529 charged and the Bill withdrawn. That ought to come from the right hon. Gentle-man in charge of the Bill.
§ MR. DILLON
Before the right hon. Gentleman answers, I should like, Sir, to be perfectly clear as to the scope of your ruling. You will see that it has a bearing on the question raised by the hon. Member for Waterford. I understood you, Sir, as well as I could catch your last ruling, to state that it was not within our power to discuss the methods of education in Ireland. Therefore, if this Bill were introduced next year we should be debarred from discussing any of the new rules. The object of this Bill is to put it within the power of the Commissioners to alter the whole system of education in Ireland.
§ MR. DILLON
I am not prepared to argue that the Bill directly concerns particular subjects, but it does absolutely concern the methods of education, because the sole and only object of the Bill is to enable revolutionary changes to be carried out with reference to national education in Ireland.
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
Our difficulty is this. I asked a question this afternoon, and I was nonchalantly informed that my inquiry was useless, and that it was impossible to discuss the rules and regulations because they were already in operation. Then what is the necessity for the Bill? Our position is exceedingly difficult, and it would be far better if the Bill were postponed.
§ MR. DILLON
On the question of the Second Reading, and before the Chief Secretary states whether he will withdraw the Bill or not, I assume I will be in order in discussing the points mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman in introducing this Bill. His first point was of great importance. He stated that unless this Bill were passed any teacher could call on the National Board to prove that 530 the sums to which he was entitled under the old scheme were covered by the gross sum under the new scheme. Therefore one effect of this Bill would be to deprive National teachers of their right under the law to call on the Commissioners to prove that their allocation of salary was accurate. If the Bill passes they will be deprived of that right. I dare say that the new system will be a better system, and that no teacher will really suffer. But that is not the view of the teachers themselves, and I do not think it is unnatural that they should be anxious, when the old system is to be revolutionised, and that they should be unwilling to part with any right they have until they see the actual figures of the new scheme. We know perfectly well that, on the admission of the Treasury themselves, the teachers were by a miscalculation deprived of large arrears, some of which we subsequently got by repeated, debates in this House. Anyone who listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman must have realised that the subject is one of great complexity, and, it. is therefore not at all wonderful that the teachers should be uneasy and unwilling to part with the rights they have until they are satisfied that they will not be damaged by the provisions of the new scheme. As I understood the speech, of the right hon. Gentleman, he stated categorically that the teachers, if this Bill were passed, would lose the right of calling on the Board to prove that their salaries had not been reduced. I think the hon. Member for Waterford is most wise in calling on the Government to postpone this Bill until we have time to study and consider the figures and details of the new scheme. While I take that view, I think it is only just to state— and I know I am speaking the mind of the hon. Member for Waterford and other Irish Members—that we recognise in this now scheme and these new rules for intermediate education in Ireland a development of a new spirit of educational reform. I regard it as a result of the appointment to the Board of certain individuals whose names I need not mention, and who have brought a new and a better spirit into the Board. We are heartily in sympathy with the main principles of these changes, and while-there is no dispute as to principle, I think it is only fair we should take up this attitude in order to safeguard the in- 531 terests of the teachers and preserve their rights. After your ruling, Sir, it is manifest that this Bill will afford no foothold for discussing the general methods or subjects of education in Ireland. Next session we shall only be able to examine the financial aspects of those changes as they affect the salaries of the teachers, and there we shall be stopped. For these reasons I think the Government ought to give us an opportunity early next session of discussing both the intermediate system and these revolutionary changes. I think we are entitled to make that demand. We have been cut down to three days for Irish Estimates, and it may be next July before they will be reached, and the new system will then be in operation for more than a year. I would respectfully urge the Government that we should be afforded an opportunity for discussing these matters early next session.
§ MR. LECKY
I think it would be much bettor to postpone this measure to another session. There is a great deal of difference of opinion on the subject. I myself am not prepared to endorse altogether the views of the Chief Secretary, and I think that under the circumstances it would be very much better if the Bill were not pressed forward.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
After the views which have been expressed on both sides it must be clear that the best course would be to withdraw the Bill and bring it in later, when the operations of the new rules will be better known.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give some answer as regards facilities for discussing this matter next session.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
It is impossible for me to answer that question. I recognise the extreme importance of the changes we are about to introduce into both the intermediate and elementary systems of education, and, personally, I should not be adverse to a day being given for a discussion of the whole question, but of course it must be clearly understood that I am not in a position to give any undertaking on that point with-out consulting my colleagues. I beg to 532 move, That the Order be discharged and the Bill withdrawn.
§ Motion for Second Reading, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Bill withdrawn.