§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £631,721, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1906, for the Expenses of the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland, including a Grant in Aid of the Teachers' Pension Fund, Ireland."
§ MR. CHURCHILL (Oldham)
I desire, Sir, to move that you do report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
I cannot accept I such a Motion. This is an allotted day, and it will remain an allotted day, and I think it would be an abuse of the forms of the House which might be used very much against the Opposition of the day if I were to accede to it.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
On a point of order, I trust I may be permitted. [At this juncture an hon. Member on the GOVERNMENT side audibly mimicked Mr. CHURCHILL'S halting manner of speaking, and this at once evoked a storm of indignant shouts from the NATIONALISTand OPPOSITION Benches. Comparative calm having at last been restored.]
§ MR. CHURCHILL
I desire to submit that the circumstances under which we met together to-day, having regard not merely to the general political situation, but also to the nature of the Supply to be taken, are wholly exceptional.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
I desire to point out reasons against the ruling you have given, and to show for the general convenience how the exceptional circumstances which have arisen supersede it. In the first place I would draw your attention to the fact that the hostile vote which was carried against the Government has not been rescinded, and the Government have no intention of asking that it be rescinded. In the second place, no Motion of confidence in the Government has yet been carried, and thirdly, the Chief Secretary is in charge of this Vote, and although his conduct has been specifically condemned by a vote of this House he, departing from precedent, has not offered to resign——
It is quite obvious I ought not to allow the hon. Member on a point of order to make the 200 speech he would have made on the Motion which I refused. I have given my decision to the best of my ability, and I mean to abide by it.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
I have practically finished stating my point of order. I only wish to submit the position in which the Committee is placed by having to conduct a debate, the result of which will be treated by the Government with contempt, seeing that any adverse vote is sure to be ignored while any Minister who may be censured will be sure to stick to his office.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
said his object in interposing was that there should be no misapprehension as to the effect of the Chairman's ruling. If he understood it correctly, it was a very wide one, and one that might have a very important effect in the future, because it amounted to this—that no special circumstances would justify a Motion for reporting Progress if it happened to be made on a day allotted to Supply. He would urge the hon. Gentleman to reconsider his decision, because it went much further than was required by the necessities of this case. Might he add that the situation would be eased at once if the Chief Secretary would rise and make a statement as to his position and responsibilities on the question of Irish administration? At any rate he would like to understand the full effect of the present ruling,
I am extremely reluctant to set up a precedent, but I have never known such a Motion before. I do not say that no special circumstances would justify such a Motion; but I do say that in the present circumstances the Motion would be an abuse of the rules of the House, and I must adhere to my ruling.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said he was about to deal with the dull, prosaic, and unimportant question of Irish education, and as that was a subject in which the gentlemen of England took no interest, perhaps they would kindly withdraw. He would give hon. Gentlemen opposite a few minutes to withdraw to the smoking-room, as he thought it would 201 be more courteous for them; to go out before he began his speech. [Some Unionist Members here left the House, and others were doing so as the hon. Member proceeded with his speech, there being considerablenoise and interruption.]
said that hon. Members who did not desire to wait to hear the hon. Member for East Mayo should withdraw at once, and should not interrupt the hon. Gentleman's remarks by going out singly.
§ MR. DILLON
complained that they never had an opportunity of considering the question of Irish education as a whole, for there was no harmonious and all-embracing system of administration. To debate the question of primary education without considering in connection with it the question of secondary and University education was very much of a farce, and there could be no greater misfortune than to have a shallow and inefficient system of technical education forced upon a people where there was no broad and good foundation of general education. [Here Mr. DILLON, referring to the growing stream of Members leaving the House, expressed a hops that hon. Gentlemen would act upon the suggestion of the Chairman.] He desired to survey the whole field of education in Ireland, for unless that were done the discussion would be fruitless. [The hon. Member was again interrupted by the cheers of the NATIONALISTS as MINISTERIALISTS left the House.] He should move to report Progress so as to allow an interval in which hon. Members opposite might withdraw.
The hon. Gentleman has a very large audience, and a large audience is apt to be restive. I have already suggested that hon. Members who do not wish to listen to the hon. Gentleman should withdraw.
§ MR. BURDETT-COUTTS (Westminster)
I desire to ask you, Mr. Chairman, whether it is not in accordance with the traditions of this House 202 and its universal practice that Members should leave exactly when they please.
§ MR. T. L. CORBETT (Down, N.)
likewise sought to raise a point of order, but, until the intervention of the Chairman, he was shouted down, and then he was inaudible.
§ MR. DILLON
, continuing, said the usual course when Irish Nationalists were discussing their affairs was to leave them with empty benches. That did not show very keen interest in the welfare of Ireland. For his part, if English Members on the other side would only go away and not return till the vote he should be glad. On the present occasion hon. Members appeared to have elected to remain in the House and refuse them a hearing. [MINISTEEIAL cries of "No."] The hon. Member proceeded to call attention to the last Report of the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland, and protested against the belated character of the document, the Report being for 1903, and issued only in April, 1905, although received by Sir Antony MacDonnell in August, 1901. Why was it thus suppressed? It was nothing short of a scandal and disgrace that year after year they should have to discuss this question of national education with nothing before them later than two years old. The House ought not to be treated in that way.
Now he would turn to the Report itself. It was exceptional in its nature, because the Commissioners in their own defence prefaced it with an historical review of the progress of national education in Ireland—a review which was absolutely misleading and false. Let him take one point, the question of co-ordination. He had before expressed the opinion that no administration of primary education in Ireland could be of any value which ignored the whole system of education in the country. The Report on page 14 dealt with the question of co-ordination, 203 and the Commissioners there expressed their desire to see provision made by which clever pupils of national schools should be afforded facilities for a wider education, and added that in their opinion the best results from any system of primary education could only be obtained if it were coordinate with secondary and technical education, made introductory so far as possible to University and professional education. They went on to suggest that the teachers of the advanced departments in higher-grade schools should possess University degrees. Incidentally he might remind the House that the Catholics had no University which could confer degrees. The Commissioners continually complained that their proposals for co-ordination had been negatived by the Treasury, which had refused the necessary money. About two years ago the Government brought over from this country Mr. Dale, an inspector of English schools, to report on the national system of education in Ireland, and he wished to know from the Chief Secretary, who appeared to be asleep, on what grounds the Government in Ireland refused to let them see the observations of the National Commissioners on Mr. Dale's Report. That Report was comprehensive and extremely able; it was intolerable they should have to discuss it without knowing the views of the Commissioners on it, and his second Question to the Chief Secretary was on what grounds were the Commissioners' observations on it withheld.
The next question he desired to touch upon was the scandalous condition of the schoolhouses in many parts of Ireland. With regard to that question the Commissioners admitted and deplored that scandalous condition which no doubt was largely responsible for the low average attendance of scholars. It appeared, however, that in 1902 a proposal was made that a loan at 5 per cent., repayable in thirty-five years, should be advanced for building grants, which would have removed the difficulty, but the Treasury refused to accept the proposal. The Commissioners complained that for many years they had been urging on successive Governments to make adequate provision, and an Interdepartmental Committee investigated 204 the whole question in 1902, but neither the Report nor the decision of the Government had been communicated to them, with the result that the work of providing suitable schoolhouses had actually been brought to a standstill because of the desire of the managers to ascertain the outcome of the inquiry. It was a monstrous thing that the Treasury, which was asleep when millions were being wasted on fraudulent contracts in South Africa, should become educational experts and display such infernal activity when it was a question of saving a few pounds by starving Irish school buildings. They were in fact starving the Irish school children. The hon. Member then noted that the Chief Secretary had withdrawn, and, asking abruptly where he was, he moved to report Progress.
refused the Motion, and said that no doubt the right hon. Gentleman would be back shortly. It was perfectly obvious that the right hon. Gentleman must go out sometimes.
THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY OFTHE TREASURY
(Mr. VICTOR CAVENDISH, Derbyshire, W.) The right hon. Gentleman will be back again in a moment.
§ MR. DILLON
The Chief Secretary is paid £5,000 a year for maladministering and muddling Irish affairs, and now it turns out that he cannot sit here for five minutes while we discuss Irish education.
§ MR. DILLON
, continuing, cited the Government's refusal to do anything in 205 the matter of instruction in domestic subjects, such as cooking and laundry-work, as an example of the manner in which Irish education was starved, and, passing from a general complaint of three days only being allotted for the discussion of the administration of Ireland, he declared that it would be exceedingly difficult to imagine anything worse than the state of Irish education. There was confusion, overlapping, waste, starvation of schools, and want of any sound guiding principle. There was a total absence of conference between the various boards and managers; new schemes, crude and undigested, were hatched and launched on the country without previous consultation with the owners and managers of schools, with the result that at present Ireland had the worst system of education of any country in the whole of Western Europe.
There were four special points he intended to dwell upon. First, the effect of the new grading system on the position and salaries of the national teachers; second, the controversy about Rule 127 (b), which had during the last six months torn the whole educational system of Ireland to tatters; third, the treatment of the Irish language in Irish schools; and, fourth, the continued withholding of the Development Grant from the service of the Irish schools to which it properly belonged. He might assert without fear of contradiction that the new grading system had affected the position and salaries of the national teachers by introducing an element of uncertainty and contusion in the highest degree detrimental to the prospects of the teachers. The Education Board had not kept their pledge of regarding vested interests when they deprived pupils of the training colleges and the younger teachers of the prospects of promotion which would have come to them under the old system. No doubt the National Board were contending that they fulfilled their pledge not to injure vested interests when they secured that no teacher should be deprived of the salary he already enjoyed. But the fact remained that numberless teachers had lost their prospect of immediate promotion and 206 large increases of salary which were almost within their grasp, and it was an extraordinary contention that there had not been an interference with vested interests. He complained that the initial salaries were absurdly small, and reminded the Committee that under the old system clever young men could rise to the highest grade in a few years after leaving the training college. If he had a fairly large school he could rise in about ten years to the highest salary and he could get the immediate reward of his skill in teaching. The result was that a young man who might have got as much as £150 a year under the old system found that under the new system he had to go up the ladder step by step, and although the latter might appear the more logical system it took away from him the incentive that formerly existed. A young man who joined the service would under the new system have to encounter so many obstacles and disabilities artificially created that he was discouraged, as the result of a system which conveyed to him no sense of justice and which must he absolutely fatal to the efficiency of the teaching staffs in Ireland.
The consequence was a state of things which was indicated to him by one to whom he had been talking and who had said to him that whereas five or six years ago there were three times the number of candidates necessary for every vacancy in. the King's scholarships, now they were almost obliged to take anyone who offered, and he warned the House that the result would be that the personnel of the teachers must rapidly deteriorate, and that under the system as it would exist an exceptionally clever and brilliant man would find himself blocked by the new conditions, and would be placed in such a position that if he could get an appointment in England he would leave Ireland and come here; so that the best men would be drawn off from the teaching staffs in that country. He would read a couple of extracts to show the general sentiment of the country upon this question. The first was a letter which ought to have some effect on the mind of the Chief Secretary. It was 207 written by Cardinal Logue to a great meeting in Dublin last February—The result of this will be that we shall have no candidates for the office of teacher except persons who are eithar physically or mentally unfit for anything else.That was the result of years of administration by this enlightened Government under which they lived. Here was an extract from the Irish Times, the chief organ of Unionist opinion in Ireland—If we seek to inquire as to the manner in which the sum now withheld from education might be advantageously expended, we have only to compare the position and prospects of Irish teachers with those of Great Britain. As far as the great majority of the teachers here are concerned, it is practically impossible for most of them to secure a maximum salary in excess of £86 per annum for males and £72 for females. These are far below the average salaries in Great Britain, where the position of the teacher during the past twenty years has been materially improved. In Ireland, on the contrary, the recent changes introduced by the National Board all tend towards the lowering of the status and remuneration of the teacher. The limitation of the number of teachers eligible for the highest grades under which not more than 10 per cent of them can qualify for that distinction tends to discourage effort and to paralyse energy.Here were some of the results of the system as described in another Dublin newspaper—Only a few years ago the announcement of a vacancy on the staff of any school brought a crowd of teachers jostling each other to get in; and if the position was fairly desirable, say assistantship in a city school, there was special anxiety to secure it. All that is changed. During the past month two large schools in the city of Dublin have repeatedly advertised for assistants without receiving a single application…. A vacancy recently occurred in a southern school. A young teacher trained last year was about to accept the appointment, but before closing with the manager he was offered an assistantship in the North of England, and thither he has gone. In Durham his income is £90 a year, rising by increments to £150. In Munster he would start with £56, never to exceed £77.He mentioned a case which had been brought under his notice the other day. He cross-examined the man himself with regard to it. He would not give his name. He took the opportunity of protesting against the system of blackguard intimidation set up by the National Board of Education. He could not give the name because the teacher would be a marked man by the National Board, but he 208 warned the Board that if they carried on this system they would find that they had stirred up a nest of hornets about their ears in Ireland. This was the case of a young man who was classed in the first division before the introduction of the new rules. The result of the new rules was to degrade him. The reports concerning his school and his work had been excellent, and one of the inspectors had told him that he might expect an increase of salary. He had won much distinction, but a vigilant Treasury pounced upon this poor schoolmaster and cut off £25 a year. He had heard of another case of a schoolmaster which gave a further illustration of how a man could be deprived of his genuine vested interest. This was a case in the city of Dublin which he knew about himself. The teacher was a most distinguished man in his profession. He had a salary of something over £100 a year, and since the new rules came into operation he had moved into one of the large schools in Dublin where the average attendance was 250. Under the old system he would have had about £180 a year, but now under the new system he got only £135, being deprived of £45 a year. He held that a case of that sort was calculated to knock the heart out of these men and to cause them to seek their fortunes in some other land. He would say no more upon that matter, not because it was not very important, but because there were so many other subjects to be dealt with.
Now he came to another illustration of the business methods of this Board. The whole of Ireland had been ringing about Rule 127 (b). Amongst those interested in primary education little else was talked about. He turned to Section 2 of the appendix to the Report of the National Commissioners issued two months ago, and he found that it contained the rules and regulations of the Commissioners. He asked the House to note that the Report was issued two months ago, and then to note that in the rules there was nothing about 127 (b). That was an example of the up-to-date methods of the Board. The Board palmed off on them a copy of the regulations that were in force two and a-half years ago. That was the latest information they had. Rule 127 (b) was a rule 209 requiring that all boys under eight years of age should be sent to a girls' school where a suitable girls' school was to be found in the neighbourhood. There were certain limitations and qualifications in regard to the rule. The first thing he had to say as to the regulation was that he did not think it would be possible to imagine a more fatuous proceeding on the part of a public board in Ireland than to launch on the country such a regulation without consulting the managers of the schools throughout the country. If they wanted to kick up a row they could not have hit on a happier plan. This rule had very far-reaching results. It had been considered for months in secret and behind the scenes by the Chief Secretary, the Irish Government, and the Board of Education, but it never occurred to those wise and learned men that they should consult the managers of the schools and the Irish public before it was issued. The result had been that the whole body of the managers in Ireland—Protestant and Catholic—were in revolt against the rule, and the Board had been reduced to a condition of absolute contempt. He warned the Chief Secretary that he would have to withdraw it because, otherwise, he would reduce education in Ireland to a condition of absolute chaos.
In a Return made to that House the other day there was a copy of the minutes of a meeting of the National Board of Education at which this rule was agreed to. First of all he would ask the Chairman, on a point of order, whether it was correct to insert in this Parliamentary Return extracts from the draft of a letter from the Board to the Under-Secretary and, at the end of the Return, an extract from the draft of a letter from the Treasury dated March 14th, 1903. Were they not entitled by the rules of the House to have the whole of these letters?
said that on the point of order he thought that the hon. Gentleman was thinking of the rule by which if a Minister quoted from an official document he must give the whole of it. He did not think that that applied to a Return granted by a Minister.
§ MR. DILLON
said that then he must fall back on fair play. He thought the Government ought to give the House the whole of these letters. They were very important and extraordinary, because if the Chief Secretary would direct his attention to this Return he would see that it was one of the most extraordinary documents ever laid before the House of Commons in more respects than one. It commenced with the statement—That it was proposed by the Bishop of Killaloe and unanimously adopted by the Board 'that the Resident Commissioner be hereby requested at his earliest convenience to bring before the Board a report on the excessive expenditure incurred by the multiplication of small schools, and to prepare a resolution on this question.'Then there was an extract from the draft letter of April 27th, 1904, to the Under-Secretary explaining what the Board proposed to do in pursuance of this policy to cut down extravagant expenditure. They said they insisted on the transfer of all boys between three and seven years of age to girls' schools. On 25th October, 1904, when the scheme came to be considered, the age was extended so that all boys under eight years of age would be ineligible for enrolment in the boys' schools. On whose suggestion was the boys' age raised from seven years to eight years? Here he came to the extracts from the minutes of the Board where the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin gave notice of a motion that—All schools upon which the effect of Rule 127 (b) would be to impair the strength of the teaching staff, to reduce the salaries of existing teachers, or to turn 'separate' into 'mixed' schools, shall be exempt from its operation, until the Commissioners can provide some means of obviating those objectionable results.The Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin moved that resolution on April 11th, but he was defeated by thirteen votes to two. Here was a proposal to moderate the effect of the rule so as to protect the teachers from injury and to prevent the children from being swept into unsuitable schools. Certainly he could warn the Chief Secretary that although that resolution had been negatived by that large majority this rule would have to be withdrawn. He laid special stress that 211 the whole proceedings started with the resolution moved by the Bishop of Killaloe, that this. measure was to be taken to reduce excessive expenditure; and the Treasury wrote a letter headed "Superfluous Schools" in which they said—The Lords of the Treasury are glad to observe—(the Lords of the Treasury had turned into educational experts)—that the Commissioners are taking up the question of amalgamating small schools and separate departments of schools where the attendance is insufficient.and they went on to say—My Lords in particular express a strong hope that the Commissioners will take steps for substituting mixed schools for separate schools for boys and girls"—No reference was made in that letter to the public opinion of Ireland—It appeared to their Lordships that the remarks of Mr. Dale upon the gross extravagance should strengthen the Commissioners in taking this part of the subject vigorously in band.This was what the Commissioners had done. They got their head inspector, Mr. Naish, to report that—The financial effect of amalgamating the existing schools, which are at present separate and have small attendances, must be to increase the expenditure.And Mr. Naish went on to say that—The aggregate financial effect of amalgamating the small schools must, therefore, be to increase expenditure considerably.That was to say that the Board turned round and said that their policy was not a policy of economy, but that it must increase expenditure. Was there ever a more dishonest document placed before Parliament? His conviction was that the policy was one of mean economy, and that the second thought of the Board was an attempt to disarm the storm of disapproval that they had to face in Ireland.
What was the next stage? The Catholic managers and the public throughout Ireland rose up in arms against Rule 127 (b) and against this interference with the managers to handle their own schools in their own way. Here he might say that if the object of the Board had really been to improve the conditions surrounding the education of infant boys, they would have taken the public of Ireland into their confidence; and had they done so and produced any well thought-out 212 scheme to improve the education of infant boys they would have met with fair consideration from all Parties in Ireland. That was not their object. Their object was to carry out the orders of the Treasury and starve Irish education. And the pretext that this Rule 127 (b) was for the advantage of infant boys was a mere afterthought, in order to give some semblance of plausibility to this revolution in Irish education. The body of clerical managers in the county of Wicklow sent a memorial to the Commissioners that they would not administer the new rule; and this was the letter addressed by the secretary of the Board to the school managers in county Wicklow—Dublin, 2nd June, 1905. Reverend Sir, Referring to the memorial of school managers, teachers, and representative persons of the county of Wicklow, forwarded to the Commissioners on the 30th ult., to which your name is attached, I am directed to call your attention to the terms of the last paragraph of the memorial in which the unconditional withdrawal of Rule 127 (b) is demanded, and in which the memorialists say, 'we pledge ourselves to resist the enforcement of the rule by every legitimate means in our power.' In view of your undertaking as a manager of national schools to have the Commissioners' rules and regulations complied with, I am further directed to inquire whether you signed the memorial or authorised the attachment of your name to it, and, if so, to request an explanation on the subject.The Chief Secretary was not content with turning the Land Commissioners' Court into a Criminal Court, but he must turn the Board of Education into a Criminal Court which could cite Bishops, priests, and managers to appear before it. Was there ever a piece of greater audacity on the part of the Board in Ireland? The Board got an explanation the following week. A representative body, speaking for the whole Catholic clerical managers of Ireland, passed the following resolution—That we consider the modification of Rule 127 (b), recently sanctioned by the Commissioners and published on May 4th, 1905, as altogether unsatisfactory, and we refuse to accept this rule, even as modified, on the grounds that it still works injustice to the teachers, both principal and assistants; it is retrograde from an educational standpoint; it ignores the natural rights of parents; and has been insidiously introduced to pave the way for the utterly inadmissible system of indiscriminate amalgamation.213 He advised the Chief Secretary that he had better dismiss the whole of the clerical managers in Ireland and send over to Ireland a set of English inspectors to take their place. But there was another resolution passed by the same representative body which stated—We demand the immediate reform of the Irish Board of National Education, on the grounds that, as at present constituted, it is unrepresentative, irresponsible, unprogressive, and, to a large extent, antagonistic to the national and religious feelings of the majority of the Irish people.The Bishops met a few days later and heartily endorsed the opinion of the clerical managers. He should hear with great curiosity what the Chief Secretary proposed to do with reference to the rule.
He came now to the question of Irish in the schools. In spite of concessions obtained by persistent agitation the present state of affairs was entirely unsatisfactory. Irish could not be taught as an extra subject by a teacher except in a school which was satisfactory in English, according to the report of the inspector, and which showed merit all round. That threw the school on the mercy of the inspector, whom he could not blame if, disliking Irish, he naturally discouraged it as much as he could. The next provision was a most objectionable one. The fees would not be paid if Irish were taught to pupils of a lower standard than the fourth. It cut out the power and right of the teacher to gain the special fee of 10s. for Irish language in all grades below the fourth, and, as the Irish schools were mostly composed of grades lower than the fourth, it cut off a large part of his income. These two provisions ought to be withdrawn. Then it was the custom of the Board to send inspectors who did not understand Irish, and who were absolutely incapable of making a proper and intelligent report on Erse. He would further like to have the declaration of the Chief Secretary as to the following extraordinary statement. At a meeting of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian body in Belfast, Dr. Wilson, one of the Presbyterian members of the National Board of Education, said he was opposed to the payment of 10s. for the teaching of Irish, and he could 214 inform them that the Treasury, after April, 1906, would pay nothing on that subject. He should very much like to know whether Mr. Wilson had any authority for making that statement.
He now came to the last point on which he proposed to take up the time of the Committee, and that was the question of the development grant and the Marlborough Street Training College. Up to two years ago a sum of £185,000 was set aside as the grant for Ireland, corresponding to the English education grant, and under the old practice that sum belonged by right to Irish education. But then a new system was set up, and under it that money was captured by a series of Bills and devoted to all kinds of purposes except education, with the result that the schools had been starved, teachers had been denied what they were justly entitled to, and all kinds of objects in connection with Irish education had been left unattended. In the name of the whole of the Irish Party and of the Irish people, he protested against the withholding any further of the equivalent grant. The time had come when the almost ananimous opinion was in favour of giving without further delay all that remained of the development or equivalent grant for the improvement of Irish education. There had been a proposal to set aside from the equivalent grant a sum of £50,000 for the provision of a residence in connection with the Marlborough Street Training College. He asked the Chief Secretary when he spoke to make a full and frank statement as to the present position and as to what were the plans of the Government with regard to the college. He was not prepared to take up the position that the college should not get a fair and proportionate sum; but he challenged the granting of this enormously disproportionate sum. The Bill passed for the Marlborough Street College was based on an entirely different scale to those for other colleges in Ireland. There ought to be fair play and reasonable proportion. Was it true that £15,500 had been paid already to the landlord in the case of the Marlborough Street College? If it were true it was an 215 extravagant and an extreme sum. They knew from Answers already given in the House that all that it was proposed to build was a residence for the college; and in his opinion the sum of £50,000 was entirely out of proportion to the number of students and the importance of the system which they represented. After all, the college represented that small section of the population—at the outside only one-tenth—which desired a mixed education, and to grant them £50,000 for the residence of a college would not be fair. He had no desire to be unfair. All that he asked was that the Government should make a statement showing that from these slender sources, already depleted most unfairly and outrageously, there should not be given to any section any sum which would be greatly in excess of what they deserved.
He had succeeded in pretty well emptying the House. The subject was one on which, frankly speaking, it was impossible to interest Englishmen and Scotchmen, though for some inscrutable reason they persisted in keeping the matter in their hands. They had produced the most indefensible, most confused, ineffective, and wasteful system known in any country in the world; and, if he thought his words would have the least effect, he would make one last appeal to the House to leave them to work out their own destiny and see whether they could not make something better of the education of Ireland than the miserable mess made of it under the English Government.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That item A (salaries and wages) be reduced by £1,000."—(Mr. Dillon.)
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
said he thought there was a matter of vital constitutional importance regarding the position in which they found themselves. It must not be forgotten that they were debating an Estimate on which last year the House by a solemn vote condemned the administration of the Government. Last year, before any of the excitement of the present situation, before the right hon. Gentleman who was now Chief Secretary took office, the House 216 did what was practically unparalleled, viz., carried the "classical" reduction of £100 upon a Vote for National Education in Ireland. Therefore they were dealing with a system which the House of Commons in Supply had already condemned. More than a year—he believed fifteen months—had passed since that solemn condemnation by Irish, and English opinion assisting, was made. What had the Government done since? They had made a change in the Chief Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman was very vigorous in upholding law and order. What had the right hon. Gentleman done in regard to education that affected not 100 landlords or scores of peasants, but millions of people —Protestants and Catholics —throughout the country? Instead of applying themselves to the betterment of that condition of affairs the Government had entered upon a scheme which would increase tenfold the indignation and exasperation already prevailing as to the system of Irish national education. He ventured to say that, serious as was the indignation which had previously existed, that feeling to-day was ten times intensified.
The Chief Secretary might say that he had nothing to do with the National Education Board in Ireland, and that he would wash his hands of the whole matter. Thus there had been reached, after all the years of the Union, this extraordinary position—that it did not matter how Irish Members voted or spake—the system still went on. Talk about reducing Irish representation, 103 Gentlemen were brought across th3 channel, by the magnetism, he supposed, and the surroundings of the British Houses of Parliament, they got even the English Members to join them in condemnation of a certain Irish policy, a ad yet that policy was going strong still—worse, indeed, than ever. Another "classic" reduction of £100 was carried the other day on the land question, and the Leader of the Government said, in effect, that he did not care a brass farthing; things would go on as they had been going. This, therefore, was the situation—that if Irish Nationalists wished to do anything which would disturb the Government they must ally themselves with some English Members on some questions for which they did not care a 217 farthing—the fiscal question, for instance, as to which he personally did not care one way or the other, and for which anybody might have his vote if it would help the cause of Ireland. The First Lord in effect said, "Bring forward China, Madagascar, the Cape, or the North Pole, and on that move a vote of censure, and then the great Tory Ministry will take it into consideration." Was there ever such a broken-backed Government, or was there ever such an absurd proceeding as that the Irish Members, who for the most part cared nothing for any English question or any foreign question—nothing about China or Gibraltar or all the rest of the places in the Archipelago—should have to join with English Members on some question in which they had no interest—and then, forsooth, if they won only to change the Government for the perpetuation of the old system? That was the naked position of affairs. On divisions last session and this session on the two great questions of Irish land and Irish education, the Nationalists had twice been able to condemn the policy of the Government, but the Nationalists might as well talk to the reporters in the lobby, or, for that matter, to those they might meet on a bus while coming to the House. Their words, and even the defeats they were able to inflict in the division lobbies, were ignored, the Government's only reply being, "Oh, you did not attack us on a vote of censure." Practically speaking, the only way in which the Nationalist Members could deal with Irish questions was in Committee of Supply, but, in spite of what had happened in Supply on the education and the land questions, instead of any benefit being achieved new grievances had arisen, and he could not help wondering how reform could ever be secured in Irish matters. It apparently could not be obtained by legislation; almost as certainly it could not be obtained on the Estimates since the Prime Minister had practically said that divisions on the Estimates on Irish questions were of no account. What, then, were the Nationalists to do? It was in a practically bankrupt condition, so to speak, as to Parliamentary devices that they were obliged to attend the House. He did not see 218 why the Prime Minister should attend the House at all when Committee of Supply was on. It was actually supposed by some people in Ireland, not in lunatic asylums, that debates in that House had really some effect on the Ministry of the day. He had rarely known it to happen, but the Nationalist Members were sent there to do their duty to their constituents, and he would therefore put a few considerations before Ministers as to the education question, though they would not care one groat for what he might say.
Of every injury which was inflicted upon Ireland the Treasury was practically at the bottom, and it was so in the present case. It was pretended that a change was being made in the interests of education, but if the Government would guarantee. a that Mr. Starkie's salary should not be increased if he effected an economy of £20,000 or £30,000 a year nothing more, probably, would be heard of any change. What was it the miserable Treasury were doing—he could not think of them without hatred? They were constantly practising a system of bribery on the higher officials of Departments to make so called economies by the prospect of increased salaries to the individual. They wanted to deprive Ireland of some little grants. Starkie had already, it was true, probably become a C. B., but, though he might have wanted the Bath very much, it was doubtful whether that would satisfy him—he would probably also want something in cash. He wished to ask the Government for an estimate of the sum Starkie would save and what was the amount of commission they proposed to give him—was it 2½ per cent, on a saving of £20,000 or £30,000 per year? Because that was what was at the root of the first proposal.
He further suggested that the Board of Irish Education should have its proceedings open to the Press, a course which would let the public know from day to day what was going on, and would, perhaps, by the force of public opinion, prevent some of the worst of the Board's proposals from being carried into effect. Ireland, of course, was an idolatrous country. The people there worshipped idols, as was well known and the system 219 of education provided for them was this—that the Board chosen to administer that education should be largely non-idol worshippers and should have every interest they could in warping the minds, harassing the consciences, and annoying the feelings of the idolaters. The Government had great respect for idolaters in India. He believed at that moment there was in Burmah a British soldier, paid by that House, marching up and down before one idol in order to prevent that idol being awakened. The Burmese, he understood, believed that if any noise were made near the idol the whole of Burmah would be submerged by an earthquake. Accordingly British prowess with a fixed bayonet marched up and down in front of it by day and night. Then, too, a college had been provided for Mahommedans at Khartoum. In fact, the only subject-people who got any consideration from England were idolaters, and therefore he put in a humble claim that Irish idolaters should be allowed to get their proportion of this money unaffected by the views of the so-called Christians. Surely it was not a strong demand to ask that Irish children should be allowed to have their education settled for them by people of their own persuasion, and, as the Government insisted on one-half of the National Board being composed of Christians and the other half of idolaters, he asked that at all events the proceedings of the Christians should be open to the Press. What a splendid thing it would be for evangelical religion in Ireland and the spread of the Gospel if the people could know what these Christians persons were devising for the benefit of the benighted classes whom they had to educate.
Nearly £1,400,000 was placed in the hands of this Board every year, and it took them two years to make a Report to that House. There must be some weighty reasons for so great a delay on the part of a Board representing all the wealth, intelligence, education, and Christianity of the country. And let the House consider the time that would be saved if every week one could read in the newspaper what the Board were doing. He would never dream of troubling the House of Commons at all with debates on their published pro- 220 ceedings. If anything objectionable were then proposed, a crowd could go to Marlborough Street and break the windows, which might have some effect. But under existing circumstances two years elapsed before the public knew what the Board were doing; by that time two or three of the members had died, others had become Judges, and an entirely new set of men had been appointed, so that if the public went and threw stones they would probably break the windows of the wrong persons. The sum of £1,400,000 was sufficiently large to justify the demand that it should not be passed in the dark. The Committee had absolutely no information about the matter, and the only means by which public opinion could be brought to bear was by opening the proceedings to the Press. Such a reform did not need any Bill or Resolution of that House; it could easily be effected by the Chief Secretary. The defects of the system and the absence of control had been admitted by successive Chief Secretaries.
The opportunities of life in Ireland were small. The only two Government institutions by which the sons of the peasantry were afforded a chance of earning a decent livelihood were the Royal Irish Constabulary and the teaching profession. Probably four times as much was spent on arms and oppression as upon education. In every village could be seen on the one side the frowning barracks with ten well-paid policemen, and on the other side the little schoolhouse where a starved schoolmaster and his wife were attempting to instil British civilisation into a reluctant population. At the instance of the Treasury, without any regard whatever to Irish desires or interests, the stimulus which the prospect of entering the teaching profession gave humble people to become trained had been destroyed, and neither Catholics nor Protestants —he was most anxious the Protestants should be educated; he thought they needed it—had any longer any inducement to become national teachers. He really did not know why anybody should remain in Ireland. England had made it the saddest and the most miserable country in the world. One might as well live in a tomb as in some Irish 221 villages. And now this one little avenue to decency and respectability which had been still open to poor men was closed, and, at the instance of some wretched Treasury clerk, the whole scheme of education had been degraded. This was the common avowal and confession of everybody connected with the system. First the teachers were robbed by being invited to subscribe to a pension fund for their old age, and then being told that the fund was bankrupt; and now, the old men having been defrauded and their hopes withered, the hearts of the young men and women were to be crushed, and they were to be left with neither hope nor outlook.
This was strictly in accordance with the English system of education and government in Ireland. He defied the Chief Secretary to get any independent Irishman on his own side of the House who had studied the subject and was not in the receipt or the expectation of a salary to defend the Board of Education or its administration. Like Job on his dunghill, Irishmen had a right to protest. But whereas Job addressed the Almighty they were addressing the English, and they knew that just as it was in the beginning of the century so it was now and ever would be so long as that House attempted to govern the country. If Englishmen were making anything out of this he could understand it. But they were not. Not a single Englishman would be the better, the wiser, or the richer for the system; it simply bred irritation. It was not like grabbing Africa; the irritation of Ireland put nothing in their pockets, and yet they perpetuated this unholy and unhappy system simply because it was in existence, and they would not take the trouble to reform it. None of the plans he had suggested would involve the expenditure of any Parliamentary time. All he asked the Chief Secretary to do was to let in a little light on the National Board. Since he came into office the Chief Secretary had in less than four months sent a good number of men to jail. It had been a good time for Irish lawyers. The lawyers were saying, "Long live the Chief Secretary for Ireland," as the owls blessed the Sultan Mahmoud for creating 222 ruins, because there would always be plenty of prosecutions so long as the right hon. Gentleman remained in office.
This was a matter which affected the Protestant and Unionist teachers as well as the Catholic teachers. Were the Protestant teachers satisfied with the system and their treatment, and were they satisfied with the right hon. Gentleman's proposals? Were they satisfied with Mr. Starkie? Was the Member for Belfast satisfied with Mr. Starkie? Their efforts were almost useless, and they could do nothing for unfortunate Ireland because they had to deal with a House and with a Ministry who would do nothing. Year after year they were getting grey exposing grievances, and yet they saw nothing done except Ministers drawing their salaries. Why did the Chief Secretary not express his opinion freely about the Treasury? He was the Irish Minister and he was supposed to defend Irish interests. The right hon. Gentleman would get his salary all the same whether he condemned the Treasury or not. Why should he not give the Committee his view upon these Treasury proposals?
§ MR. SLOAN (Belfast, S.)
said this was not a question of Roman Catholic or Protestant but a question of efficiency and how they could best deal with the misdoings and the grievous wrongs which were continually imposed upon Ireland by the present system. Of course the Chief Secretary had no control over the Commissioners of Education, and therefore he was not responsible for the charges brought against the system of education in Ireland. But that was no reason why the grievances should remain unredressed, and it was the duty of the House to honestly try to remove grievances which were admitted as much on the Government side as upon the Opposition side of the House.
§ MR. SLOAN
said he had sufficient independence to vote either for or against proposals as he thought fit in the best interests of his constituents, and that independence had not only led him into the thorny paths of misrepresentation 223 and misunderstanding, but in his desire to serve all classes and all creeds in matters into which no sectarianism ought to enter he was in the proud position that day of being repudiated by both political Parties. That, however, did not alter his view, and he was so thoroughly convinced of the necessity of representing not a section only of Ireland or a section of his own constituents that he did not hesitate to associate himself with a protest which was universally believed in against a system which did no good to the education of Ireland and which could not under any circumstances receive the approval of right-thinking men.
It was a most unfortunate thing that there existed the system of confidential documents under which the character and reputation of an Irish teacher was at the mercy of any individual manager, whether Protestant or Catholic, and the teacher in this way could be villified, ruined, and dismissed without any chance of defending himself. A system under which the victim of a confidential circular could not defend himself was a disgrace to the Irish administration of national education, and the House of Commons ought to take steps to immediately remedy that state of things. Even a criminal in the dock was allowed to defend himself, but every national school teacher was within the power, and often became the victim, of a particular school manager. It might be that a national school teacher would not go to a certain Sunday school or play a certain musical instrument in connection with a certain church, and because of these things the manager, who was responsible to nobody, could by means of a confidential circular make certain charges against that teacher which the teacher would have no chance whatever of refuting. Why was the national school teacher not paid by the National Board? He got his salary through the manager. The manager came on quarter-day, or whenever it might be, and you might think he was paying the teacher a compliment, or giving him some bonus he was not entitled to, from the manner in which he handed him his salary, Why was not the national school teacher paid direct by the National Board? 224 As the hon. Member for Louth had said? what was the reason the proceedings of this marvellous Board, of which he had the courage to believe and the grace to state that it had perhaps done good work in its day, were not published? At present its work, whether good or bad, was unknown to the country, and he thought it would do no harm, but really be a blessing or a boon in disguise if they had some account of the business transacted at the meetings of the Board. The Board comprised, he understood, an equal number of Protestants and Catholics. Why should there not be a Minister of Education such as Scotland had?
§ MR. SLOAN
said if the hon. Member addressed the House in a Home Rule debate they would all listen to him with pleasure. He agreed with the hon. Member for Louth that if the Board was serving a public interest, and was for the good of education in Ireland, there ought to be no secret about the transactions which took place when it met. Instead of having Reports, much belated, he admitted, though hardly so much belated as the hon. and learned Member stated, they should be such as would enable them to understand how the business was being carried on. He objected to the Board because it was not a representative Board. It was co-opted, or it was appointed by the Crown. The House of Commons had no control over it. The Government had no control over it. And if they put a Question on the Paper, the Answer, like many other replies given in that debate, would be handed by the First Commissioner to the Chief Secretary, who was compelled by the force of circumstances to tell the House exactly what he had been told to say. That was a state of things with which all Irishmen who desired the common good of their country must be dissatisfied—and because Members on the other side demanded Home Rule, while he believed that the Unionist policy was. the better one for Ireland, that was no reason why a wall of partition should be 225 built up against joining hands for what was good for Ireland, and he did not know what should have the first place in their heart if not education.
Take the case of the small schools. The Chief Secretary for Ireland, asked the total saving under the new system, stated that instead of a total saving there was an additional expenditure of £50,000. He asked as a supplementary Question whether that £50,000 included the £28,000 given out of the equivalent grant christened the dev document grant. The Chief Secretary replied to him that he could not tell. They got by Question and Answer in the House only broad statements and the rules of the House prevented them from so interrogating the Chief Secretary as to get the Question on the Paper answered. He thought the Chief Secretary ought really to take into serious account the united and unanimous desire of the Irish representatives to put the education of the country on a basis which would be acceptable not to one class only, but to all classes, and to give the teachers of Ireland the same opportunities, the same privileges, and the same rights as his fellow school teacher in England or in Scotland.
He quite agreed with the Member for Mayo in asking why the equivalent grant was applied to other purposes than those to which it should be applied. Ireland got as its share of the equivalent grant £185,000, which was accumulating every year. Out of it there had been paid £10,000 to the Tralee and Dingle Railway, and £75,000 to carry out the administration of land purchase. That money ought to be applied for the education of the children and for the maintenance of the schools in a proper condition. There were instances where children had to go to school with pieces of turf in their arms in order to heat themselves. He submitted to the Chief Secretary that these were questions that ought to engage the attention of the Irish Administration. The right lion. Gentleman the Member for Dover indicated in the House of Commons some time before his resignation that it was his intention to bring in a Bill to deal with the question of Irish education.
§ MR. DILLON
I asked the Chief Secretary, just after the Address, whether it was his intention to bring in a Bill this session, and he said "No."
§ MR. SLOAN
said that was very unfortunate. One thing that ought to be remedied was that the £185,000 should be applied to education. This amount went on accumulating, and it would only go as doles to particular interests—he did not care whether they belonged to the North, South, East or West. This was education money and it ought to be applied for educational purposes. He knew the difficulties under the present system in country schools, and he had known a national school where a teacher getting only a salary of £50 or £60 had to repair the floor of the school in order that the children might not get their legs broken. What was being done with the £185,000 as regards education in Ireland? Nothing. Only £28,000 had been devoted out of that sum and that was the result of an agitationgot upon both sides of the House. It was not a question of Protestant or Roman Catholic. It was not a question of sectarian bitterness on one side or the other. It was a question of whether Ireland was being educated or not, and whether an Irishman's child was to have facilities for meeting the hardships of life and going forth to the world with an education capable of enabling him to obtain a position of honour in the industrial world that would be a credit to his country. There was no Irishman, whatever constituency he represented, who would get up and justify the present antiquated administration so far as education in Ireland was concerned, and the fault must lie not with the Chief Secretary, but with the present Government. He did not know if it would require a stroke of the pen or instructions from the Chief Secretary. He thought under an Act of Parliament the National Commissioners had the power they now exercised.
§ MR. SLOAN
said in that case it would require an Act of Parliament to put 227 education on a more popular system. Why had local authorities no hand in this education? He thought that, so far as Belfast was concerned, if the local authority had to do with education matters it would be able to take a better and deeper interest in them. Those were his convictions, and if hon. Members did not like them he could not help it.
While he agreed with all that had been said regarding the importance of education in Ireland, he was entitled to dissociate himself from hon. Members opposite as to whether the mode they would apply for improving it was the right one. They should all be interested in applying a system which would give no offence to any person and give a monopoly to no person. So long as he was in that House he would associate himself with any reasonable reform for Ireland, no matter who proposed it, but he claimed the right to dissociate himself from any reform which he considered undesirable. He associated himself with the denunciation of the present system of national education in Ireland, and he trusted that the Chief Secretary would use his position and, if it was possible, his influence over his colleagues, so that that influence would be used to put a stop to a system which never could be popular with any class of Irish national school teachers, and never could do any real good to education in Ireland. He hoped for the best things from that debate, and he trusted that in the near future, instead of having red tape and stereotyped replies in regard to the grievances which occurred, they would have changes introduced which would place education on a more satisfactory footing. They had to bring these matters up continually at Question time in the House, and that was a way which was not satisfactory to the persons aggrieved, and did not enable them to bring home blame to the Administration. He asked the Chief Secretary if there was no possibility of an open door in regard to the difficulty on the education question, and whether they could not have some system whereby the children of Ireland should have the same rights as those in Scotland or England, whereby there might be a conference of the general public, and 228 whereby the national school teachers might have redress against the managers in regard to the charges brought against them. He trusted that the Chief Secretary's reply would not be the annual reply to which they were accustomed, but that they would get something more than they had ever got before, which would tend to the progress of education in Ireland and merit the goodwill of all persons concerned.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said they had been discussing that day perhaps the most important of Irish questions. It lay at the root of almost everything in Ireland, and yet he felt that they had been beating the air and wasting time. He said that because the National Board of Education in Ireland was so constituted that that House had absolutely no power or authority over it. It was established by charter. The Chief Secretary had no power to demand anything from it. The right hon. Gentleman might send a Question to be answered, and the Board could withhold the Answer if it chose. They were dealing with an institution which had done good work in bygone days, but was now completely out of date. What was the use of their sitting there and talking about education when those in charge of it, who were spending the money voted by the House, were not morally or legally bound to take the slightest notice of anything they did in the House? There was another reason why it was useless to debate education in that House. What did they do last year? The House of Commons was so conscious of the mischief of this system that it took the extraordinary step of deducting £100 from the Vote, which was the only condemnation the House could pronounce upon it. What happened? He did not know whether anybody was a penny the worse or not. He did not know whether the Chief Secretary made it up out of his salary or not. That was very unlikely.
He had listened to the hon. Member for South Belfast with interest. If this were a question of land they would see the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh in his place. He was the Leader of what was called the Unionist Party in Ulster. They had a right to 229 have his advice and assistance in a matter like this. But where was he that night? If it was a matter of the Irish landlords or the Irish land system he would be in his place hurling defiance at those benches. There were only. two members of the Ulster Unionist Party in the House now, when they were discussing a question of the most momentous importance to the people of Ireland. He hoped that fact would be noted by the Belfast newspapers. He did not suppose it would be noted by those newspapers, but it was a fact, and a very significant fact. When they reduced the Vote by £100 last year nothing came of it. They were not likely to repeat that tonight. The gentlemen of England would take care of that. They had got one fright and they would not be found wanting on that occasion. But any way, they did the only thing that was possible for them to do to show their condemnation of this system. If the Motion of the hon. Member for East Mayo were carried the Board would go on as gaily as before, doing as they liked. All that the House had to do was to vote the money which they spent perhaps in the worst possible way.
The whole education system in Ireland was a sham. There were thousands of Irish children being taught in schools which hon. Gentlemen opposite would not use for their spaniels. They were not fitted to be used as schools, but the managers could not get a penny from the Board to putan end to that shameful state of affairs. The whole system was rotten from top to bottom. He agreed with the hon. Member for Belfast that the local authorities ought to have some say in this matter—he did not care whether it was in the North or the South; they should have a legitimate position in those matters. There was not at present a particle of the representative character about it which there ought to be. At all events, they were now only beating the air. If the Motion of the hon. Member for Mayo were carried —which it would not be—the National Board of Education would take no notice of it: the Government would take no notice of it. They would go on as they had gone on before—destroying every chance which the Irish child had of being educated.
COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
said that he agreed with much that had been said by the hon. Member for Belfast and the hon. Member for South Tyrone, but he wished to point out that an indirect attack had been made on the managerial system of education in Ireland. Now, he wanted the Committee to understand that the whole character of education in Ireland depended on the managerial system, and that they could not without danger risk a change of that system. He had been for many years a school manager himself, and he understood the question. As to the so-called confidential reports which were sent to the Board, he did not think they were the formidable documents which the hon. Member for Belfast made them out to be. These were a printed form which dealt with many subjects. One of these subjects was the character of the school teachers. It had been said that the teachers would have no security about those reports; but he should have thought that they were an advantage rather than otherwise to the teachers.
repeated that his experience was that the reports were only sent up on printed forms on which the manager marked "Good" or "Bad." It must be recollected that the national system was originally instituted as a proselytising agency by Protestant managers, especially in the West of Ireland, and that one result of it was that the great Dr. MacHule, then Archbishop of Tuam, shut up the whole of the - schools in his diocese and would have nothing to do with the system. But, as at present worked, the system, on the whole, was a tolerable system; and it would not do to have an immediate total change. Besides, he did not think they could get a sufficient number of Catholic squires and laymen to manage all the schools. The hon. Member for South Tyrone spoke in favour of some system of local representative management.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said that all he had advocated was that the local authorities should be recognised.
said he was very glad to have got that qualification from the hon. Member for South Tyrone; but his contention was that, on the whole, the present managers had worked well. People were not going to vote money for schools if they had not some control over the schools. The present managerial system had, he insisted, worked well on the whole, and it was suited to the wants of Ireland. In the large majority of cases the clerical managers of the schools had proved efficient. He agreed with the hon. Member for Belfast that they were all shocked at the way the schoolmasters and schoolmistresses had been treated by the Treasury, and the Chief Secretary should see that these deserving public servants were treated as well as the schoolmasters and schoolmistresses of Scotland and England were.
As to Rule 127 (b), he did not think that English Members understood what was being done under that rule. As a general rule, in Ireland boys and girls were separated; but under Rule 127 (b) the balance was changed and all children between three and eight years of age were put into girls' schools. The right hon. Gentleman said that that change was made for the sake of the children; but the schoolmasters and schoolmistresses in Ireland were paid chiefly by the number attending the school, and when there was a transfer of boys made to a girls' school that interfered with the prospects of the schoolmaster. He understood that a promise had been made that no schoolmaster or schoolmistress should suffer from the change, but that change ruined their prospects of promotion, which was practically a breach of faith with the schoolmasters. This was a point to which the Chief Secretary might be fairly called upon to give some attention. If schoolmasters were put permanently in a small school, with no chance of promotion, they stagnated. As to school buildings, the inspectors had marched with the times and insisted that the children should have more room and more air, and called upon the managers, 232 who were not rich men, to carry out improvements; but the managers did not like to bleed the parish for that purpose. In some cases the proposed improvements were fads; and he suggested that where a certain amount of money had been spent on enlargement or improvement of the schools the Government should contribute a proportion of the expenditure, the past expenditure of the managers being taken into account. Some now thought the carrying of sods of turf for fuel a great hardship. In old times it was not so bad, but now the children were a little better clothed, and they did not like it. He thought it would not be fair to ask the managers to provide fuel, but he considered a fuel allowance—£2 per school would go a long way—might be made, and he hoped the Chief Secretary, as a good administrator, would look into the question and see if some such allowance could not be made. He hoped that before the end of the year they might have some better rule than Rule 127 (b).
§ MR. THOMAS O'DONNELL
said that the only possible solution for an effective and useful change was Home Rule. On that side of the House they were all agreed that education was a most important and vital question, and if it were to be carried on for many years longer in the same unbusinesslike manner in which it had been carried on for the past seventy years, the country was bound to suffer most severely. The education of the country was entrusted to some twenty men sitting at Dublin. They had been described in very effective and eloquent terms by the hon. Member for North Louth, [who had shown the House how the country suffered from their work. He asked that if they were to continue to live under the National Board, the Press should be allowed to attend its meetings, this being one of the best ways of letting the country know what they were doing. He trusted the Chief Secretary would take seriously into consideration that reasonable and just demand.
The question of the payment of teachers in order to get good men was a very important one. In the 233 last Estimates England was voted a sum of £12,500,000 for education, Scotland £1,817,000, and Ireland £1,391,000. In England and Scotland. where education had been conducted certainly on very much better lines than in Ireland, there were increases of £416,000 and £63,000 respectively, but in Ireland, where education was admittedly starved by the Treasury, there was a decrease of £1,900, even in the face of the reports submitted by the inspectors and by the English gentleman, Mr. Dale, who said that the teachers were badly paid, and that the schools were a disgrace to civilisation. That was a scandal and a thing which ought to be remedied. It had been said in previous debates that England and Scotland did not get more proportionately from the State for education than Ireland, and that England and Scotland contributed towards education from the rates. The first statement was inaccurate. England and Scotland got considerably more for primary and ever so much more for secondary and University education than Ireland. The average amount voted from the State per head of population for primary education in England was 8s., in Scotland a little over 8s., and in Ireland only 6s. Those were facts which could not be denied. They could not get away from the fact that Ireland was getting from the Imperial taxes a smaller amount for primary education than she was entitled to. If she were to get her proportion per head of population—the only logical and just basis—she would get £1,800,000 instead of £1,390,000. On that score alone, and apart altogether from the equivalent grant, Ireland was denied £100,000 per annum for primary education. Then, when they asked for more money to improve their schools, and to give decent salaries to their teachers, they were told they must contribute out of their rates, and that they were already getting more out of the State than England and Scotland. That was false, and it was treating Ireland in a manner shabby and mean.
Not only was the amount they got proportionately lower than was given to England and Scotland, but the administration was at least twice as 234 expensive as in England and Scotland, being about 3 per cent, in England, 2½ per cent, in Scotland, and 5½ per cent, in Ireland of the respective grants, thus showing that the National Board, however bad it was, was twice as competent to spend money in administration as the English and Scotch Boards. What salaries were the Irish teachers getting? The best educated men of the country were being enticed, induced, and coaxed to come within the service of the National Board, which offered them the magnificent starting salary of £56 a year. Could it be imagined that the men entrusted with a great work, fraught with so much importance to the welfare of the country, and upon which depended the future progress of the children of the nation, were to begin with the miserable and wretched salary of a little over £1 per week? It was a shame to expect men to come to the service with such miserable inducements, and it was equally a shame to expect that good men would remain in it. There was no field for their energy and no certainty as to what might occur to them in after years.
He complained of the manner in which the teachers had been treated in regard to their pensions. The Treasury suddenly found out that the fund was bankrupt, that the pensions promised must be reduced from £88 to £60 a year, and that the teachers' contributions must be trebled. How was it to be expected, with the miserable salaries given, with the uncertainty increasing every year, and with the pensions reduced, that the proper class of men would enter the service or remain in it if they did enter? It was absolutely impossible. In England and Scotland it was found advantageous to give twice as much salary to the teachers as was given in Ireland. They demanded—and before long he thought they might insist upon it—a salary for the Irish teacher equal to that given to the English and Scotch teacher. He was as well trained for his work, and he was performing the same service for his nation. The question of pensions was one vitally connected with the question of salaries, and he wished to ask the Chief Secretary one or two Questions.
235 In 1900 the old system of education was changed and a broad new system substituted. The old teachers were regarded as not being up to date. In every other branch of the Civil Service, if, for the benefit of the nation, a change were found necessary, a man, often of ten, twenty, or twenty-five years service, would not be suddenly discarded without consideration, but when it was found that a change in the educational system was necessary, the national teacher was declared inefficient, cast aside, and dismissed without a pension. It was a shame and a scandal that men who had been in the service for thirty years should be dismissed in order that new men could be taken on at half the salary. Rule 127 (b) particularly affected the teachers in this way. One effect of the rule must be to lessen the number of teachers, and another would be to replace male by female teachers, with the result that the work would be less efficient. He, therefore, wished to ask the Chief Secretary whether he could definitely state that under this scheme no teacher at present in the service should suffer loss in his salary and that no teacher who was degraded to the position of an assistant should suffer any loss on his pension rights. Those were Questions to which, up to the present, they had been unable to obtain a definite reply.
In the Report of the Commissioners of National Education it stated that in the. first standard in the national schools of Ireland there were 45 per cent, of the whole of the children attending the schools, whilst the first three standards contained 71 per cent, of the children attending the schools. That meant that the education given at the present time to 71 per cent, of the children of Ireland was of the most meagre description, and that a radical change must be made if there was to be any improvement in Irish education. He was proud to recognise that the Commissioners had stated that they had made demands on the Treasury for the building of schools and for setting up higher-grade schools. If Ireland had a proper system of education passing from the national through the higher-grade schools to the University, and if they could persuade those who had passed through 236 the Universities to come back and give the benefit of the training they had received to the children of the peasants, there was no people who would more quickly benefit than the Irish. Higher -grade schools should be established all over the country, because there were thousands and thousands of young Irish boys whose minds were starved and who were denied opportunities of bettering their condition because their education had commenced and ended in the national schools. Were a system of higher-grade schools established they would soon show in commercial, industrial, and other walks of life that they were at least the equals of those who governed their country against their will.
Coming to the most important part of the question, namely, the influence which the teaching of the Irish language had had in arousing greater interest in the work of Irish education, he took leave to point out that while the Commissioners acknowledged the beneficial effect of teaching the national language in the schools, they were told by one of the Commissioners that next year, in 1906, the one subject which had stirred the whole life of Ireland and had engendered this greatly increased interest in the education of the country was to be abandoned by the Treasury and that no more money would be given for its teaching. Was it conceivable that now, when Ireland was making a start and had found the means of making up for the drawbacks of the National Board and improving the education of the country, the Treasury were going to block their efforts and were going to refuse the miserable sum which was given for teaching the Irish language. He could assure whoever was responsible for such a thing that if the Treasury insisted upon withdrawing the money at present given for that purpose they would raise such a storm about their ears that they would be prevented from carrying their intentions into effect. In Ireland they had training colleges supposed to train teachers to educate the children. The people of Ireland had emphatically declared by every form open to them that they desired to have the national language of the country taught to their children, yet in the face of that fact.
237 the Treasury had done nothing to compel these training colleges to train the teachers in the Irish language. He appealed to the Chief Secretary, and through him to Dr. Starkie, to meet the unanimous demand of the Irish people by insisting in future that no young man or woman should be allowed to remain in a training college without being taught the Irish language, and that they should not be allowed to teach in the schools until they had acquired a knowledge of the national tongue. The Irish people had a right to insist that their own language should be taught in the schools; they were a bi-lingual people, and he hoped that something would be done in this matter to meet the wishes of the people.
§ DR. MACNAMARA (Camberwell, N.)
expressed the opinion, after a close examination of the systems in vogue, that the Irish educational system was fifty years behind that of England and Wales, and 150 years behind that of Scotland. That was entirely due to the superiniposition of a system from outside superimposed by ignorance, with the result that a people loving education were driven to the necessity of detesting the means by which it was offered to them. As a result a great crime had been committed against the people of Ireland, and this country had been robbed of the services of a brilliant and intellectual people. The cost of the official administration of Ireland was £120,000 a year; that of Scotland, with an infinitely better system, was £60,000 a year. In England and Wales for every 20s. raised for education 3s. went in official administration; in Scotland 3s. 10d., but in Ireland out of every 20s. paid for education 6s. 6d. went in official administration, and a very bad administration it was. The Intermediate Board consisted of twelve Commissioners, two assistant Commissioners, and a host of paid officials, and they encouraged education in Ireland simply by paying result fees on examinations. That was a thoroughly rotten system of administering any form of education. Last year this egregious institution spent £98,550, of which £6,633 went in permanent salaries, temporary inspectors' remuneration, and locomotive 238 expenses, and £10,843 in examiners' remuneration, examination superintendence, and locomotive expenses. The Board simply examined 7,909 pupils, without educating or assisting them in any way, at a cost of £2 4s 2d. per head, whereas the whole education of a child in the popular schools of Ireland cost only £2 7s. 6d. Then the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction had an income of £350,000 a year, and, as described to him by a witty Irishman, its whole function was to teach hens how to lay eggs. These were the central Departments which had to deal with education.
How were the teachers treated in Ireland as compared with the rest of the United Kingdom? The average salary, from all sources, of certificated headmasters in public elementary schools in Scotland was £176 14s. 3d., in England and Wales £151 9s. 11d., and in Ireland £105 4s. 9d. As to assistant masters, the average salary last year in Scotland was £120 11s. 8d., in England and Wales £110 3s. Id., and in Ireland £73 13s. 10d. To put it in another way, where an Irish headmaster received 20s., an English headmaster received 30s., and a Scotch headmaster 35s., while even an assistant teacher in England received 24s. against an Irish headmaster's 20s. With regard to superannuation, he knew of no more scandalous piece of maladministration or more scandalous breach of faith than was involved in the revision of the pension scheme. That scheme was set up by diverting £1,300,000 from the Irish Church surplus, and an Act of Parliament was passed, the schedule of which laid it down on the faith of the British Government that the teachers should receive certain benefits. The system was in operation until 1897, when a mysterious Departmental Committee came to the extraordinary conclusion that the scheme was in a financially unsound condition, though where the money had gone Heaven only knew. Then, without any consultation of Parliament, a new set of rules was put into operation, the premiums were trebled, the benefits reduced, and the teacher compelled to adhere to the new scheme. That was a monstrous injustice, and he believed it was absolutely illegal, an 239 opinion which, when briefed by the Irish teachers, the Irish Solicitor-General also held, though he was not of the same opinion now.
§ THE SOLICITOR - GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. JAMES CAMPBELL, Dublin University)
I have not said so.
§ DR. MACNAMARA
said he was surprised Irish teachers took it so quietly. If he had paid premiums for twenty years in order to secure certain benefits under an Act of Parliament, he would have had those benefits or known the reason why. He did not think the House at all understood what was being perpetrated when the scheme was revolutionised. The premium was trebled, gratuities were abolished, the retiring age was increased by five years, and the maximum pensions obtainable were reduced, in the case of men, from £88 to £60, and, in the case of women, from £63 to £47. When the subject was discussed on April 11th last, he expressed the view that these alterations were illegal, and the Financial Secretary of the Treasury then said that the rules were framed in 1897 in accordance with the recommendation of a Departmental Committee, and had remained in force until the present time, though he candidly admitted there had been cases of hardship. Then, prompted by the Solicitor-General, he said—It is only fair to point out that the teachers who were in the service on January 1st, 1898, had the option of remaining under the old rules or of coming under the new rules.If that had been true all the teachers would have remained under the old rules because they were much more favourable, but, as he himself pointed out to the Financial Secretary, the teachers were compelled to accept the new rules. The Solicitor-General himself stated—The hon. Member for Camberwell made a complete mistake in supposing that these rules of 1897 deprived existing; teachers of any right whatever ii respect of their pensions.That was wrong, and the Solicitor-General ought to have known it. It was true that teachers who had reached the first class retained the right to get the £88 maximum, but what about those teachers who were second of the first class, second class, and third class, who previously had a prospective right to the £88 maxi- 240 mum? The alteration in the rules robbed them of that right; and he was surprised that a legal gentleman with the training of the Solicitor-General should have endeavoured so seriously to mislead the House.
§ MR. JAMES CAMPBELL
said that was a serious charge. On the occasion referred to the hon. Member asserted that all existing rights in all classes of teachers had been summarily interfered with. He then rose to correct that misrepresentation, and to say that the rights of the class he named had not been interfered with, and the hon. Member had to admit that he was right.
§ DR. MACNAMARA
said his recollection was not the same as the Solicitor-General's, but he would not pursue the point. He was not now referring to any interruption, but to the body of the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech where he said the rules did not deprive existing teachers of any right whatever. They did, and the Solicitor-General knew it. It was true that they did not take away any right from a teacher who was then first in the first class, but they did take away the prospective right to the £88 maximum from teachers who had a reasonable expectation of arriving at that stage.
But this was not merely a question of salaries or pensions. The whole treatment of Irish teachers was absolutely wrong, and willing service, which was the only thing worth having, would never be obtained under such a system. Under the rules of the Commissioners, teachers were not allowed to go to fairs or to political meetings—although a few years ago Lord Londonderry made a violent political speech at a teachers' banquet, and if the teachers had acted according to the rules they would have repudiated the Lord President, in which case they would probably have been dismissed. Then they were expected to provide at their own expense prizes and treats for the pupils, and to make good wear and tear of buildings. With regard to school buildings—The Commissioners expect that all teachers shall have done at their own expense the following, viz.:—Lime-washing, cleaning and241 repairing glass; cleaning privies and ash-pits; gravelling yards and walks, and keeping surface channels in order; sweeping chimneys; making good any damage arising from carelessness or neglect; maintaining fences and gates, except damages from lapse of time; and, in cases of residences built by grants for teachers of national schools vested in the Board of National Education or in trustees, the Commissioners will inflict such penalty as they may deem adequate if the teacher fails to fulfil these conditions." In fact, on nearly every page of these rules there appeared the words—The Commissioners will inflict such penalties as they may deem adequate.One alteration he was very glad to see. In the old edition of the rule it was provided that—The national teachers shall be persons of Christian sentiment, of calm temper and discretion, and imbued with a spirit of peace; they must show obedience to the law and loyalty to their Sovereign.What distressed him was that this rule had now completely disappeared, with the exception of the words, "they must show obedience to the law and loyalty to their Sovereign." Therefore they did not now need to be persons of Christian sentiment, calm temper, or discretion, for all that had gone, and he did not wonder at it. No doubt the Chief Secretary said to himself, "It cannot be done at the price." He hoped that the Chief Secretary, who could bring to bear upon this question real practical experience as to what was being done for the English, Scotch, and Welsh child, would contrast that experience with what was being done for the Irish child.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)
congratulated the hon. Member for North Camberwell upon his speech. Of the eight speakers who had addressed the House upon this question not one of them had said a good word for the system under which the school teachers of Ireland were maintained by the Government, and they all united in one common chorus of condemnation of the system. The present system was making the life of the Irish school teacher intolerable. He really believed that the Government were afraid to intellectually equip the Irish people. The teaching of the Irish language was discouraged in order to lessen the enthusiasm of the people for it. The whole system of education embodied 242 in the rules was calculated to depress and degrade the teaching class, destroy individuality, disturb independence, and to work detrimentally to the education and culture of the children. There were many illiterates in his constituency, but they had been rendered illiterate by the English Government, who were afraid of cultivating their intellects, and he would sooner represent them than the selfishness of Trinity College. Did the Chief Secretary realise his position? Three months ago he knew nothing about Irish education, and what he knew now was only in consequence of the "coaching" he had received from Irish officials. The right hon. Gentleman was simply the mouthpiece of a system which kept Irish education depressed and which degraded Irish teachers. The Chief Secretary appeared before them as the most discredited member of a discredited Government. [MINISTERIAL cries of "No, no!"] It was against him upon an Irish subject that the Government were defeated. The policy pursued by the Government was a fraud upon all Parliamentary institutions.
§ MR. BOLAND (Kerry, S.)
said the hon. Member for North Camberwell had shown how the Irish teacher had been treated in regard to his salary. The National Board did not appear alive to the danger the teachers of Ireland would undergo if these new rules were brought into effect. Did the Treasury intend to effect some economy by this new rule? At the present time he was more concerned with the question of the teachers' salaries, and he thought it due to the House and the country that the action of the Treasury should be made clear. Only that day a Paper had been circulated by the Treasury asking the House of Commons to vote £100,000 more for higher education in England. With regard to the teaching of the Irish language it had already been pointed out that the training colleges of Ireland offered no facilities for the training of teachers in one of the most important educational movements now going on in Ireland, namely, the teaching of the Irish language. The Irish people, out of their own funds, had elected to provide what ought to be provided by the national training colleges. Two voluntary training colleges 243 had been started which were attended by sixty or seventy teachers from the national schools, so that tinder the present system Irish teachers were obliged to go to voluntary institutions to obtain facilities for learning the language of their own country. He asked the Chief Secretary to secure for the national teachers attending those schools the right to stay for the whole six weeks course without having to provide a substitute at their own expense.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
sympathised with a great deal that had been said by Nationalist Members as to the deplorable state of education in Ireland. The most valuable asset of any nation was the brains of its people, and he believed that in intelligence the Irish nation came short of no nation in the world. All they wanted, in order to keep their place in the race that all the nations were engaged in, was fair play, and the national system of education as it now existed did not give fair play to the Irish people. The teachers ought to be given the independence which they asked for and better pay, and it would be the cheapest money ever spent in the country.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. WALTER LONG, Bristol, S.)
said it was quite unnecessary for one or two hon. Gentlemen opposite to suggest as they did, that he had taken no interest in the work of Irish education. He desired to say in his own defence that there was no subject in which he took a deeper interest and no work which would be more congenial to him and in which he should be so glad to labour successfully than that of the improvement of the general system of education in Ireland. But the question was extremely difficult and complicated- one of the most difficult they could be called upon to consider. It- was, therefore, unnecessary to make it worse by personal charges and statements about the Minister who happened at the moment to be responsible.
He thought the first conviction forced on the mind of anybody who had listened to the debate had been that, whilst everybody had been prepared to criticise the National Board and to find 244 fault with the system of national education in Ireland, there had been very few practical suggestions of remedy. The suggestions that had been made had invariably encountered very vigorous opposition in other parts of the House. In the earlier stages of the debate he heard that there was a feeling in support of some system of local control; and the right hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh had dealt with the question of absolute power of managers over their teachers. He thought anybody who had looked even superficially at the question would realise that an attempt to alter that part of the national education in Ireland would be to provoke very wide and deep-seated controversy and would be very unlikely to be successful. Changes which involved such controversy as to be at present impossible, could hardly be regarded as practicable, or, if adopted, as likely to effect the desired reform. As far as he was concerned, the greater part of the indictment delivered that day was concerned with that period of the educational year during which he had no direct knowledge of what was going on; but he was bound to say that he had found no indication in the numerous conversations he had had with the Resident Commissioner and other members of the National Board to support the charge that the Board had proceeded with disregard for Irish education, and with a desire to scamp and to starve it. On the contrary, though their methods might not have met with the results they all desired, it was owing very largely, he thought, to the difficulties with which they had to deal rather than with weakness or bad policy on their part.
There had been a variety of charges made against the National Board, but they had chiefly centred round four great questions, viz., the teachers and their salaries, the building and improvement of schools, Rule 127 (b), and the development grant. With regard to the question of the salaries of teachers, the figures he had been supplied with practically agreed with those of the hon. Member for Camberwell, who, however, ought to have remembered that the salaries had to some extent to be measured by the numbers the teachers 245 had to teach. The average salary of a headmaster in Ireland was about £100, in Scotland £178, and in England £159, but in Ireland these teachers were only called upon to teach fifty-five children, whereas in Scotland they were called upon to teach, on the average, 200, and in England, on the average, 250. He was not saying that the salaries were sufficient, because he was one of those who had always believed that the labourer was worthy of his hire, and if they wanted to get good men they must pay them sufficient salaries. But, in this branch of their work the National Board was justified, when a comparison was made in favour of Scotland and England, in taking into account the numbers that the teachers were called upon to teach. This difference in the comparison must be an element in considering what the salaries should be.
As to the position of the teachers and the effect of the change on their pensions, he stated that the effect of the change brought into force in 1900, by which payment by results was abolished and a fixed scale of salaries substituted, had been confused with the ultimate effects of the application of Rule 127 (b) and the consequent alteration in teaching.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said that there had been some confusion, and so far as he was informed, he believed that in all probability no teacher now in the service of the Board would suffer under the existing regulations.
§ MR. DILLON
You are speaking now of the change from payment by results to graded salaries. I challenge that; and I gave cases in which they do suffer.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said that there might be some cases where it was impossible to prevent some hardship, but he believed that as a general rule there would be no such hardship. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman was confusing the issue with promotion. That was a different question.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said that the National Board were now in communication with the Treasury, making suggestions towards the preservation of the pension rights of the teachers. Many of the allegations made against the Treasury by the hon. Member for Louth were unfounded. The hon. Member had said that because the Department was in negotiation with the Treasury on the pension question it was bound to be swindled.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
That was not a correct phrase to apply to the Treasury in the exercise of its rights as guardian of the public purse. At all events, he could show that in one material respect the Treasury had not behaved as the lion. Member suggested, but that it had met claims fairly and squarely.
§ MR. CLANCY (Dublin County, N.)
Do I understand that no existing teacher will suffer from the operation of Rule 127 (b).
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said that he was speaking of salaries. But reference had been made to the Departmental Committee which sat in 1902 on the question of school buildings. The grants from the Imperial Exchequer for building purposes in England had long ago ceased, and the Treasury proposed, several years back, to give £100,000 towards school buildings in Ireland. The Department had approached the Treasury on that subject and, so far from desiring to swindle the Irish Government, it had made an increased grant of £140,000, while the Irish Government had met that proposal by a supplemental grant out of the development grant to the extent of £70,000.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said that the contribution was made by the Treasury in aid of school buildings in Ireland to run during a period of years, and the money would be available for the purpose of building new schools and rebuilding and improving existing buildings.
§ MR. DILLON
said they ought to be clear on the subject. This Committee on the building question sat three years ago. In the Report of the Commissioners complaint was made that they could get no information as to what the result of the inquiry had been. The Irish Members wanted to know what the proposal of the Chief Secretary was. Were they to understand that this grant was a final grant or a grant to take the place of the regular annual grant which used to be given towards the building of Irish schools? Were, the Government now going to offer this grant as a substitute for the old grant and to throw over a large portion of the charge on the development grant? If that was true then a more grotesque and outrageous swindle had never been perpetrated.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said that if the Exchequer made a contribution to the Irish schools in respect of buildings which it did not give to the schools in the United Kingdom, surely hon. Members were not justified in preferring a charge of swindling when in reality an effort was being made to help. He appealed to the Committee to say what chance anyone had to give satisfaction when money was applied to Irish educational purposes and hon. Members turned round and de nounced the Government. It was hopelessly unreasonable.
§ MR. DILLON
The right hon. Gentleman has not yet answered my Question. Is this an additional new grant or is it by way of substitution for the old annual grant?
§ MR. WALTER LONG
The position is this: there has heretofore been an annual grant of varying amount. That grant will be continued until the expenditure of £140,000 plus £70,000 has been reached.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
To the extent I have stated. He was glad to find that this was only a misunderstanding. He might at this stage deal with another point of finance raised by the hon. Member for South Belfast. He had asked the other day whether the grant of £28,000 was included in the £50,000. That was not so.
Passing from this point he declared that no representations had been made to him that the teachers in Ireland had suffered in the way described by hon. Gentlemen opposite—that they were being driven out of the profession and that they were not getting the right class of applicant. But there was no doubt that there had been distinct discouragement felt amongst them. He thought, however, that that was not due so much to the amount of salary paid as to the slowness of promotion. The National Board were in communication with the Treasury trying to evolve a system under which that difficulty of promotion would be lessened. He had dealt with the question of buildings, and he did not hesitate to say that no money could be better spent or was more seriously needed than that which it was proposed to spend upon the improvement of school buildings. Several other suggestions had been made in regard to buildings. The hon. and gallant Member for Galway suggested that the State should deal with the question fairly and another suggestion was that some system should be devised by which children in widely scattered districts should be brought to school in conveyances so that they could arrive at school dry instead of in the unfortunate condition in which they now sometimes 249 came. These were all practical suggestions of a minor character which would be considered by the National Board of Education for Ireland and by the Irish Government.
With regard to the adoption of Rule 127 (b) they had been told that that rule would never work but would have to be withdrawn for the reason that it would be impossible to work it He could not help doubting that. He believed that when the reasons which led the National Board of Education to adopt the rule and the grounds on which it was based were known to hon. Gentlemen opposite they would be fully accepted by them. It was said that this rule was introduced in the interests of the Treasury and was prompted by motives of economy and not for the betterment of education.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said he did not think the hon. Gentleman could prove that by anything which had been said by the Treasury or by the National Board of Education. It was historically impossible also, because the Treasury letter upon which so much reliance was placed for the contention that this rule had its origin in the Treasury did not come until several months after the National Board had adopted the rule. So there was no justification whatever for the charge that this rule had its origin in motives of economy. As hon. Gentlemen opposite would seefrom Mr. Dale's Report, one of the greatest difficulties in connection with Irish education was the number of small schools. The Report pointed out that the proportion of small schools to the whole number was much larger in Ireland than elsewhere, and, whether the question was looked at from the point of view of the efficiency of the teaching class or the teaching of the children, the multiplication of these small schools must be detrimental to the best interests of education. Rule 127 (b) might be unpopular, but whatever its merits or demerits might be, it was not founded on economic grounds, but on the ground that it would tend to the general improvement of education. After all, what did it do? He would take the case of two schools 250 where there were thirty or forty children. If those two schools were amalgamated they would get instead of a single teacher in each school a principal teacher and an assistant, and they would be able to divide the teaching between the two. Surely such an arrangement would appeal to common sense. By dividing the children in that way they were more likely to give them a permanently beneficial education than in adhering to a system which entailed the multiplication of schools under the single teacher regime. He did not venture to lay down whether this new rule would be wise or unwise, but he thought it would be agreed that the Irish National Board had behind them a great mass of evidence in justification for the course which they were taking. It was almost universally acknowledged that the multiplication of small schools must tend to deteriorate the character of education. All experience showed that where a teacher had to deal with a school of all ages the work was more laborious; it dissipated the energy of the teacher, and in all probability the result was far less satisfactory. Having that experience, and having the Report of Mr. Dale before them, the National Board had no possible course open to them but to adopt some rule of this kind.
§ MR. CLANCY
Does the right hon. Gentleman say that no existing teacher will suffer from the operation of Rule 127 (b)?
§ MR. WALTER LONG
replied that certainly in the great majority of cases there would be no injury to existing teachers, because where they had at present two teachers in two small schools one would become a principal and the other an assistant. But while the new principal had opened to him a higher grade and became the recipient of a better salary with a much higher maximum, the assistant would retain her existing salary and therefore would suffer no loss.
§ MR. JOHN O'CONNOR (Kildare, N.)
recalled the Chief Secretary's attention to a promise which the right hon. Gentleman made before Whitsuntide that he would consult the managers and even the 251 Bishops upon the efEect of the rule, and that he would take care that no teacher suffered by the operation of this rule. Had he modified that position or not?
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said that what he did say was that all he could do in the matter was to communicate with the National Board of Education and take care that the matter was fully considered. In addition to that he had discussed the matter certainly with one Bishop and with other representative men who were good enough to come and see him on the subject. He had represented to the National Board—and he believed they fully accepted the view he had put forward—that while in their judgment the adoption of the rule was essential for the improvement of the general system of national education, they should do their utmost so to apply it that no injustice should be done to any teacher either, now or in the future. Thai; he thought, was all that could reasonably be asked of the National Board or of the Irish Government, since it was obviously very difficult to introduce a system abolishing that now in existence without running the risk of injuring in some way a person here or there. He could only repeat that he would take advantage of any opportunity of discussing the questions with the representative gentlemen to whom the hon. Member had referred, and he had no doubt the National Board would do the same.
§ MR. THOMAS O'DONNELL
asked whether a principal teacher who under this rule was made an assistant would get the pension of a principal or of an assistant.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said he would have to look into that point as it raised the whole question of pensions, which was not yet finally settled.
§ MR. THOMAS O'DONNELL
asked whether, before a final decision was come to, the House would have an opportunity of discussing the matter.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said he could not promise that. Then he had been asked why the development grant should not be applied to educational purpose The purposes to which it was now applied I were approved by all the parties concerned. It was an agreed policy at the time [Cries of "No, no !"], and if it was to be altered now it would involve much consideration, and to ask that it should be devoted solely to educational purposes was making a very large demand.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said there was a general agreement between the two sides of the House at the time [Cries of "No, no !"].
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
There was no decision between the two sides at all. The Liberal Party took absolutely no part in the discussion.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said he was afraid that the information of the hon. and learned Member was not strictly accurate in respect to the two great Parties in the House, though it was no doubt true that the Irish Party did not agree. Many demands were now being made upon the development grant by Irish Members, who expected that the money would be spent upon local works in their own districts. [NATIONALIST cries of "No, no!" and "Name."] They certainly did come to him and ask for this money and they expected to get it. He was not, therefore, describing them unfairly when he said that many of the Irish Members looked upon this money as a fund to be used for the development of local industries, and if the change was to be made it would involve a reconsideration of the whole financial system.
§ MR. DILLON
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Irish Partv 253 have passed a resolution calling upon the Government to devote all the balance of the development grant to Irish education?
§ MR. WALTER LONG
Yes, but I am awar that a great many Members of the Irish Party have come to me and assured me the development grant ought to be spent on industries in their districts.
§ MR. DILLON
Of course if the Government refuses to spend it on education, Members will ask you to spend it in their districts rather than that it should be hung up.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
I will not wrangle about it. The development grant has been used largely for purposes of development, and it is impossible to change the system at his moment, unless the educational finances can be so rearranged as to fill up the gap by providing money for the development of industries from other sources.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said the National Board had decided, not merely with regard to Irish but all extra subjects, that they were prepared to abolish these fees, provided the money was given to other educational purposes, such as manual instruction. The money was not withdrawn by the Treasury, but it was a suggestion of the National Board that if this money, amounting to £14,000, coald be made applicable to other purposes the extra fees should be abolished.
§ MR. DILLON
claimed the right to reply to the extraordinary and unsatisfactory speech of the Chief Secretary. He understood that it was the intention of the National Board to reverse the policy which they had adopted with the approval of the Resident Commissioner and with the consent of the great majority of the Irish people of making a 254 grant of 10s. for the teaching of Irish. The extra grant was to be withdrawn and the teaching of Irish practically abolished in the national schools. He had never heard a more absurd or idiotic proposal. He was commissioned by the Gaelic League, which had exercised a most beneficent influence upon Irish education, to protest against the insufficiency of the encouragement given to the teaching of the Irish language, and the answer to that protest was an announcement that the small amount of encouragement which they had succeeded in wringing from the National Board was to be swept away. He told the Government they could not do it. If they attempted to do it they would bring the whole Board about the ears of the Government in a very short time. He defied the Chief Secretary. By Rule 127 (b) and by other steps taken by this misguided and unrepresentative and irresponsible Board they had produced confusion in. Irish education, and if this further retrograde step was taken the whole system would fall into ruin, because the whole population would rise in rebellion against the Board and the stupid English Minister who did not understand the wishes and wants of the Irish people. [NATIONALIST cheers.] He warned the House that they little knew what they were doing in supporting a Minister who had been defeated and discredited in the course of a very brief administration. [MINISTERIAL cries of "No" and "Divide."] They would not divide. The Chief Secretary had practically admitted the whole indictment brought against the regulations of 1900 in so far as they affected the salaries and prospects of the teachers, but he had not said anything a to the intentions of the Government to deal with the matter. If nothing were done they would be left in the position indicated by Cardinal Logue. Nobody would become a national teacher except the man who was intellectually unfitted for any other occupation.
And, it being half-past Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
Committee report Progress; to sit again this evening.