§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £114,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 989 1909, for the Expenses of the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland."
§ MR. HAZLETON (Galway, N.)
said that in rising to propose the reduction in the Vote for Irish primary education which stood in his name upon the Paper, he did not think it necessary to cover the general ground that had so often and so well been covered before on this question. The defects of primary education threatened, he feared, to become a stock subject of debate on the Irish Estimates. He could imagine no worse fate for any good cause, for it was very frequently the case that the oftener a subject was talked about in the House the less attention was paid to it, and the more it was misunderstood. Hon. Members had heard so much of this on previous occasions that the moment it was mentioned now they flow elsewhere, leaving the Solicitor-General to bear the burden practically alone. He did not, however, blame the English and Scottish Members for not taking an interest in Irish primary education. It was no concern of theirs. They had not to pay for it, their people had not to suffer under it, and they had no incentive towards seeking to have its condition improved. That, however, was not the case with the Nationalist Members, and they were there to raise the question once again, in spite of the discouragement of an indifferent House of Commons, an irresponsible Board of Education, and a hostile Treasury. He did not propose to cover the general ground that had so often been gone over. To those who took an interest in it a general statement of the case was hardly necessary, because they were already familiar with it. For those who did not take that interest it was still more unnecessary, because it would be merely waste of time. He would, therefore, content himself with a brief survey of the main points with which they had to deal. Their complaints as formulated up to last year, against the condition of primary education in Ireland, might be classified under three heads, the first concerning the school teachers, the second concerning the school buildings, and the third concerning the school programmes. Concerning the teachers, they had pointed 990 out for many years that compared with similar classes of teachers in England and Scotland, they were scandalously underpaid. They were unduly subject to dismissal, and they were unfairly deprived of the ordinary right of citizens. With regard to the school buildings, they had pointed out that the condition of a very large number of primary schools had been for long a disgrace to any civilised authority, ill-ventilated, unheated, providing totally insufficient accommodation, and very often in a shocking state of disrepair. With regard to the school programme, the foremost of their complaints had to do with the treatment of the Irish language, and the attempt which was made to strangle it as soon as it had acquired a foothold in the schools. The first question he proposed to consider was how far their complaints under these three heads had been met by the Government. He was glad to be able at the outset to acknowledge that under each of the three heads there had been an important improvement. There had been a distinct advance along the lines they wished to see followed, and the realisation of some part at least of those reforms which they had so long and so earnestly pressed upon the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. He did not want it to be understood for a moment that they were satisfied with the progress that had been made under any one of these heads. They had asked for simple justice, and had merely received an instalment. It was only right and fair and reasonable to acknowledge that where others had failed the present Chief Secretary had succeeded in improving the conditions under which primary education in Ireland was being carried on. For instance, the right hon. Gentleman had restored the fees for the teaching of the Irish language which were withdrawn by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin. Under the head of school buildings he had procured an additional grant of £40,000 a year for three years. Under the first head, that of school teachers, he had secured a new grant, an addition of £114,000 a year to the salaries. He was not going to enlarge upon the virtues of the right hon. Gentleman as revealed by these facts. He contented himself 991 with placing them upon record. He was glad to be able for a brief moment before plunging into the criticism which it was absolutely necessary to make even with regard to the virtues of the right hon. Gentleman to acknowledge what the right hon. Gentleman had done in this direction. The question he wanted to draw attention to was that of the salaries of the teachers in the National schools. In March of last year the present Secretary took upon himself the role of prophet and said—I am afraid, although I shall continue to press the case for an increase in the pay of the teachers as strongly as I can, and although I expect to get a contribution towards that object, it will not be on a scale which will give satisfaction to hon. Gentlemen opposite.The Chief Secretary was right. He had secured an increase of £114,000, but it would be no news to him that not only the amount of this increase but its allocation would cause something more than dissatisfaction. Dismay was the only word that could properly describe the effect which this proposal had had amongst the teachers, particularly amongst the very large number of them who had been absolutely deprived of all benefit under the proposal. The demand of the teachers and of the National Board was for an increase amounting altogether to somewhere about £400,000. Of course they were told that Ireland was a poorer country than England, and that wages ought to be lower; and they were reminded that the schools were smaller, proportionately very much more numerous, and therefore more costly. But in this as in most other matters the British Government had reduced discrimination against Irish interests to the point of a fine art. All that was required by any standard of comparison before it was set up by the Government was that it must tell against Irish interests. For instance, on the basis of population, when Ireland was being enormously under-represented in that House they were told that population was not a proper basis for representation; but as soon as the population test began to tell against Ireland they were told it was the only sound principle. Then when it was shown that according to the taxable capacity of Ireland they were being overtaxed to the extent of nearly £3,000,000 a year they were 992 reminded that expenditure was the proper test, and not taxable capacity, to apply in the case of Ireland. In this case the population basis would tell in favour of the teachers and of an increase in their salaries. Therefore, it was not to be entertained. Likewise, if they turned to all the ordinary bases of comparison such as average attendance, the number on the school rolls and similar tests, they found that the one which was inevitably acted upon by the Treasury and by the Government was that which told most against the interests of the teachers and of education in Ireland. With regard to the increase of £114,000 the same criticism applied. It was the least possible increase that could be given, allocated in the worst possible manner. £14,000 of this sum was to go to teachers in schools having an average attendance of, at least, seventy, and the remaining £100,000 to teachers in schools having an average attendance of not less than thirty-five. The provision that no teacher under the National Board in Ireland was to have any share or part of this increase unless his school had an average attendance of thirty-five was of so extraordinary a character that he could hardly realise or believe that it had been seriously put forward. If there was to be a serious attempt to stick to it on the part of the Government he would tell the right hon. Gentleman frankly and at once that far from allaying the present discontent, far from remedying the present injustice, the proposal would accentuate both in the highest degree, and create an agitation of new and exceptional violence. It could not be otherwise when it was seen that this provision about an average attendance of thirty-five meant the absolute exclusion of 2,867 teachers from any share in this increase of salary. When it was remembered that these 2,867 teachers in the small schools were those who were most urgently in need of some increase in their salaries because in most cases at present they had not even a living wage, the cruelty and the meanness of the provision stood out in the strongest light. He did not believe that the right hon. Gentleman himself could approve of this contemptible action. He did not 993 believe that even the National Board could approve of it, and he believed that neither he nor they were responsible for it. He ventured to assert that as usual it was the ugly hand of the Treasury that had deprived this concession of its good effect by committing this horrible injustice on the teachers of the small schools. £20,000 more, a mere bagatelle compared with what they were entitled to, would have brought them under the benefits of this increase and avoided the creation of an intolerable situation which could not possibly be allowed to continue. The Committee would wait with interest to hear what explanation the right hon. Gentleman had to give of this business—how it was that he consented to such a proposal. Even if he failed to secure the necessary £20,000 that would have provided these 2,867 teachers with the increased salary, if the Treasury defeated him in his efforts to get that, surely it was his duty and the duty of the National Board to see that the £114,000 was so divided that no teacher would be excluded from a share of the grant. That at least was not an unreasonable attitude. But of this the right hon. Gentleman might rest assured, that the present arrangement could not be allowed to stand. Speaking on behalf of his colleagues he told him that they were not going to abandon the teachers of the small schools in Ireland to the rapacity of the British Treasury. The development of the small schools had been part of the settled policy of the National Board in the past. Through its power of the purse the Treasury had interfered more than once in the most flagrant manner with questions of educational policy altogether outside its province, and threatened now to push its prerogative to an altogether unconstitutional extent. They resented very strongly its action in this matter, and they would resist it resolutely to the end, for they could not and would not allow the question to rest until justice was done to those unfortunate people. The whole business illustrated very forcibly the utter hopelessness of this country ever being able to handle Irish affairs effectively or efficiently. They demanded an increase of salary for their ill-paid teachers. They gave them an increase of 994 £114,000, but they did it in such a way as to accentuate instead of to remove existing grievances and injustices. The fact was, of course, that do what they would, they could not govern Ireland successfully from Westminster. The Chief Secretary would no doubt inform them when he rose to speak that he tried his best to get the £20,000 for the teachers of the small schools, but that the Treasury told him that it had no money. No money! That was always the cry, and yet they were going now to spend £700,000 or £1,000,000 a year in Ireland on old-age pensions, without even asking them if they wanted it, merely because it suited English policy, and without any thought or concern as to whether they in Ireland could put that huge amount to better advantage in some other direction. He had, in what he had said, confined himself mainly to the one question of salaries, because he thought that at this moment to introduce other matters might tend to obscure that important issue. When all was said and done, the question of salaries was one of vital importance, because the efficiency of education depended largely upon the teachers, and the efficiency of the teachers depended largely upon their salaries. They wanted to attract the best material they could to the profession. They wanted to level up the standard of teaching. To do so was all the more important now that there was a reasonable hope of University facilities being extended to a large section of the Irish people who had hitherto been excluded from its benefits. However he might have failed in other directions, it looked as if it were in the sphere of education that the right hon. Gentleman would leave behind him the most lasting memorials of his rule in Ireland. As an educationist of distinction, the knowledge of that fact must be some satisfaction for the trials and difficulties of his position, but it ought all the more to impel him to leave no effort unmade to strengthen the foundations on which the work he had done for Irish education rested He urged him in this matter with all the earnestness at his command to do his utmost to remove without delay an injustice which, if allowed to go on, could not fail to impair and might imperil the future of Irish primary 995 education. He begged to move the reduction standing in his name.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £113,900, be granted for the said Service":—(Mr. Hazleton).
§ MR. J. MURPHY (Kerdy, E.)
said he desired to second the Motion Which had been moved in such an eloquent and clear manner by the hon. Member for Galway. He had had a close connection with primary education, and there were some points he wished to put to the right hon. Gentleman in order to elicit a clear and definite statement, not only on the Supplementary Estimate, but on the entire question of primary education in Ireland. The debate was wisely and properly to be confined to a discussion in the first instance of the amount and distribution of the Supplementary Estimate, but there were other issues and other matters in connection with primary education upon which it would be well that the right hon. Gentleman should express his views and opinions. No harm would be done by recalling to the Committee what had happened in Ireland during the last few years. The Chief Secretary had broken the record, and attended a meeting in Ireland at which he delivered a speech that raised the expectations, not only of the teachers, but also of everybody connected with education in Ireland. They were all gratified with what he said in that speech, and they trusted him; and if they had been disappointed it certainly was not his desire to throw the blame upon the right hon. Gentleman. To a large extent he regarded the Chief Secretary as a strong man struggling with fate, and he would not be surprised if his mind was not something of a congested district in regard to Ireland. The question of primary education was one upon which the right hon. Gentleman's views were expressed most definitely and clearly, and they had the greatest possible hope at the time in regard to his future action. They had moved to reduce this Vote merely as a formality, because if they had the power their desire would be to increase it by £300,000. The hon. Member for Galway had pointed out that the claim put forward by the teachers was for 996 £400,000 in reference to salaries and improvements in their position. That was also the claim of the Commissioners of Education in Ireland, the body who had charge of primary education, who insisted that £400,000 was required to deal with the urgent grievance of the teachers' salaries and other matters connected with education. To meet this absolute necessity they had been presented by the Treasury with an Estimate of £114,000. The distribution of that sum was a matter about which there was likely to be serious dissatisfaction in Ireland, and it was most desirable that attention should be called to the fact that while not only were the representatives of Ireland, but also the Commissioners of Education, and, he hoped, the Chief Secretary himself, of one way of thinking as to the amount of the grant and as to the distribution of it, the Secretary to the Treasury, or the Treasury themselves, stepped in and over-rode the opinions and the representations of everybody connected with Ireland in the matter. That was a disgraceful condition of affairs, and it represented how hopeless and disgusting was the condition in matters of education, as in other matters, when they came to be discussed before the House. The hon. Gentleman who represented the Treasury knew nothing whatever about primary education in Ireland, and his predecessor was in the same position. When a Question was asked, the hon. Gentleman said that the Treasury had so decided the matter against the wishes and opinions of everybody in Ireland. That was a condition of affairs which the Chief Secretary should not allow to continue. The greatest dissatisfaction existed in Ireland in reference to the exclusion of 2,860 teachers of small schools from the proposed distribution of the Supplementary Estimate. The small schools had been created and the teachers put in them by the policy which was carried on in Ireland by the Commissioners of Education and the Irish Government, and it certainly could not be in reason for the Treasury or anybody else who undertook the government of Ireland to say that these teachers should now be left out in the Cold and receive no share of the money that was being distributed in Ireland in connection 997 with education. The difficulty he was in in discussing the matter was this. He observed that in the Vote for public education there were two subheads, E and H, under which certain money was voted for certain schools in Ireland. The two sums added together, there was a difference of £20,320 of increase over last year's expenditure for dealing with schools the average attendance of which had been between twenty and thirty. That kind of school would practically cover all the excluded schools, and the sum he had mentioned was exactly the difference between what would be necessary to include in the distribution all the excluded teachers. It was rather difficult for the Irish Members to discus this question without knowing exactly whether that £20,320 was meant for the excluded teachers, and whether, if it was given, it would be equal compensation to them for the other sum to be distributed among the remaining teacher in Ireland. Perhaps the Chief Secretary would indicate in some way whether he was right in thinking——
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. BIRRELL,) Bristol, N.
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to call his attention to the sum in Estimate E, where there is an increase of £26,260?
§ MR. J. MURPHY
said that was the increase under Subhead E, but there was a decrease of £6,000 under Subhead H, and of course when both were taken together there was an increase of £20,260.
§ MR. BIRRELL
said he was afraid the £26,260 represented simply the normal increase in the capitation fees paid to teachers under the existing regulations, and that it would not in any way be free to make up the deficiency from which the excluded teachers would suffer.
§ MR. J. MURPHY
said that that statement enabled him and his friends to know where they were. It showed that a substantial number in Ireland were to be excluded. That was a most unsatisfactory condition of affairs. These small schools existed in every part of Ireland. He knew one in the Gap of Dunloe which was placed there for the advantage of a limited number of children, the average 998 attendance of whom could not possibly come up. It was a question there of having a small school or no school at all. That case was similar to many in nearly all the other parts of Ireland. Most of these small schools were schools which could not be amalgamated, and therefore the teachers in them would have a hopeless existence if they were now to be told, as they were told by the present distribution of the Supplementary Estimate, that they could hope for nothing in the way of the betterment of their salaries and their position generally. What the representatives of Ireland should demand to-day was not a distribution of £114,000 among all the schools of Ireland, but that the right hon. Gentleman should insist on the Treasury giving the remaining £20,000 necessary to deal with all the teachers in a similar manner. It ought to be in the power of the right hon. Gentleman to tackle the question and to bring the Treasury to recognise that Ireland had that claim, and to deal with it justly and properly. It was a question of the greatest concern to a vast number of the poorest people in Ireland. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would see that Ireland got this £20,000 for the purpose of the present Estimate. If he was able to get it one of the difficulties of the situation would be overcome. They would have an opportunity of having every class in Ireland receiving the same benefit under the present Supplementary Estimate, and while, of course, all the Members from Ireland would be in agreement that it was not sufficient or so large as it ought to be, and while it would not prevent them from asking more, it would certainly give them the feeling that a first instalment of justice had been done, and the teaching body in Ireland would recognise that nobody was about to be excluded. Supposing he right hon. Gentleman allowed the Treasury to maintain their present attitude as to the distribution of the money, what was going to be the result? There would be 3,000 discontented teachers in reland, forming a third of the entire body. These teachers would be in a condition of unrest, and they would lave behind them the entire sympathy of the Irish representatives, and a storm would be raised over the matter which 999 would destroy the good which was being done by the right hon. Gentleman in obtaining the grant for other sections of people. All parties in Ireland and the representatives of Ireland in this House were unanimous on this matte. The last meeting which he addressed regard to primary education was presided over by a Catholic bishop, and resolution was moved by a Presbyterian minister, seconded by a Methodist, and supported by people of all political and social conditions in Ireland. Surely if they presented a case of that description to the right hon. Gentleman and his Government, and if they could say without fear of contradiction that the distribution suggested by the Treasury would go against the opinions and the feelings of all these classes in Ireland, and the necessary changes were not made, it became a hopeless task to discuss any question in the House. He believed that the intentions and the efforts of the right hon. Gentleman were well-directed in most matters connected with Ireland, and he appealed to him to do something in connection with this question which would remove the feeling of unrest and dissatisfaction and place the distribution on an equitable basis. He wanted to know how the assistant teachers in Irish schools, of whom there were a large number, were to be affected by the distribution. It was really not quite clear what was intended to be done with them. As the distribution stood at present it would appear as if the teachers of large schools were not only to get bonuses but capitation grants into the bargain. He wished to get an explanation from the right hon. Gentleman of the proposal in both those respects. By doing so the right hon. Gentleman would put at rest the doubts and suspicions of a large number of people in Ireland. The question of teachers in small schools and of assistant teachers was of great importance to about 13,000 people in Ireland, and, therefore, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would make quite clear what he proposed to do in carrying out the distribution of the increased grant. Turning to the question of primary education in Ireland, he believed that the Irish Party had not receded one single bit from their attitude in reference 1000 to the constitution, administration, and the whole position of primary education, notwithstanding anything that had happened since the subject was last discussed by the House of Commons. Speaking for himself and for a large body in Ireland they felt that the constitution of the Irish Education Commission was not only wrong but un representative, and they desired as much as ever that it should be changed into something like a representative and intelligent authority. They could never have a sensible and proper system of primary education in Ireland so long as the Board was constituted of men who were past their prime and capacity. He had a special complaint against the Chief Secretary. During the past year there was a vacancy on the Board. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman thought he could do nothing to improve the Board until the opportunity came to sweep it away altogether However, the Chief Secretary placed upon it General Butler. General Butler had spent all his life in the Army, with, he understood, a very creditable record; but he did not think it was quite the thing for primary education in Ireland that such a gentleman who had spent most of his life abroad in another service, should be brought in, or that he would be in a position to communicate what was necessary in relation to primary education to the Treasury and the Government. He knew perfectly well that General Butler had given many evidences of a keen knowledge of educational matters, and he merely mentioned his name in this connection as an indication of the settled policy of the Government in reference to the constitution of the Commission. He hoped that if another opportunity occurred the Chief Secretary would try another method and endeavour to place on the Commission someone belonging to the new ideas in relation to education in Ireland—someone who understood the present desires of the younger generation and who would be in touch with their wants and requirements—while he was waiting to make a greater change on that body. He believed that one such man could effect many changes of importance in regard to primary education. Questions were arising from day to day 1001 which at present there was no opportunity of considering. Dr. Starkie, he under stood, was practically the Board or matters of routine and detail. Dr. Starkie had a peculiar reputation in certain sections in Ireland, but when one came in contact with him it was found that he was not so bad as he was painted; and that if a case was put before him he was inclined to give it consideration. But it was not for him, or the Irish representatives, or the unfortunate people of Ireland connected with education to hunt after Dr. Starkie and explain every requirement. The Board ought to be so constituted that the resident officials would be in the position of seeking what was the right thing to do. Let him give a case in point. A rule had been made by the Commission making it practically impossible for a teacher in Ireland to hold a licence. He acknowledged that all Members interested in education believed that that was a right and necessary rule. He himself did not think that teachers ought to seek to obtain a licence in the future. But he thought that it was most unjust for the Commission to make the rule retrospective, and victimise a man who happened to marry a lady who had a public-house, and obtain a licence in that accidental manner, and in consequence of that had his salary kept from him by the Commission for a considerable time. In fact, no appeal which had been made to the Commission in regard to the matter had moved them. That was not an isolated case. There were more people in Ireland who had had licences in their possession in the way he had mentioned, and it was grievously unfair and improper that the Commission should withhold salaries in such cases. There was another point in connection with primary education in Ireland which affected not only the teachers but the children. The question of the maintenance and the methods of cleaning and heating the primary schools in Ireland had been often put before the Chief Secretary and the Commission, and he was personally disappointed that something had not been placed on the Estimates with the object of making the schools clean, warm, and comfortable. The teachers, much as they desired higher salaries—as was the way with 1002 ordinary human beings—had always put forward claims for greater assistance in connection with the cleaning and heating of the schools, but these had not been conceded; and so long as they had the power to call attention to this question they would press it forward and insist upon its being dealt with in a proper way by the Treasury. There was no difficulty about the money; there ought to be no difficulty about the money; and really it was annoying to find the President of the Board of Agriculture and the Secretary for Education rushing to the Treasury and other Departments for money to build up voluntary and technical education which would be utterly useless as long as primary education was in its present poor and needy position in Ireland. He put it to the right hon. Gentleman with all the force he could, that he should disregard most other claims dealing with education in Ireland until he had put on a proper, sensible, and well-conducted basis the education of the poor who were the most necessitous in the country from an educational point of view. He put it to the right hon. Gentleman that while lie said that he could not control the Education Commission good as a wink to a nod was as many of the officials in Ireland; and if he would nod to Dr. Starkie that when that gentleman was dealing with his inspectors he should induce them to adopt a sympathetic attitude to the teachers instead of the method of continuous faultfinding, it would effect a good deal in he way of smoothing over difficulties and improving the education in the primary schools. The teachers should be able to look upon the inspectors as their friends, who would have regard to their virtues and not always to their faults. He desired to put the question of the supplementary grant in the first place, but the whole question of primary education in Ireland was pressing and urgent, and the settlement of it would be watched with interest. They still remained in regard to primary education where they were a year ago. The subject was calling for reform, and the Irish Party were determined to use all their efforts to rouse public opinion until there would be a storm in Ireland that would succeed in obtaining a 1003 system of primary education well supplied with money, well constructed, leading the youngsters of Ireland to being properly equipped for their position in life, and giving them such an education as they required, deserved, and had shown themselves capable of benefiting by.
§ MR. WALTER LONG (Dublin, S.)
It will be convenient if at this early stage of the debate I speak as an Irish Unionist representative and for the Irish Unionists. They most cordially and unanimously support the view put forward by the hon. Gentleman who has spoken with regard to the new grant of £114,000. With all the criticisms of the hon. Gentleman it must be understood I do not altogether agree. I have had the honour of holding the office of Chief Secretary for Ireland for some time and was brought into close contact with Dr. Starkie and the National Education Board; and I have seen a good deal of Dr. Starkie and his colleagues. Of course it is very easy to criticise any body of public men, whatever their duties and functions may be; but I think it would be well if all public bodies discharged their functions as efficiently as the Irish Board of Education. Dr. Starkie is, in my opinion, one of the most earnest and devoted servants of education to be found in this or any other country. I regret that a cause so important as this should have been brought forward in a House which does not appear to be very interested in what is going on. I cannot help noticing that there are a wonderful number of seats vacant on the benches opposite. I know that one of the causes of the absence of some Members of Parliament on this occasion is that they cannot serve on Grand Committee all day and come here also in the afternoon, and therefore we have a thin House to discuss a question of vital importance. The hon. Members below the gangway are very kind. So far does their kindness carry them that they will do what I should have thought hardly any supporter of the Government would do. They will break the Government up into compartments and seek to draw distinctions between the Irish administration and the Treasury.
§ MR. J. MURPHY
said the right hon. Gentleman was stating the exactly 1004 reverse position to that on which he insisted, namely, that the Treasury and the Irish Government were the same.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
The mover of the Motion stated that this was not the Chief Secretary, but the horrible hands of the Treasury again, and that they knew the right hon. Gentleman would do everything that he could. I cannot take that view. The Government must be regarded as a whole. It is impossible to shelter the Irish administration behind the Treasury. With regard to the old controversy between the Irish administration and the Treasury this is not the first time by many that it has been raised, and no doubt we shall hear more of it in years to come. But I hold very strongly that it is the duty and function of the Treasury to decide what money shall be allocated to the different parts of the United Kingdom for different purposes, but that when it comes to the distribution of that money in the countries concerned, the Treasury have no right to speak upon that matter. I earnestly beg the Chief Secretary, who has the reputation of being a strong man, to take this occasion to assert his right as head of the Irish administration to take the money allotted by the Treasury and make the most of it, and to get more if he can. This is not one of those occasions of which it has been said that all the Irishmen are agreed for the moment because they are going to get more money out of the Treasury. That is not the reason for the agreement between the Irish Unionists and Nationalists on this occasion. Our reason is that not only do you fail to do good by the change that you are making in the system of education, but that you may do very great harm. I am astounded when I find the sum is put at another £20,000. The Estimate that was shown to me was rather larger, but we may take it that £20,000 would cover the difference in regard to these small schools. It is, therefore, inconceivable that when you have made up your mind to give a grant of £114,000 you should spoil your whole scheme for £20,000. Assume that the object of this change is to bring about a reform which in the opinion of every educationist in every part of 1005 the United Kingdom is a wise reform. If it be possible to secure so far as you can the amalgamation of small schools you secure economy and educational improvement. But in the Irish case this reform is an impossible one for two reasons. First you have the religious difficulty, which makes amalgamation impossible, and then you have the still greater difficulty—a difficulty which is insuperable—that in some parts of Ireland, notably in the South and West, the schools which come below the average attendance of thirty-five are the small schools in the scattered districts in which the children cannot come to them except under conditions which would make school attendance absolute cruelty. But even supposing that it were possible and advisable, I protest against this way of doing it. If it is believed by the powers that be that amalgamation of schools is necessary, by all means amalgamate them, but do it in the right way. If you cannot do it without punishing somebody, punish the right people. Here you are doing it in the wrong way and punishing the wrong people. You are not seeking to give special advantages to any amalgamation by way of examination. Your amalgamation should be carried out with advantage to the schools concerned, but you are seeking to do it by punishing these small schools who have nothing to do with it and who by their own energy, ability, and industry have done much to make up the shortcomings of the system. Yet the teachers of these schools, the most unselfish and most devoted class in the whole of the land, are the people you are punishing for the sake of £20,000. We are told that out of the 13,000 national school teachers some 3,000 will be affected. In Connaught there are 1,418 National schools, and 607 of these will be excluded from the benefits of the new capitation grant, the average attendance in them being 26.7 and the total number of children attending no less than 16,257. It is almost incredible that for the sake of £20,000 or £30,000 you are going to inflict an injury so grave on the younger generation of the Irish people. It is sometimes said that Ireland ought to contribute more to the cost of educa- 1006 and that the cost is larger in proportion to other parts of the country, but there are difficulties existing there which create an inevitable necessity for a larger number of schools than exists elsewhere. I do not think that against either of the churches in Ireland the charge can be made that they have not put their hands into their pockets and paid generously for the provision of educational facilities. Surely you are not going to spoil the generosity of a grant like this by making it fall so much below the necessary amount as to do harm where harm will be most felt and where the people are the least able to protect themselves. I welcome the increased grants as an improvement in the condition of the teachers in the larger schools, but they are the strongest of the teaching body and best able to defend their own rights. The teachers in the smaller schools are the weaker members of the community, least able to defend themselves, yet they are the victims selected for this treatment. It is not because we are united for the purpose of making a joint raid upon the public purse that we ask the Government to reconsider their policy. I do not know who in Ireland would be found to approve of this change. I am sure the National Commissioners have done their best to prevent it. No education authority in Ireland approves of drawing this unusual and unmerited distinction between the two classes of teachers, and in regard to the children there can be but one opinion. I am informed that if the change is insisted upon it will result in the destruction of some of the smaller schools. I do not know whether efforts can or would be made to preserve them. I am assured that there is great risk of some of them being overwhelmed. We are entitled to ask the Government what is their policy in the event of this result following from the alteration in the grant. In England and Scotland if you destroy by legislation or administration the voluntary schools, you have a substitute ready to hand, and machinery to provide schools at the cost of the public, but you have no system of that kind in Ireland. If the benches opposite had been fuller, if the majority of the Members of the House were present, to whatever party or 1007 creed they belonged or whatever views they had upon denominational education, they would be convinced that a gross act of injustice is being done and that every effort should be made and influence brought to bear to induce the Government to change their ground before it is too late. The case is simple in the extreme. There is much to be done for the improvement of the condition of the teachers in national schools; there are heavy arrears to be undertaken in regard to many conditions of elementary schools in Ireland. I admit that everything cannot be done at once, but if you are taking a step forward, if you are really going to do something effective in the cause of education and improving the condition of the teachers, then let your policy be general, let it apply to all concerned, in order that it may leave behind it no rankling feeling of injustice and soreness, and you will have done something not only to help the teachers but the children.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND (Clare, E.)
said he did not suppose that there was any single phase of Irish government which so completely showed how the country suffered from lack of self-government as the question of education. There was, of course, general agreement that in no country in the world was the subject so much one of national interest, and so carefully watched as in Ireland. Yet it was perfectly true to say that in Ireland the cause of education had suffered probably more than had any other matter concerning the national daily life of the country. He re-echoed the wish of the right hon. Gentleman who just sat down that the Benches opposite had been better filled, for hon. Members would then have seen that there was good reason why the Irish people so passionately desired to be allowed to manage their own affairs, in their own country, and without, reference to that House. The voice of Ireland was one upon this matter. The hon. Members for Galway and Kerry represented the Nationalist Members in urging the matter upon the Government, and they had been supported by the right hon. Member for South Dublin, who led the Unionist Party in Ireland. They found that from East and West, North and South of Ireland, Unionists and Nationalists, 1008 Catholics and Protestants presented a unanimous case to the Government. It certainly would be most interesting to hear what the reply of the Chief Secretary could possibly be to the demand that had been put forward. They were sometimes told that no matter how well disposed the Government might be, they found it impossible to carry out their good intentions because of the action of the Treasury in refusing to grant sufficient money to carry out what everybody in Ireland believed to be necessary. That might have held good with the Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin, but were they to be told that the Treasury which was now under the control of the Liberal Government, the Government which had expressed its entire sympathy with the Irish people in their national demands, was still to pursue the old tradition of denying to the Irish people what was necessary to meet their requirements in a matter so vital as education? He yielded to nobody in his belief that the Chief Secretary and many of his colleagues were deeply in sympathy with the demands of the Irish people, but the right hon. Gentleman must allow him to say, with every possible deference, that the time had really come when the great majority of the people of Ireland would refuse to continue their belief in the sympathy of the present Government unless they saw some practical effect given to it in such a matter as that which they were now discussing. The right hon. Member for South Dublin, had pointed out, in enforcing arguments already used by hon. Members on the National benches, that it was a piece of absurdity for the Government to spoil the entire work, which they proposed to carry out in granting £114,000, by excluding that very class of national teachers who stood most in need of something being done. What did the Chief Secretary think would be the result in Ireland if the present expressed intentions of the Treasury was carried out, and the majority of school teachers received no improvement of their position, while two or three thousand of the poorest and most deserving of national teachers received no increase in their pay as well as no improvement in their position at all? The natural 1009 result would be the utmost dissatisfaction from one end of the country to the other. He appealed to the Chief Secretary to set up a precedent Let him stand up at that box and tell the Secretary to the Treasury that this was a matter in which the Department must meat the unanimously expressed desire of the Irish people. They knew that there were differences of opinion as to other matters in which the Treasury was approached daily from Ireland for money—matters relating to the building of labourers' cottages, for the erection of artisans' houses, for forestry, and for numberless other matters; but in this matter of education there was absolutely no difference of opinion whatever in Ireland, and they ought clearly to understand where they were before the discussion was brought to a close. Was the Secretary to the Treasury prepared to get up and say that on this matter, involving some £20,000 extra—it was impossible to give an exact figure, but it had been ascertained that £20,000 would enable the same benefits to be given to all teachers in Ireland under the improved scheme—the Government would run the risk of causing dissatisfaction and of really spoiling the concession which had been made? Were they to go back to their constituents and say that not merely a Tory Government, but the Liberal Government, the Government which had voted for Home Rule, were determined to penalise two or three thousand of their poorest, most needy, and most deserving national teachers in Ireland, because the Treasury of this great Empire refused to complete the scheme with an additional £20,000 or more? If that was the message with which they were to be sent back to Ireland, nobody could be surprised it there should be a wave of indignation from one end of the country to the other. Though he should personally regret any act of discourtesy towards the Chief Secretary, he very much doubted, if they were sent home with such a message, that the right hon. Gentleman would be again so enthusiastically received as he once was by the national teachers of Ireland. He had no doubt that the right hon. Gentle- 1010 man had done his best in the matter, but he himself should see that the whole force of the Cabinet was brought to his assistance; and he thought if only as a matter of courtesy, that there should have been more Members of the Cabinet present. The Chief Secretary was not all powerful. He knew that the right hon. Gentleman had to resist influences brought against him; and he knew also that the Chancellor of the Exchequer might claim that at the present time he was engaged in serious work connected with his department. Still, the fact remained that while discussing a question which vitally affected the national well-being of Ireland, there was an entire absence of Members of the Liberal Party, and of every Member of the Cabinet except the Chief Secretary, who had with him the Secretary to the Treasury and one of the Irish Law Officers. [Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE entered the House at this moment.] He was very glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman had come in, because at any rate it added one to the audience of four. The Chancellor of the Exchequer understood this question, he had no doubt, already. But he would make a personal appeal to him to see whether, even at the eleventh hour, it was not possible to make some alteration which would do even-handed justice. He did not wish to ask for any favour in the matter. He did not believe that there was a man in the House of Commons on the other side who denied the fairness and justice of the proposition which they submitting. The Chancellor of the Exchequer knew that after very many weary years of agitation, after numberless Questions in that House, and debate after debate under numerous Governments, at last they had secured a recognition of the fact that the national teachers in Ireland were a body of public servants extremely underpaid, that in proportion they were paid far worse than the school teachers in England, or Scotland, or Wales. They had secured a recognition of the fact hat not only in common justice and fairness to the teachers, but also for the welfare of the children under them, their salaries should be increased, and 1011 their position improved to some extent. They got the recognition of their contention that the national teachers ought to be better treated, but everyone knowing the requirements of education would support their claim that £114,000 was inadequate, and even such as it was it did not make provision for any improvement whatever in the condition of 3,000 of the poorest and most deserving of the national teachers. That was not a proposition which could possibly give satisfaction. The schools below thirty-five in average attendance were the most needed schools. They were quite as necessary and useful as the largest attended schools, yet simply because the average was not more than thirty-five, they were to continue to have unjust treatment. They were told it was all because the Government stopped short of an additional grant of £20,000 a year. That was a position which could not be defended. Was the Chancellor of the Exchequer going to allow the Treasury to put their hand to this matter, to make as far as they were willing to go, a complete job of it, and not to benefit one man because he happened to have 50 or 100 scholars, and to leave another man in a state of practical destitution simply because the inhabitants were sparse, and he could not get more than thirty-five scholars? The position could not possibly be defended, and he appealed to the Chief Secretary to do his best. He believed he always did his best, but after all, could they not in these matters sometimes come to the point of insistence? Sometimes in Ireland men were called to task because they used extravagant and violent language. They were told it was unconstitutional and that nothing was to be gained by it. But a situation of this kind was of itself, without the addition of any other injustice, sufficient to make people, from one end of the country to the other, rebel. There was no civilised country where such a proposition could be made in reference to education, as was now calmly put forward by the Treasury. The injustice perpetrated on 2,000 or 3,000 of the most deserving men would not be tolerated and it would make the whole task of the Government in every other direction much more difficult. 1012 There would undoubtedly be unrest, and whatever benefit there might be in the suggestion of the Government would lose all virtue. The besetting sin of English government towards Ireland was always that when a concession was made to the just and right claims of the people it was never made freely, generously, and ungrudgingly. There was always something which spoilt the good contained in the concession. There they had the same story again. He was grateful for the concession, as far as it went, but it was accompanied by a situation fraught with the greatest injustice to the most deserving class. He appealed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to see whether the grant could not be enlarged. The teacher of the small school had to work as hard as the teacher of the large school. Let them not go back to Ireland with this fresh proof of the injustice that was now asked to be put upon the teachers of Ireland by helping a certain class and leaving unhelped the most deserving portion of the whole community. He had written a public letter to the Chief Secretary, but he supposed he made it a rule never to read letters addressed to him. Last winter in bitter weather he had visited many National schools on the borders of Clare and Galway. It was enough to go to any man's heart and soul to see on a wet, chilly day, the poor children in schools without any provision made for the proper heating of the room. In one school, a new one, with good roof and windows and stone walls, there was no fire of a proper kind, and the children, many of whom had walked long miles in the rain and mud, sat there all day practically shivering with their teeth almost chattering. It was hard to find turf anywhere in Ireland last year—the weather was so wet, but in some cases the children had actually brought with them in their poor little arms, sods of turf, which smouldered in the fireplace without any spark or gleam of red fire. One teacher he knew spent the money that he could ill afford in trying to keep the children warm, and the managers of many schools also out of their own resources helped to heat the schools. It was said that this was the greatest Empire the world had ever seen, though he had 1013 his doubts about it. Anyhow it was one of the richest. Our fleets were everywhere and our flag flew everywhere. The other day when the French President went to the Opera, £2,000 was spent on decorating the walls of Covent Garden with flowers. The other day an hon. Gentleman wanted to insist that the Union Jack should be unfurled over every school in Ireland and Great Britain. They could hoist what they liked over them so far as he was concerned, but let them keep the life in the blood of the children and light fires in the schools. If they hoisted flags over some of these schools that he knew they would probably try to light the fire with the flag. The report of Mr. Dale, the educational expert, showed that what he said was perfectly true as to the lamentably deficient state of these schools in regard to heating, lighting, and sanitary arrangements. It was not a large point, but it went very near the life of the people. The Chancellor of the Exchequer occupied one of the greatest positions of the Empire, which he had won by his ability, and those who had seen his career, admired the way in which he had come to the front by his own unaided efforts. But with all that, what he admired most about him was that in his great position he retained a vivid recollection of his days in the Welsh land that he came from when he was, perhaps, a more or less poor boy there, and he knew what the poor had to suffer. He appealed to him in Heaven's name, whatever might be left undone, to see to it that next winter every school in Ireland was from a sanitary point of view put in order and had a good fire. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer did this, his name would be regarded with deep respect in Ireland, and they would say that there was at last at the head of the British Treasury a man who in the midst of all his great work had a heart to feel for the sufferings, the requirements, and the needs of the little ones who went barefooted along the road in order to get that knowledge which their parents were anxious they should have. He felt very strongly upon this point because he had investigated the matter for himself. In a letter which he wrote to the Freeman's Journal he invited the Chief Secretary to deal 1014 with the matter and he asked the Government to see that next winter, at any rate, this state of things should be rectified, and that in future the schools of Ireland were properly ventilated and put into a proper sanitary condition. If this were done it would have the effect of benefiting the children, enabling them to learn more, and it would also make the burden of the national teachers of Ireland much lighter.
§ MR. JAMES CAMPBELL (Dublin University)
said he desired to raise his voice in support of what had been said upon this question. The small schools referred to had been created and maintained as the result of the express legislation of that House. In 1892 after a protracted struggle between successive Governments, the different religious denominations in Ireland held out for denominational education of the strictest kind, although temptations on the basis of undenominational schools were offered. In the end the Government felt overcome by the universal opposition, and recognised that the only system upon which primary education could be run in Ireland was on strictly denominational lines. The necessary consequence of that policy was the springing up of small schools containing on an average of anything from twenty to forty pupils. Anyone who knew anything of the state of Ireland, particularly in the west and south, and many counties in the north, must recognise the fact that there were many places in which the members of a particular religious denomination could not get within a radius of three or four miles more than about twenty or thirty children to attend a particular school. If they closed up that school or did anything that would render it impossible to carry it on, inevitably they would leave those twenty or thirty children without any provision for education or else they would compel them against the express wishes of their parents and the approved policy of Parliament to attend schools under a different religious management and of a different persuasion altogether from that in which their parents believed. Accordingly in many parts of the North there were schools under Roman Catholic management where the 1015 entire children within three or four miles of the school did not exceed anything from ten to thirty. On the other hand, in the West of Ireland there were small isolated communities of Protestants, and the same in the South, where they found it impossible if those schools were to be conducted under teachers and managers of a different religious persuasion to run them with any prospect of getting more than twenty to forty pupils. Parliament had recognised this principle and from time to time had held out attractions and inducements to those various religious denominations in Ireland to fall in with the national school system on the understanding and undertaking that Parliament would support and retain those small schools. In the year 1892 there was passed a National Education Bill for Ireland which expressly recognised that a capitation grant was to be provided in schools of an average attendance of 10, and a salary for a teacher was to be provided in schools with an average attendance of 20. From that day under the authority and sanction of Parliament any number of those small schools had been founded in different parts of Ireland where the average attendance was anything between 10 and 40. He did not know who was responsible for the principle upon which the grant of £114,000 had been allocated. They had been told that in the allocation of the grant no teacher was to get any bonus unless there was an average attendance of 70 in his school, and that the extra capitation grant of 5s. a head to each child was to be confined to schools with a minimum attendance of 35. It was self-evident that such an allocation and distribution must do grievous injury and wrong in the very quarters where it would be felt the most, and to the very persons who stood most in need of some benefit. While he agreed that those teachers in schools with an average attendance of 35 or 70 were undoubtedly in an unfavourable position as contrasted with the teachers of England and Scotland, and that undoubtedly they had a claim upon the Treasury for a substantial addition to their salaries, it could not be denied that they were in a stronger position than their poorer brethen who were receiving 1016 the salaries of third-class teachers in schools where the attendance was between 10 and 20. It was an extraordinary thing that the principle should be adopted which necessarily excluded from any benefit the very class of people in the very class of schools which stood most in need of help. He had been deluged with remonstrances and complaints because it was evident that the allocation now proposed was a new policy and effected a new departure. Evidently the idea in the mind of the Treasury was that it they were to allocate this grant on the lines proposed in the Estimate, the result necessarily would be the closing of a number of the smaller schools, and in the long run the Treasury would save what they granted this year a few years hence, because by the closing of schools they would save the salaries of a large number of the present teachers. If there was any idea of that kind abroad, or in the mind of the Treasury, he could assure them that it would meet with unanimous opposition from every quarter in Ireland, because if there was one thing more than another that the parents of children in the national schools in Ireland were determined upon, to whatever creed they belonged, it was that those schools should be under the management of persons of the same religion as the parents who sent their children to them, and that the children should have the fullest opportunity for training and teaching in the religion professed by their parents. That had been the idea and the principle of all denominations in Ireland in connection with primary teaching in elementary schools. He quite agreed that the Report referred to by the hon. Member for Clare, made by Professor Dale, showed that a great deal might be done in certain quarters in the way of amalgamation with a view to economy and efficiency. He also agreed that in some towns there was a multiplicity of schools, and a good deal could be saved by reducing the number of schools in some of the larger towns. That, however, was not the complaint they made. What they complained of was the new development in this particular allocation, because it would affect not merely the schools in towns whose average attendance might be below the required figures, but also those 1017 in the rural part, including the small schools and the country schools, and they would be most hit. Those were the schools and the portions of Ireland that were least able to stand or submit to such an injustice or inequality. He had had a communication from the Diocesan Board of Education in connection with his own Church in different parts of Ireland, and one and all told him that if this policy was persisted in, if this scheme of allocation was forced upon the people in Ireland, it would raise a storm of indignation and protest, not merely on the part of the teachers who were pecuniarily interested, but on the part of the parents of children and all those religious people who took any interest whatever in primary education in Ireland. While he did not pledge himself to the accuracy of the figures which had been given, yet, if it was a fact that an additional sum of £20,000 would have remedied this injustice and prevented the inequalities in the proposed allocation and distribution, it seemed to him to be absolutely impossible to explain or understand the action of the Treasury or anybody else who might be in the slightest degree responsible for the proposition. If it was the case that an additional sum of £20,000 added to this £114,000 would have enabled the distribution to be made among the teachers of all schools, all he could say was that it seemed to him a more miserable or a more miserly act on the part of the British Treasury it was impossible to conceive. While he was very glad to support the remonstrance made in the interest of the teachers themselves, he warned the right hon. Gentleman that there was a much larger and greater question involved in the matter—not merely that which affected the rights and the status of the teachers, but that which affected the rights of the children themselves. He understood that it was the feeling of all sections of people in Ireland that they never would consent to have forced upon them, after fifty years of an opposite policy, by indirect means, a new departure of this kind. The system which had prevailed up to the present was that the parents should have the right to insist that their children should be taught in schools which were under the management and 1018 control of members of the religion to which they themselves belonged. He would urge the right hon. Gentleman to consider that if this policy of amalgamation was to be insisted upon and forced upon the country, at least it should be confined to any district in which it was possible for the children of any particular schools which had been closed to get education in an adjoining school under the same management within reasonable distance. There were cases with which hon. Members from Ireland were familiar, where in the west, south, and north of the country it would be impossible to get a school within a radius at all reasonable or acceptable—a similar school and under similar management. It was for these districts and managers that they made the appeal to the right hon. Gentleman. At the same time he did not intend to overlook the present demand of the teachers themselves for justice in this matter. He joined with his colleagues from Ireland in making this appeal to the right hon. Gentleman and the Treasury, asking them not in this small and miserable manner to make a departure which would be opposed to the sentiments of every person in Ireland who took an interest in primary education and was inconsistent with the ordinary elements of justice and fair play due to the unfortunate teachers involved.
§ MR. JOHN O'CONNOR (Kildare, N.)
said he was pleased to observe that when the hon. Member for Kerry said there ought to be no difficulty about money the Chief Secretary cried out "Hear, hear." Evidently from that endorsement of what his hon. friend said the Chief Secretary was not the originator of this parsimonious treatment. The right hon. Gentleman knew well that the Treasury had always treated the demand of the Irish people in respect to education in the same parsimonious spirit. The Commissioners of National Education in Ireland has asked for £400,000 in order to improve the position of the national school teachers of Ireland, and at all events to make them approach the condition of the national school teachers of England and Scotland. The Government had not acceded to the request of the Commissioners of National Education in this respect, any more than 1019 they had acceded to the requests in respect of other matters in connection with primary education in Ireland. In their report for the year before last the Commissioners asked that they should have £100,000 per annum for five years in order to bring the schools into a sanitary condition, and last year, after a delay of building and repairing for more than four years, this niggardly Treasury through their mouthpiece the Chief Secretary for Ireland gave £40,000 for three years in order to meet the demands. His hon. friend the Member for East Clare had drawn a picture of the condition of things in the schools of Ireland. It was not the first time that hon. Members from Ireland had harrowed the feelings of sympathetic Members by describing the miserable and insanitary conditions of these schools. It was impossible that the children attending the schools could receive the full benefit of the education the teachers were willing to give them under these miserable conditions, and yet the Treasury, when approached by its own representative in Ireland for the purpose of getting money in order to remedy this state of things, instead of giving £100,000 for five years, gave this miserable £40,000 for three years. How did this compare with the manner in which primary education was dealt with in England? Between 1902 and 1906, as the Estimates showed, the grants for primary education in England increased by no less than 45 per cent., and last year's Estimates contained on the top of that an additional sum of £200,000. Scotland, in the four years 1902–05, received an increase in its educational grants for primary education of no less than 52 per cent., and on the top of that there was an increase last year. During that period of four years the increase for primary education to Ireland was only 1 per cent., and now when the Treasury pocket was opened at last and they recognised the claim of the Irish teachers, what did they give? A miserable £114,000, which was only an increase of 9 per cent. on the amount previously granted. England and Scotland were revelling in luxury in the matter of education grants, while Ireland with its increase of 1 per cent. within the period referred 1020 to had meted out to it a further increase of 9 per cent. That was the manner in which Irish demands were met by the Treasury. What was the reflection that was forced upon one's mind by this condition of things? They knew that Ireland was contributing more than its proper share of the revenues of these countries to the extent of between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000 per annum. It was common knowledge that the English Treasury had its hand deep down in the pockets of the Irish nation, and that by the exertions of its officials in the Revenue Departments it had extracted from the pockets of the Irish people this exorbitant overcharge, and when they asked for a return in the cause of education—which after all was the greatest cause of the Empire—it was meted out to them in doles, while the English and the Scottish people were getting all they wanted in that respect. There was a grievance in regard to the way in which Ireland had been treated in respect of educational grants. The grants were based on attendance. The grants made to Ireland before the time of Sir Michael Hicks-Beach in the '70's were made on the basis of her contributions to the Imperial revenue. While that state of things continued Ireland had, as compared with the other countries, not very much reason to complain. Ireland got something like her proper share, but it would never have done to have Ireland in such a favoured condition, and accordingly, agreeing to a suggestion which came from Scotland, Sir Michael Hicks-Beach changed the manner of making the grants and placed it upon the basis of attendance and not of contributions to the revenue. From that day to this the manner in which these grants had been made had militated against Ireland in educational matters. That would be to the advantage of Scotland, 75 per cent. of the population of which was urban compared with 25 per cent. in Ireland. He would like to know what would be the effect of this increase of 5s. capitation grant upon the teachers that it would touch. The position revolved round the condition of the teachers, and his submission to the Committee was that their condition was bad all round. That had been recognised for many years. Mr. Bryce on 29th 1021 March, 1906, when admitting that educational matters in Ireland should be looked into, said that their conditon was bad. He said—Let us begin at once with the condition of the teachers and the state of the schools.The present Chief Secretary when addressing the school teachers of Ireland in conference on 4th April last year, said—Well, now, ladies and gentlemen, I state unhesitatingly that you Irish teachers can invite the most careful examination of your claims, because anyone who has acquaintance with the work you have done must admit that the scale of your salaries is most meagre and insufficient, and that your chances of promotion are not only poor but disheartening.It would only be necessary to point out to the Committee what was the difference between the position of the national school teachers in Ireland and that of the school teachers in England and Scotland, when the Committee would see what was in the mind of the two last Chief Secretaries when they said that the position of the school teachers of Ireland was bad. The average salary of male teachers in England was £160 3s. 9d.; in Scotland, £179 6s.; in Ireland, £102 19s. 6d. The average salary for female teachers in England was £109 13s. 6d.; in Scotland, £90 6s.; and in Ireland, £82 11s. 9d. The assistant teachers in England had an average salary of £114 per annum; and it would, therefore, be seen that the assistant teachers in England had absolutely been getting a higher rate of salary than the principal school teachers in Ireland. He submitted that that was a state of things that ought not to be allowed to exist, and those figures must have been present in the mind of the Chief Secretary when he made his demand on the Treasury for this miserly grant of £114,000 in order to bring the salaries of the Irish teachers up to a higher figure. He contended that the right hon. Gentleman had not fulfilled the promise made to the teachers last year, and the promise made by Mr. Bryce to the Members of the House. He could go on quoting extracts from the speech of the Chief Secretary. It was a very hearty and sympathetic speech, and one for which the teachers were very grateful and for which they on the Irish Benches were none the 1022 less grateful. So much on the subject of the teachers generally. But he must emphasise to some extent all that had been said in respect to the teachers who were eliminated from the benefit of the concession. From an Answer given to a Question put by the hon. Member for East Kerry it appeared that the concession would not affect 2,858 schools in Ireland. That was the number of schools that had an average attendance of less than thirty-five scholars, and necessarily the number of teachers who would not be benefitted would be 2,858, not counting the assistants. Very strong language had been used in regard to this subject by the right hon. and learned Member for Dublin University. He had stated at the outset of his speech that the Chief Secretary had cheered the statement of his friend the Member for East Kerry that there ought to be no difficulty about the money.
§ MR. JOHN O'CONNOR
said that the sense in which his hon. friend used the expression was that there ought to be no difficulty about the money; and then he backed that up by saying that there was no difficulty about the money, and that was cheered by the right hon. Gentleman. The debate, so far as it had gone, ought to strengthen the hands of the Chief Secretary in his demands on the Treasury. He did not need to say, to stiffen his back, because the right hon. Gentleman had a good stiff back, and he had the best intentions and the best goodwill towards the community for the government of which he was responsible. The debate ought, therefore, to help him in any future demand the right hon. Gentleman might make on the Treasury. He was pleased to see that the right hon. Gentleman had a representative of the Treasury beside, him, and he hoped that the debate would also have its due effect on that hon. Gentleman. What was the position of the 2,858 teachers who were disqualified from getting any benefit from the concession? They could not rise in the ranks of their profession as could the Scottish and English teachers, who had a larger 1023 attendance in their schools. In order to acquire promotion to the first grade of teachers there must be an attendance of at least seventy, or of fifty to be promoted to the second class in the first division. All those teachers in Ireland who had an attendance of thirty-five were disqualified from ever rising to the first division, and were doubly damned because they could not receive the 5s. capitation grant. Their position was, therefore, hopeless. What incentive had these men to improve themselves? With no hope of promotion, they would not study. What incentive had they to teach the children carefully when they had no prospect of reward? Therefore, the Government as a whole, by their conduct, seemed to indicate that they did not care three straws for the children of Ireland, or whether they were taught well or ill. Sixty per cent, of the schools of Ireland had an attendance of under fifty, and their teachers, therefore, could not aspire to any higher position, while their assistants had no incentive to improve themselves or give a better education to the children. What was to be done for the assistant teachers of Ireland? They were still poorer, and had even smaller salaries than teachers of the third grade, and those teachers whose school attendance was under thirty-five. The rule seemed to be: "The poorer you are, the less you will get; those who have least get less, and those who have much will have more." So long as those schools were allowed to exist, no matter how small they were, the teachers ought to be adequately rewarded and not treated worse than an ordinary labourer. When a labourer was dismissed he could go elsewhere for work, but there was nothing done to encourage good men to enter the teaching profession. In the case of 60 per cent. of the teachers of Ireland there was nothing before them; they were condemned to remain in the same position the whole of their lives. He, therefore, joined with his colleagues and the hon. Gentlemen above the gangway who had expressed themselves as dissatisfied with the grant. He had not entered into the manner of the distribution of the grant as he was in hopes that when the Chief Secretary came to the House to fulfil his 1024 promises to the teachers and to the House itself, he would come forward with a noble scheme. But instead of that he produced a miserable amount which would not meet the requirements of the case, thus indicating that the Irish nation would not get anything more from this Government than any other which preceded it.
§ MR. BARRIE (Londonderry, N.)
said the grant made by the Treasury for this matter was admittedly short of the requirements, and cruel and harsh in its application. Nothing that had been said to-day was too strong with regard to the case of the school masters who had been rigorously excluded from participating in this grant. Reference had been made by the last hon. and learned Gentleman to the fact that the salaries of the teachers in Ireland were greatly lower than they should be. Even with tht grant they were still less than those of teachers in England and Scotland, and the principle of the new grant seemed to be that: "To him that hath shall be given more, and to him that hath little even less shall be given." What they all felt that afternoon was that they ought to treat honestly and adequately the persons who were serving the State, the men and women who had entered their positions, not attracted by the emoluments, but expecting those emoluments to be increased from year to year. They got £40,000 last year for the improvement of school buildings, and that grant would be continued for two years more. It was miserably inadequate—but they were thankful for it—and they could do with another £100,000 to bring their schools up to the standard of those in England. They found that some 3,000 teachers were not to benefit in the slightest degree from the change which was being made. He represented a religious minority in Ireland and the religious community to which that minority belonged had made no small sacrifice to maintain their schools, and if the further grant now asked for was refused the additional burden would be found ultimately to fall upon them. In answer to a question that afternoon, the Chief Secretary had said that he was not responsible for the allocation of the money.
§ MR. BARRIE
said he understood him so to state, but if the Chief Secretary was responsible he would like to know on whose advice he had acted. He hoped it was not yet too late to give them the further £20,000 they wanted. He was sure the teachers who would gain by the present plan were generous enough to say that inadequate as their gain was they would rather it was whittled down than that some 3,000 teachers should get nothing at all. He hoped that that important matter would be pressed home as it had been that afternoon. They had had very guarded language used from the Nationalist benches and they had been told that if a Unionist Government had been on the Treasury bench it would probably have been less guarded. He was not going to deal with that, but a Member of the present Government, the Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture, addressing a meeting a few days ago, had said that someone had suggested that if the Chief Secretary and he were much longer in Ireland, Ireland would be run at a loss, the inference being that the Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture and the Chief Secretary made a great impression on the Treasury. He would like to see a little more evidence of that in the grant they were then dealing with. He felt very strongly that in that miserably inadequate grant the Government was not sufficiently responding to the claims of the friends of education in Ireland.
§ MR. POWER (Waterford, E.)
thought a great deal might be said of the advantages of large schools in every country. In the first place it was easier to get more competent teaching and better sanitary arrangements, but in these matters they had to be practical and look at things as they were and not as they would like them to be. He hoped that the refusal to give to the teachers of the small schools in Ireland the compensation or the increase which they were entitled to receive was not the thin end of the wedge towards abolishing the small schools altogether, but it looked very like it. If the teachers were starved out of those schools the consequence must be that by degrees the schools would be closed up, and 1026 the people in the districts served by them left without education. Anyone who knew anything about educational matters at all would agree that three miles of road was too long for children who had to tramp to school and tramp back again, particularly in bad weather. Many of these mites went to school none too well fed and without any provision for lunch during the day. While they stood up for these schools it must be remembered that they were not responsible for the legislation that had made the population so sparse in Ireland. Such as these schools were they must continue to exist if the people were to receive education. He could not understand the allocation of the money which it was proposed to make. If there was one profession the members of which must be carefully selected, it was the teaching profession. Schoolmasters required a great deal of tact, a certain perception of character, and an undounded supply of patience. Anybody who did not possess that was unfit to bring up children. The present system was no encouragement to people of good class to become schoolmasters and mistresses. The future of Ireland depended upon the proper education of the rising generation. It was impossible to overrate the importance of good teachers. Not only was it their duty to teach ordinary subjects but also to impart morals and manners to the children and if proper persons were required to impart information to and educate the young they must be paid respectable salaries. In Ireland they were wedded to a denominational system of education, and the Government would have a united Irish opposition against them in opposing a system which tended to close up many of the schools and destroy the denominational system. To destroy it by legislation would be the worst thing the Government could do. His hon. friend near him had referred to the condition of the schools, and to the wretched provision made for heating them. Of his own knowledge he had seen poor children, in the County of Tipperary, which was by no means an impoverished county, walking to school with only one sod of turf under the arm for the purpose of kindling it to give them warmth during school hours. That sort of thing should not exist in a civilised country. They 1027 now had an increased number of cottages with their ground attached erected throughout the country, and he thought it very necessary that children attending the schools should be taught something of agriculture. It would be a very wise step if the Department of Agriculture acting in conjunction with the Education Department endeavoured to take measures by which there would be imparted to the children some useful and practical information on agriculture. For his own part he would be pleased to see attached to all these schools a system which would give the people information as to the best way of cultivating small plots of ground, information which they could afterwards put into practice. He believed that if these small plots were worked properly, the people would find it better to live in their own country than to fly to other lands which they enriched with their labour. He thought with proper attention to that matter a better knowledge of how to cultivate these plots might be imparted, which would be of great advantage to the community as well as of great advantage to those who attended the schools. The salaries paid to teachers in Ireland compared most unfavourably with those paid in England, Scotland and Wales. In regard to this question of education, he recalled the time when Lord Randolph Churchill was over in Ireland. He was a man always observant of what occurred in Ireland, and took a great interest in that country. They did not see eye to eye with him in many respects, but at the same time he was a man who had the interests of Ireland at heart. He had sat with him in that House for a good many years, and he did not remember hardly ever hearing him say any unsympathetic word as to Ireland. Lord Randolph Churchill went through many schools in Ireland, and he recollected his stating that the Government had lost a great opportunity in not utilising the system which prevailed in the towns of Ireland conducted by the Christian Brothers. That body had a very admirable system; it was ready to hand, and he could never understand why some use had not been made of it. The people having become wedded to a certain system of education, surely 1028 that which was pursued by the Christian Brothers might be utilised with great advantage. Nothing could be more derogatory to this country than that for generations it should have endeavoured to foist on the people of Ireland a system of education which was abhorrent to them. If the people of Ireland were to some extent uneducated it was because the British Government had insisted on their adopting a system of education in which the people did not believe and which was abhorrent to them. He ventured to submit these remarks to the Chief Secretary, whose interest in education they all appreciated. Perhaps, before this session was over, the right hon. Gentleman would be able to solve the question which had baffled many statesmen before him. If he did that it would be a proud feather in his cap. He ventured to urge upon the right hon. Gentleman not to take the backward step which he was at present about to take—a step which would deprive the poorest districts of what they believed to be absolutely necessary. The adoption of the course the Chief Secretary was now taking would, he feared, be the thin end of the wedge in the direction of abolishing schools which were certainly necessary owing to the depopulation of the country caused by the British system of Government.
§ MR. BUTCHER (Cambridge University)
said the Chief Secretary must have been impressed by the striking unanimity which had been shown that afternoon by all the representatives from Ireland. It might be said that whenever there was a raid to be made on the Treasury, Irish representatives were unanimous; but in this case he could assure the right hon. Gentleman that it was something which went far deeper than that. It was the feeling not only that the action of the Treasury was parsimonious, but that it was also unjust; and it was the injustice of it even more than the parsimony of it, to which they desired to object. For himself, he objected to both. He had held for a long time that the national teachers in Ireland were the most ill-paid body of servants of the United Kingdom; and the thing which, to his mind, was 1029 to be condemned under these proposals which they were discussing, was that the most ill-paid men belonging to the most ill-paid body were precisely the men who were to be sacrificed. The Chief Secretary would remember a deputation to the Treasury about a year ago, on which occasion the case of these teachers was put to the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he thought he might say that it was done with unanswerable force. The old official defence which the Treasury used to put in for the ill payment of Irish teachers, was at that time abandoned. The old defence mainly was that because the schools were remote and the pupils few, therefore the teachers should be mulcted for these peculiarities of the country. He had always thought that an unsound defence, and he hoped it was now practically abandoned. But they had before them the fact already alluded to, that 3,000 out of the 13,000 teachers, and very nearly 3,000 schools out of 8,000 were to be excluded from the increased grant. That meant that about a third of the schools and about a fourth of the teachers of Ireland would get no share of the benefit of this increased grant. Therefore, this was not merely a personal question. From the personal side it seemed to him grossly unjust. But there was also another side to it. It had been suggested several times that afternoon, and he had no doubt truly, that the proposals of the Government were intended to initiate a much larger reform in the whole school system of Ireland, in regard to the amalgamation of schools. Personally he thought there was considerable room for a reform as regarded that system. He thought that in many cases small schools might be amalgamated, and with great advantage to the scholars who attended them. There were cases both in the north and south of Ireland where by amalgamation they might get an efficient school in which there would be two trained teachers instead of one untrained teacher. But any such reform must be carried out with the utmost care, for otherwise it would strike down to the root of religious liberty. Owing partly to the physical character of the country, and partly to the distribution of the 1030 population, and of the different classes of population, there were over a large part of Ireland districts in which it was imperative that they should have more schools than existed in similar areas in England. There were places in the South and West where there were scattered minorities living among large majorities, differing on religion. In the South and West of Ireland the minority was generally Protestant. There were similar Catholic minorities, though not so many, in Ulster. The conviction of everybody in Ireland was that in these cases they must protect the religious liberties of the minorities. He knew that in connection with the movement for the amalgamation, a good many schools had come to be very anxious about their future. In his own county of Kerry, there was a Protestant school at Kenmare—a parish which spread over twenty miles. The next nearest Protestant school in the adjoining parish was seven and a half miles off, and the next again from that was twenty-one miles off. A school inspector had been down there making inquiries as to whether that school could be abolished and cease to receive the Government grant. In connection with that particular school £250 had been spent on building a teacher's house, and £200 had been spent on the school building, out of a loan by the Board of Works, the repayment of which was privately guaranteed. These persons naturally looked with anxiety to this new policy, which they had never had any reason to anticipate. He was not for one moment saying that the policy reducing the number of schools in Ireland could not be equitably carried out. But it was a profound mistake to mix up these two things together the increase of the teachers' salaries and with it the new policy of suppressing small schools. It involved great personal injustice, caused very great apprehension, which went deeper than personal interests. If the policy was to be one of amalgamation let them have the policy properly articulated before them. Let them know exactly what it meant. But in attempting to reform the whole school system let 1031 them not do it by simply starving the existing teachers. He could not imagine anything more dangerous in a country like Ireland, from the point of view of statesmanship, than to create a discontented class out of the men in whose hands lay the upbringing of the youth of Ireland.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said the hon. Gentleman had spoken about the parsimony and injustice of this grant. He wanted to ask about its legality. He wanted to know when did C. Hobhouse become the King, Lords, and Commons of Ireland. This was a most extraordinary constitutional question which seemed to underlie this very audacious document which had been issued to Members. There was in Ireland a body called the National Board and that body worked under statute. There had been subsequent Acts passed for regulating the manner in which the National Board should do its duty and in which the moneys of the National Board should be distributed. He wanted to know when it became either the law of Parliament or the law of the land that a Treasury clerk could, by inserting a direction in an Estimate for which there was no constitutional warrant and no statutory authority, fetter the hands of the Chief Secretary and of the National Board. They could not legislate by Estimate. That Committee was merely a Committee upon which the Appropriation Bill would afterwards be founded. The Appropriation Bill would not contain any reference, he took it, to the words which were used in the Estimate and yet forsooth the Estimate they were told was to have statutory effect. The Government were granting a sum of £114,000. Was that done under an Act, and if so, under what Act was its distribution provided for? Was there any Act showing this:— "(a) Bonuses for scale for year ending 31st March, 1908,number of teachers paid by personal salary who are employed in schools having an average attendance of seventy pupils and above, approximate numbers; 510 teachers at £5; 415 teachers at £10; 140 teachers at —20; 150 teachers at £30; total, £14,000. (b) Extra capitation grant, 5s. per unit of average attendance of pupils, three to fifteen years of age, to teachers in 1032 all schools having an average attendance of not less than thirty-five pupils for the year ending 31st March, 1908; approximate attendance, 100,000; grand total, £114,000. Whitehall, Treasury Chambers, 22nd June, 1908.—C. HOBHOUSE." Was that statute? If it was not statute, why did they not bring in their Bill in order to warrant and enforce the distribution of this £114,000 in the manner provided by the Estimate? He did not say he was very familiar with the Irish Education Acts, but when he saw this extraordinary note he began to wonder how they were being governed, and accordingly he turned to the last Act regulating the distribution of grants in Ireland, the Act of 1892. Section 18 provided for the manner in which the grant was to be allocated—After the financial year ending 31st March, 1892, there shall be paid out of moneys provided by Parliament an annual grant, in this Act called the school grant, in aid of education in elementary schools conducted in accordance with the regulations of the Commissioners of Education, £410,000 or such other amount as Parliament may determine, having regard to the amount of the fee grant under the Intermediate Education Act, 1891.That was an English Act, and it simply provided, as far as he could make out, that there should be paid out of moneys provided by Parliament, the sum of 10s. per child, and accordingly the Irish Act went on and provided how that money should be distributed in the Fourth Schedule—The school grant shall be applied by the Commissioners in accordance with the regulations to be made by them, with the concurrence of the Treasury, first, in augmenting by 20 per cent the existing rate of class salaries of teachers and of assistant teachers, and by 3s. 6d. the capitation grant to teachers; second, in granting a bonus of £9 to each male and £6 10s. to each female of five years standing; third, in awarding third-class salaries to each teacher of a school having an average attendance of twenty to thirty children.So that the very case of schools having from twenty to thirty children was contemplated by the Fourth Schedule of this Act of 1892, and a special provision was made for it, and this they were told was exactly the class of children who were now to be excluded from all benefit whatever under this grant—Fourthly, the residue shall be distributed as a capitation grant as nearly as possible in proportion to the average number of children daily attending the several schools in aid of 1033 whom salaries or other money payments are paid by the Commissioners.If any subsequent statute had been passed after that Act of 1892 he would be much obliged if the Secretary to the Treasury would refer him to it. But if no subsequent statute had been passed he wanted to know by what authority this Parliament discriminated between the kind of teachers and the kind of school that this money was to be divided and distributed amongst. They must have a discriminatory statute. Where was it? That brought him to this question. Were they governed by the Chief Secretary for Ireland or by the Secretary to the Treasury? He would have apprehended that this Minute would have been signed by some Irish authority. He was not aware that C. Hobhouse had ever seen Ireland in his life. When last they heard from him he was coming from India and he got this job on the Indian Ocean somewhere. Was it on the Indian Ocean that he picked up this method of distributing these Irish moneys? Certainly it was an extraordinary thing if that hon. Gentleman without any statutory authority whatever could propose to allocate this money. He did not blame the Chief Secretary in the least, and he dissociated himself from some of the criticisms recently passed upon him for his handling of this question. He thought he was doing his best and he trusted he would not take his criticism as personal to himself. But he thought the time had now arrived for them to make some stand on the constitutional aspect of the matter, and on that question he would like to refer to another incident that had taken place owing to the conduct of the Treasury in Ireland in the present year under this very Act of 1892, because this was just as base a scandal on the public of Ireland as they had already committed in regard to the teachers. In 1892, when compulsion was first applied to Ireland, the Members at that time, and notably Mr. Sexton, criticised the Act considerably as it was going through. It was provided for the first time that parents should be fined for not sending their children to school where there were schools within two miles radius. That was entirely novel in many parts of 1034 the country, and accordingly Mr. Sexton inserted this Amendment in the Act of 1892—The expenses of school attendance committees and the salaries and expenses of the officers shall be defrayed by the local authority out of the local rate, and any revenue from penalties under this Act in the place or district shall be applied in relief of the local rate.It was almost inconceivable. When he thought of the meanness of it, the illegality of it—it was almost impossible to use a word to describe the chicane of this transaction. England passed an Act on the faith that when this fine was inflicted the money arising from the fine should go in relief of the local rate. A Conservative Government passed the Act and, as long as they were in power, so long the fines were handed over to the local authority in accordance with the statutory enactment. In came the Liberals and in came the hon. Member for Tyrone, flush from election in a popular constituency, and in came the Attorney-General for Ireland, flush from election by Irish votes in Liverpool. These two gentlemen were ordered by some Treasury clerk to reverse this Statute. It was all very fine to say they had the Treasury's orders. They got a postcard from Downing Street. Was there no such thing as independence in the Irish Office? They reversed the action of the Conservative Party which had almost acquired the force of custom because it had been in existence for something like thirteen or fourteen years, and they dug out the Pines Act passed in 1850, and said, "The King cannot give up his revenue without express words," and as His Majesty's name was not mentioned in the Irish Education Act of 1892, Parliament was only poking fun at the Irish people when it said that any money derived from fines should be applied in relief of local rates. They paid the Attorney and Solicitor-General to argue that the Statute of fifty years before overrode the Act of 1892. It was said that the King could not surrender his revenue. How was it he surrendered it under a Tory Government? How was it he surrendered it from 1892 to 1908? How was it these changes to the detriment of the country were only made when the Liberal Party with Liberal law officers elected by popular constituences were sent to deal 1035 with these questions? Was Dublin Castle an annex of Downing Street? Was there no such thing as a personal equation to be found in that building or a Law Officer bold enough to say "I will not argue that foul is fair." What was good enough for the Right Hon. John Atkinson for fourteen or fifteen years ought to be good enough for the hon. Member for North Tyrone. He had said there should be a Committee of Parliament sitting upstairs to watch the Treasury day after day. When this scheme was in embryo and these little clerks—it was difficult to speak of them with respect—when these little animalculæ in the Treasury were planning how to swindle the country—that was the time when they needed to be alert. The time had now come when they should learn distinctly who was master in Ireland. Was it the Chief Secretary or the Lord-Lieutenant or the Irish Law Officers or some gentleman on the Indian Ocean who on his arrival at Port Said happened to find he was made King of Ireland?
§ MR. MOORE (Armagh, N.)
said he regretted that the action of the Government should fall so hard upon the smaller schools of Ireland. He spoke with a certain amount of feeling because owing to circumstances with which they were all familiar the effect on the small schools would fall more heavily on those of the Church of Ireland than any other. Since the year 1902, public monies had been devoted to schools which had a legal statutory limit of not less than ten and not more than twenty, but now apparently without any sanction of the Legislature the administrative custom of fifteen years was to be abandoned with the result that the smaller schools would be squeezed out of existence. That required some explanation. At present there was a mystery about it, but there were so many mysteries surrounding the action of the Chief Secretary that one more did not matter much. Was this policy adopted in order that it should fall more heavily upon the Church of Ireland than upon any other Church? Was it intended to squeeze out three-quarters of the schools of one particular Church, and that a Church which was politically opposed to the Chief Secretary? He would like to hear it justified on the ground of fairness. 1036 The Chief Secretary would find when the result of his proposed policy became known there would be a regular outburst on the part of those people who for the past fifteen years had been working to maintain the schools to which he had made reference. He joined in the general complaint as to the deplorable and disgraceful sanitary condition of the school houses. The Government had full knowledge of it but remained absolutely indifferent so far as action went, and even the National Members had done nothing. It was left to the Member for East Down to bring in a Bill for the heating and ventilation of schools in Ireland.
§ MR. MOORE
said that Mr. Dale's reports were four years old. The Chief Secretary never raised a finger to further the Bill. He held the Bill in his hand, and he thought it was a modest and useful measure which would have met the real difficulty. They ought to have a little more sympathy in this matter from the Government, and he hoped that hon. Members from Ireland who were supporting the Amendment would show that they meant business and go to a division. He remembered a similar occasion since this Government came into power when the same arguments were used as had been used on the present occasion. He regretted to say that the Amendment was withdrawn at that time. He hoped there would be a division that night, for the Chief Secretary had done nothing to meet the representations which had been made to him as to the necessity for improving the sanitary condition of the schools. The Government were entitled to credit in one matter—namely, the relaxation of the rules of the National Board as regarded the civil rights of teachers. Three years ago teachers were not allowed to go to fairs, to talk to their neighbours on politics, or to do a single thing which ordinary intelligent persons were allowed to do. These conditions which ought to have been removed long ago, had now been relaxed, and this had given great satisfaction to the teachers 1037 throughout the country. He though that the men who were charged with the responsibility of the education of the youth in their districts, who were consulted on matters of law, medicine divinity, and everything else, should no be subjected to the irritation of having to observe such rules.
§ MR. MOORE
said he was informed by schoolmasters, friends of his own, that the rules had been relaxed. One of his friends told him that he had received communication on the subject; he die not know whether it was a circular or a letter, and the teacher was, therefore going to attend a political meeting. He did not know the special rule to which the hon. Member referred. [An HON MEMBER: The meeting was in North Armagh.] The meeting was not in North Armagh. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to use his influence in another matter, that was, in securing fixity of tenure. The Roman Catholic teachers were in a better position than the Protestant teachers in this respect, for their managers had assented to a form of contract under which any matter of conflict was left to the arbitration of the highest authority of the diocese. The Protestant teachers, unfortunately, had been unable to agree with their managers on any court of arbitration, and he asked whether the Commissioners had taken any steps to heal this administrative sore.
§ MR. BIRRELL
said the difficulty was that the Commissioners could only put in an arbitrator who was likely to meet with the consent of both parties. They were, however, trying to solve the difficulty.
§ MR. MOORE
was satisfied with this statement, but complained of the ludicrously inadequate salaries paid to the teachers in Ireland. If there must be an allocation, it seemed to him that it might be carried out at small expense. He was told that the sum of £15,000 would be ample to provide inducements to teachers who had gone to the trouble and expense of obtaining University 1038 degrees. If a teacher had gone to that expense, he ought to get the reward of merit in his own profession. He was not sure of the exact military term which was used in this connection, but he thought the teacher ought to get something in the nature of brevet rank for having so qualified himself. It would encourage the teachers, and it would have a tendency to bring additional students to the new universities. They were all agreed that teachers in Ireland were worse paid on the whole than policemen. He believed there was a Report in favour of increasing the pay of the police, and he was not sure that there was not to be legislation on the subject. [An HON. MEMBER: It has been promised.] It was on the tapis at any rate. While the police were to have their salaries raised, the unfortunate teachers who were engaged in schools with an attendance of less than thirty-five were shut out altogether, though the teachers in schools with over that number might get someing more. He did not think it would take very much to give the teachers in the small schools an increase also. It was recognised that in education they had the real salvation of the country, and it seemed illogical and unjust that the people who were trained to impart it should be left impoverished in this way.
§ MR. MURNAGHAN (Tyrone, Mid.)
complained of the large number of elementary schools in Ireland which received no assistance whatever from the State. It was bad enough to underlay teachers, but it was worse to deprive large number of the school-going children of any capitation grant whatever. The older members who had sat through the discussions of Education Bills had been told that every child born within these realms was entitled as a birthright to be furnished with at least the rudiments of education. That might be the case, and he believed that it was the case in this country and Scotland, but certainly it was not the case with regard to thousands of boys in lost of the towns of Ireland. He had tried to get from the Chief Secretary by question a report as to the number of school-going children in Ireland, but he was only able to get a return of those 1039 who attended the national schools, and model schools; he had obtained no information whatever as to the Christian Brothers' schools which were to be found in almost every town in the South and West, and also in many towns in Ulster, some of which contained to his knowledge several hundred pupils. He referred to the schools of the Order of Christian Brothers, which he believed gave education annually to from 15,000 to 20,000 boys. In 1892 the Minister who was then Secretary to the Treasury, speaking on this subject, after visiting the City of Cork declared that the Christian Brothers' schools were admirable and well-conducted. In passing, he might say that these schools, as regarded internal arrangements and sanitary accommodation were as complete as any in the United Kingdom, and that as regarded the teachers, there were none more efficient to be found in this or in any other country. That Minister declared that to refuse to make to these schools the same grants as were given to other voluntary schools was a state of things that could not be justified or defended. In 1896, Mr. Jackson, who was now a Member of the Upper House, but was then Chief Secretary for Ireland, was in charge of an Education Bill, and during its progress through this House he was confronted by the Nationalist Members, led by Mr. Sexton, with criticisms of certain provisions of his Bill, and particularly with a demand for a capitation grant for these schools. He promised that he would take steps to have the Christian Brothers' schools brought into line with the other schools in the matter of payment. On the strength of that assurance the Irish Members withdrew their opposition and the Bill passed. It might be only another illustration of broken promises given by Ministers, but Mr. Jackson, when charged with failing to give effect to promises while in office, replied that his term thereafter was very short and that he had handed over the carrying out of the arrangement to his successor, then Mr. Morley, who no doubt was as sympathetic to-day as he was then in regard to this matter, when he declared himself a strong supporter of the demand for a grant to the Christian Brothers' schools. Mr. Morley admitted that these 1040 schools were absolutely entitled to the Education Grant, and when pressed by Irish Members to give effect to the pledge given by his predecessor that he would do all he possibly could; and while he could not go so far as to give a solemn pledge, yet he would give an assurance that he would do what he could to have a regulation framed to meet the case and secure a contribution from the Education Grant to the Christian Brothers' schools. The right hon. Gentleman added that for himself, he did not wonder that the Irish members took every opportunity of pressing the claims of these voluntary schools on the attention of every British Government, whether Liberal or Tory. Fifteen long years had elapsed since that was said by Mr. Morley, and the demand for recognition of the schools had lain dormant all the while. He did not know why, unless other larger and more controversial questions had been brought forward and overshadowed this modest educational demand. However, he thought the time had now arrived when this claim should be pressed upon the House. Here perhaps it was right for him to say that he was giving expression to his own views and that he only spoke on his own behalf; the Christian Brothers themselves had made no application on the subject as far as he was aware. They had had no public meetings to further their claims; they had written no letters to the newspapers, or indeed made any complaint that the State was taking advantage of their silence and self-denial to evade a duty the performance of which in ordinary schools would cost about fifty thousand pounds a year. They were satisfied with silently doing their duty, and quietly carrying out the rules of their great founder, working with patience and hope. But that was no reason why Irish public men should allow them to be overlooked. Hence the thought had come to him as one who held for these humble men a high regard and whose children had been benefited ay their teaching, to renew now the application made sixteen years ago by the then representatives of Ireland, full of the belief that the present Chief Secretary was likely to be sympathetic n the matter. While no doubt these schools would be carried on whether the 1041 Government aided them or not, because Catholic parents who supported them would continue to make sacrifices to do so, was it right or fair that their labours should go unrewarded as far as the Treasury was concerned, or that wealthy England should take advantage of the conscientious scruples of Irish Catholics or of the silence and self-denial of the teachers in order to deprive Ireland of the sum required to educate her Catholic boys? As he had said, the Christian Brothers' schools contained from 15,000 to 20,000 boys; they were studded all over the cities and towns of Ireland, and many of the children went three, four, and even six miles to attend because their parents knew that their children would not only get a safe and sound education in the different branches of knowledge, but that their moral fibre would be strengthened, and their character formed by the example and admonition of their teachers—all which was for the benefit of the national weal. He assumed that the Christian Brothers were willing to adopt the same conscience clause in their primary schools as had been in use for the last twenty-five years in their intermediate schools, and no doubt they would be open to inspection and examination of pupils so that really there ought not to be much difficulty in framing a rule under which the grant would be available. In 1892 the Commissioners submitted two propositions but neither was acceptable to the Government. That was how the matter was when Mr. John Morley took office and that was how it stood to-day. He understood that the two obstacles in the way of the "Brothers" getting the grant were emblems and books. They refused to remove the cross, and they insisted upon using their own books. The Government need not ask the Christian Brothers to hide the cross behind a screen. That they would never consent to. They would follow faithfully the rules and regulations of the good man who founded them 100 years ago, and their mission would continue whether or not State aid was granted. He thought at this time of day there should be no insistence that the Emblem of Redemption should be removed from the schools. And as for their books, he would ask the Chief 1042 Secretary to look over them, and was willing to leave to him the decision as to their fitness, both from the literary and moral standpoints. This was a question easy of settlement, because it did not require legislation but sympathetic treatment, and could be done by the Chief Secretary and the Treasury. That being so, he hoped something to remove the grievance would be done without delay. He felt sure the Chief Secretary would have the support of Lord Morley if he brought the matter before his colleagues in the Cabinet, and it was full time that an end was put to the educational inequality which placed upon Catholic parents the burden of educating their boys while the education of Protestants was paid for by the State.
§ MR. SLOAN (Belfast, West)
said he was a member of the deputation of the teaching profession which waited on the Prime Minister when Chancellor of the Exchequer. They were then told that not only the schools and the salaries of the teachers, but the whole problem of primary education would be investigated. It was, therefore, with the greatest disappointment that they now found that in the Supplementary Estimate of £114,000 the most needy and probably the most useful class was to be excluded from the grant. He thought the question of primary education was going to be treated in a universal manner, and that the policy was not going to be to assist one part of the profession to the detriment and destruction of another. He did not think any Irish Member would suggest that the proposed increase in the salaries of the teachers who came under the conditions of the £114,000 grant was in any way too large, nor would it be suggested that it should be taken away. What they suggested was that the system under which primary education was carried on at the present time should not be more aggravated than it was. The only logical way out of the difficulty was to see that while the salaries of one portion of the teachers were increased, injustice and great hardship was not meted out to that section which was the worst paid. He would like to know whether hon. Members considered it just that teachers who were receiving from £120 to £200 1043 should get by the allocation of this grant an increase of £15 or £20, while the teachers of £56 got absolutely nothing. It was lamentable that in the effort to remove the legitimate grievances of the Irish national schools, further friction, dissatisfaction, and in the teaching profession itself a great amount of jealousy should be created. From the Northern point of view small schools were not only desirable but absolutely necessary, and while he agreed that in some cases the amalgamation of schools would promote economy, they were bound to face the fact that small schools were absolutely necessary. If they were not available the children would be left without education, and, therefore, in a far worse state than at present. If Scottish and English Members had listened to this debate untrammelled by party ties they would, from an educational point of view, have voted for the poorer teachers in the rural districts of Ireland having some of the benefit of the grant. He had been specially asked by the Protestant Teachers' Union of the North of Ireland to bring before the Chief Secretary the very hard conditions under which they suffered on account of attendance. It was quite true that the Catholics had a more complete system than the Protestant teachers for preventing the arbitrary dismissal of a teacher, by means of arbitration. The Protestant teachers were liable to be dismissed without even knowing the charge which had been made against them. The teacher did not know what charge was made against him, and they had no power over the National Board to interfere. He did not wish to make any attack on the National Board. He thought that it had done its duty, though it was somewhat antiquated; but reform became absolutely necessary when it refused to make a rule or reguation which would give the teacher an opportunity of defending himself against a charge which might involve his dismissal. The hon. Gentleman who seconded the Motion had referred to the Commissioners of Education. He must say that he judged of a man as he found him, and he had always found Dr. Starkie courteous and desirous to do what he considered to be in the best interest of the Board, and at the same 1044 time to do his duty as a public servant. He did not blame Dr. Starkie; he blamed the Government which permitted such a system to exist. Were the Government powerless? Could they not help them out of this dilemna? These teachers were serving the State under difficulties, and reports were made against them without their having an opportunity of defending themselves. They knew what human nature was, and how there might be malice and spite operating on the part of a manager against the teacher. It was not fair that these teachers should be paid an inadequate salary, and that they should be put into a category where there was no fixity of tenure, and where there was no defence against possible malice on the part of one man against another. That House was the only place where those things could be remedied. He knew that the Chief Secretary was communicating with the Board of Education, and that he referred these matters to that body. He did not expect that the Chief Secretary was capable of looking after the whole of the numerous boards in Ireland, but he might have subordinates to assist him. Surely here was a grievance on the part of a class of servants in respect to which the Chief Secretary should exercise not only his judgment, but his authority and power, by letting the National Board understand that a condition of things would not be tolerated any longer in which private circulars were supplied as to the characters of the teachers, good or bad, and which might contain charges of which the teacher never heard, and therefore had no opportunity of answering. In British justice, and under the Liberal Government of reform, the teacher with £56 a year, who taught in a hovel, or a mud cabin called a school, with an attendance of thirty-five, and who was not considered worthy of an increase of salary, even he should be given an opportunity of defending himself against the arbitrary conduct which had sometimes been used against him. There ought to be some way out of this system, which was cruel and absurd. Public money was being spent, yet there was no power over the people who received the money, nor power to see that they who received it paid it to the teacher. 1045 He knew of the case of one manager who took a dislike to the teacher. He went on his holidays, and the warrant for the teacher's salary was sent on to him, and not to the person who had done the work. The manager put it in his pocket, where he kept it for almost a month, so that the teacher did not receive the money he had earned, though he needed it to furnish himself with the necessaries of life. Why should a national teacher have to wait for a month before he received his salary? Why, a Cabinet Minister was not kept waiting in that way. The National Commissioners might be a little proud in their own way; in fact, as constituted they were outside public criticism. Let a Member put a Question down in that House with regard to the National Board, and where did that Question go? It went to Dublin Castle, to the very people who made the change, and it was they who gave the answer. And the Chief Secretary read to the House what was given to him in this way, so that the Member who asked for information was just as far forward as when he put the Question. He appealed to the right hon. Gentleman not to refuse this request which was being made for a paltry addition to the grant. A sum of only £20,000 or £25,000 was required to bring these 3,000 teachers up to the level of their colleagues, and he thought that the Government which supplied additional sums for old-age pensions might at least afford this small amount. The Government had with one stroke of the pen added £300,000 to the sum which they had set aside for old-age pensions, to meet what was considered a case of hardship, yet they were refusing this paltry sum which would put these teachers in the same position as their colleagues. He appealed to the Irish Solicitor-General and to the Chief Secretary, who were sitting in a House from which Liberal and Tory Members were absent, and where only Irish Members were in their places, as though in a Parliament at College Green, to grant out of the £3,000,000 which came from Ireland to this country in taxation, this paltry sum of £25,000. Surely the Government recognised the reasonableness and justice of the demand, and had authority sufficient to grant it, not merely because 1046 it was backed by the unanimous voice of Ireland, but because it was just in itself, and that the justice of the case was reason sufficient for the additional grant.
§ MR. HARRINGTON (Dublin Harbour)
said it was not his intention to prolong the debate, and he would not have intervened but for the observations made by the hon. Member for North Armagh. The hon. Member had congratulated the Chief Secretary on the changes which he had made, and had made a reference to the independence which he had shown. But he wished to refer to two cases which were most prominent before the people of Ireland last summer. One was the case of a teacher who had got married to a publican's daughter. The National Board refused to pay his salary, and said they would continue to do so as long as he continued to be connected with a public-house. There was nothing in the rules to justify that action. Their rule was that they were not to give a salary to a teacher so long as he was connected with a public-house, and they refused to pay so long as his wife was connected with a public house. But that was no reason why they should have kept that man's salary for two years. Fortunately, the teacher was able to maintain his position. The manager was in touch with him, and he kept on the school. A short while after complaint was made to the present Chief Secretary, and at length the Board itself gave way, and paid the teacher the salary which they had kept from him for two years. The other case which was referred to by the hon. Member for North Armagh was one of the most shameful cases of a man's dismissal that was ever known. He was a teacher at one of the Rathmines schools. He had occupied the position for twenty years; he was of the first division and first class by a special resolution of the Board. That was in 1896, when the Board had power to take in consideration a teacher's special services He was promoted in view of his excellent service, but the manager took occasion to dismiss him, and he appealed to the Archbishop, who refused to sanction the action of the parish priest. The next time the inspector visited the school, he gave a 1047 hostile report, the first ever given to the school. Immediately after that, the National Board went to dismiss the teacher, but it was put off for six months. The next time the inspectors went, not to examine the school, but to see him personally, they again presented a hostile report. In neither of these examinations, which were held for the purpose of dismissing the teacher and nothing else, was a pupil examined. It was the plain duty of any board to have given that man first a copy of the complaint against him and next a copy of the reports, especially having regard to the fact that they had themselves on their own Motion raised this man to the highest rank which they could give him for highly-efficient service, and a year or two afterwards dismissed him from his school. He did not look for another school, of course; he decided to have done with the Board. They would have sanctioned him in another school, but the whole thing, it was perfectly plain, was not to carry out the rules of the Board but to do away with the appeal to the Archbishop. They were able now to insist that a teacher must get a report, and if he desired another inspection he could get it, and he had practically three appeals now, so that it was impossible that they should do what they had done in the past. This unfortunate teacher who was dismissed from his employment without any compensation was altogether thirty years in the service of the National Board; he was only forty-two years of age, and consequently was without a pension, and without any consideration he was cast out of the service, though, without a doubt, it was entirely his fight and the attention drawn to it that settled the question of the future management of these schools.
§ MR. LARDNER (Monaghan, N.)
said he agreed with the hon. Member for South Belfast when he said that this grant was spoilt. In his county there were 188 schools, only eighty-eight of which participated in these grants, and only sixteen of which got the bonus given to schools with an attendance of over seventy, and the bonus, with the exception of one case, was only £5. The maximum bonus under the Estimate he saw was £30. That was undoubtedly an illogical and inequitable state of affairs, 1048 but the case became much more illogical and inequitable when they took a specific case that had come to his knowledge, a case of a high-class teacher in a small school. He had the highest possible qualifications, and the very best reports from his inspector, but he had the misfortune to have under thirty-five in average attendance. He knew two other teachers who had anything but good reports, but they had the good luck to have over thirty-five on the roll, and they participated in this capitation grant from which the first-class teacher was excluded. They were told that the rain fell on the just and the unjust, but in this case the Treasury trickle seemed to be reserved for those who were perhaps less deserving than this unfortunate man who was serving one of the noblest purposes possible in a backward and poverty-stricken country. There was a multiplicity of small schools, and, therefore, education was more expensive in Ireland than it ought to be. The Chief Secretary had said that this was absolutely essential if the people were to get any education at all, and he fully agreed that the charge was not to be laid to their door. It was the Commissioner of Education themselves who were responsible. But the Treasury seemed to have made up its mind to starve out the small schools, and they would starve education in such constituencies as his. If in the past they had allowed this wrong system to grow up and to grow strong, they had accepted the responsibility for it, and they were bound to maintain it; it was their bounden duty to pay the teachers, the men who put brains into the children, a better salary than they paid the men who beat the brains out of them—the Irish constabulary. Not alone was the grant of £114,000 too small, but the additional £20,000 was too small. Had the whole thing been doubled they would not be giving nearly the salary which was paid to the Scottish, teacher. The Scottish and Irish rural districts were very much the same, but the average attendance in Ireland was lower because in certain seasons of the year children had to work on the farms, though if they took the maximum roll at a time when there was no work going on in the country, they were responsible for the education of more boys and girls 1049 than teachers in similar schools in Scotland. The teachers, the people, the Irish Party and the councils were protesting against the basis of the division of this money. The Commissioners of Education themselves were protesting. The Chief Secretary on one occasion told them to formulate their demands. There was one solitary Minister and one solitary Liberal on the benches behind him, and Irish Unionists and Nationalists were joining in a demand to give them £20,000 to enable one-third of the teaching profession to be fairly treated.
MR. K. DUNCAN (Lanarkshire, Govan)
said that as the subject of finance was associated with all their great reforms it might not be amiss for one who represented the Conservative Party and who was a representative of Scotland, to state his opinion in regard to the finance of this question. It had been said that one desire was to strengthen the hands of the Chief Secretary for Ireland in dealing with the Treasury. The right hon. Gentleman was known to be a thinking man and an honest man, and he was generally credited with a desire to do something really effective for the good of Ireland. He would say nothing to discredit that belief, but if the Chief Secretary really wished to go forward he should rid his mind of the idea that either England, Scotland, or Ireland would grudge money for education. Was not education really the most important subject they had to deal with? After the parents themselves the teacher had the most to do with the making of the coming generation. He had a strong feeling of reverence for the spirit of loyalty that forbade them to quit their old church when they thought she was perhaps not altogether what they desired. Religion was international and had to deal with men and women of all countries. At one time they heard a great deal about what were humorously called the three R's, but he hoped to see the adoption of the three D's—duty, discipline and drill; he would even venture to add a fourth in Development, of which they were not afraid in Scotland. It was the hope of some of them that Ireland would go forward, retain its religion, and also welcome the spirit of knowledge. 1050 It was a rapidly growing opinion in Ireland that education must be dealt with not in a niggardly but in a generous spirit.
§ MR. SHEEHY (Meath, S.)
reminded the Committee that when the late Government were in power with a full treasury the money exhausted not in social reforms or upon education, but at the behests of the Jingo Party in war. He complained of the inadequacy of the sum allocated for this grant, although he did not think it lay in the mouth of the Tory Party to complain of what the Government were doing for education in Ireland. They complained, as they had a perfect right to complain, not merely of the inadequacy of the money allocated, but of the manner in which it was to be spent. They complained of the old practice by which anything given to Ireland with the right hand was immediately obliterated with the left. They complained that the schools in the districts which most needed assistance were being left in the worst position by the manner in which the money was to be distributed. The process of amalgamation would go on, and by that very process many schools in Ireland would be shut up and made useless, all because the population of Ireland did not enable these schools to be filled with an adequate number of pupils. This was a question which affected not only the poor districts of the west of Ireland, but also the richer counties of Kildare and Westmeath. It was a very strange thing but it was a fact that more money was being spent on the constabulary in Ireland than upon education. They claimed that the money spent upon intermediate education in Ireland was purely Irish money, and there were other monies ear-marked for education which, had been used for other purposes. All they were getting in return for all that was £114,000. He would not complain so much if that money was going to be administered fairly and properly, but the way it was proposed to administer the money would only lead to a worse condition of affairs in the rural districts where the children had to tramp many miles in order to get to school. The manner in which the money was allocated made it worthless, and the education 1051 system dangerous. Under those circumstances he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would consent to alter the allocation, because if he did not great harm would be done to education. Every hon. Member who had taken part in the debate had spoken condemnatorily of the allocation which had been adopted. The National Board of Education was a most extraordinary product of British legislation, but even they were opposed to the allocation proposed. It was this kind of blundering which was constantly arising, that created bitterness, whereas, if the people of Ireland were treated fairly, no such bitterness would be engendered. The Government were not only allocating an insufficient sum, but they were allocating it wrongly, giving it to those who could well afford to do with less and giving nothing at all to those who deserved it most. Inspectors had gone down to places in the West of Ireland for the purpose of arranging the amalgamation of schools, shutting up one in one place and sending the children to another school. He had heard threats made that if these inspectors went on in this way they would not have a very easy task in the future. If the present allocation of the money was adhered to be was afraid a very serious injury would be done to primary education in Ireland.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
thought that the debate had convinced the Government that for once the Irish representatives were unanimous, and not only they but the entire body of the Irish people. The present Supplementary Estimate and the accompanying Note indicating the distribution of the money were an indication of a most singular condition of affairs even under the singular government of their country. There was a body called the Board of National Education which had control of primary education. It was a nominated Board that was quite independent, and was not responsible even to the Irish Government, and certainly not to the Irish people. They had continuously protested against it and had sought to have it abolished or amended. The extraordinary fact emerged in this debate that even that Board had not 1052 had its way with regard to the distribution of the money and that all the negotiations had been conducted in the dark and behind the backs of the Irish people. Not one single man among the representatives of Ireland had been let into the secret or consulted in any way. He would like to ask the Chief Secretary, what was the opinion of the National Board on the matter. What had been the nature of the communications that had passed between the Board and the Treasury? Would the right hon. Gentleman lay the correspondence on the Table? It had been said that to attempt to separate the responsibility of the Chief Secretary from that of the Treasury was to throw dust in the eyes of the Irish people. No doubt the correct constitutional theory was that the Government was responsible as a whole, but as a matter of fact the Treasury interfered with the government of Ireland incessantly and most mischievously and exercised an undue influence over Irish affairs. He contended that the Treasury had no right to interfere with the distribution of this money. What right had the British Treasury to cross over to Ireland, or even without crossing, to engage in long-winded correspondence with Irish Departments as to the use of money which had already been granted, or was about to be granted, to Ireland as if those gentlemen who sat at the Treasury had special knowledge of the needs of Ireland? He thought it was the most monstrous thing he had ever heard of. Whatever might be the constitutional theory, he asked the Chief Secretary to compare what was done in respect of Ireland with the administration of English Departments. Compare, for instance, the attitude of the Treasury towards the Board of Education with the intolerable system which had prevailed in Ireland. If the Board of Education in England obtained a Vote of money from Parliament, as they did very easily whenever they wanted it, they were not subjected to the strain and stress in dealing by the Treasury which Irish Departments were subjected to. When the English Board obtained a grant of £1,500,000 for the purpose of carrying out their views on primary education—he thought it was for a purely political purpose—there was no more correspondence between the 1053 Treasury and the Board of Education. They distributed the money as they thought fit. But look what happened in Ireland. He would take one instance—the grant for the building of Irish schools. For fifteen years a correspondence went on between the Treasury and the Board of National Education in Ireland. Again and again when the representatives of Ireland raised the question they were told that it was still under discussion. They were not shown the correspondence. It was not published. During the period covered by the correspondence the whole question of school building was hung up, and many schools were allowed to fall into a ruinous condition. Whatever the constitutional theory might be, the practice in Ireland was entirely different from that in England. He did not acquit the Chief Secretary of all responsibility in this matter, because he had always recognised the solidarity of the Government; but they knew that the Treasury had interfered, and in so doing they had exhibited gross ignorance of the conditions of Irish life. He warned the Chief Secretary that an attempt to carry out these conditions would create a condition of absolute, chaos and revolt, not only among teachers, but among the whole body of the population, irrespective of their religious beliefs or political opinions. As a Home Ruler he was not sure that he ought to object to such a policy, because it would afford an example of the British Treasury against the whole of the Irish nation, and that would be rather a wholesome state of affairs. What they complained of, first of all, was that Ireland was not treated in the same way as England and Scotland. If Ireland were treated on equal terms with England and Scotland, the amount of the grant for teachers would be £400,000 instead of £114,000. The result of the differentiation was that many of the best teachers were leaving Ireland in order to obtain payment upon a higher scale elsewhere. It was impossible to defend a system under which English and Scottish teachers were paid 40 or 50 per cent. more than were teachers in Ireland. He did not sympathise with those extremists who suggested that the Chief Secretary should be abused and attacked. The right hon. Gentleman was the fifth 1054 occupant of his office since the agitation for the better payment of Irish teachers was started, and he was the first who had done anything in this matter, and, therefore, to hold him up as a malefactor was idiotic, and it was a course not calculated to make other Irish Secretaries follow on the same lines. He was not going to dwell on the insufficiency of the grant. So far as the grant went they ought to be thankful for it, for it was some result of the agitation which had been carried on. When he turned to the question of the proposed distribution of the grant, really language failed to express his opinion. The grant was accompanied by a Note unlike anything he had ever seen in any previous Estimate. The Note had already been quoted. Those who taught in small schools with an attendance of under thirty-five were to get nothing at all. Language failed him to express his opinion of that. The teachers in the small schools in Ireland had, owing to the recent changes and to the method of promotion, been cruelly dealt with under the present system. In his view, the national teachers of Ireland, under the old system, although the salaries were very poor, had great incentives. Promotion was open to them; if they were able men, they could rise in the ranks of their profession, even if they had only twenty-five pupils. He had known some of the ablest of the whole body of Irish teachers who were employed in these small schools, and whose reputation had spread over all Ireland. When the new system of grading was introduced seven or eight years ago, those unfortunate teachers from no fault of their own at all, but from want of influence—and indeed those things were done from influence, and not by merit—could not get promotion to larger schools. They were condemned to remain in the lowest ranks of their profession all their lives, no matter what their abilities might be. That was a system which he had condemned for years. These teachers were already in a very bad position, but when this instalment of justice which had been looked forward to for several years by the teachers of Ireland—this £114,000— came along, these men were informed that because they were poor they would get nothing; and that the 1055 men who had the largest schools, comparatively, were to get all this money distributed among them. A more monstrous and grotesque system never was submitted to a Committee of the House. He had had communications from various parts of Ireland showing how some of the ablest teachers in the country in those small schools were barred out from promotion. The proposal before the Committee discriminated against these men. It had been said by one or two of his colleagues that if £20,000 were added to the grant, it would enable a grant to be given to the small schools; but he did not think that that would meet the necessities of the case. It would only amount to about £6 a year, and that was a very poor offer to make to the poorest and most unjustly treated of the Irish teachers. His objection lay not only to the exclusion of all the small schools from the distribution grant, but to the whole method of distribution. A teacher with 200 pupils would get from £10 to £15 additional salary, and a special bonus of 5s. a head, which would amount to £40 or £50; while a teacher of one of the small schools, who deserved more consideration from the grant, would only get £6. He suspected that the new distribution was adopted as a matter of policy, but these poor men had no power over the education policy of the Board of Education. If the Government policy was to amalgamate small schools, let it be openly declared; to amalgamate the small schools in Ireland by starving the small school teachers, who had no influence on the policy of the Government, was monstrous cruelty. It acted unfairly to the masters of the smaller schools and to the assistants of the larger schools. The right hon. and learned Member for Dublin University, who had joined the Nationalist Members in this matter, had a theory as to the cause of the existence of the small schools in Ireland. He said that it was necessitated by the provision of small schools for the different religious sects. That might apply to Ulster to a great extent, but he absolutely denied that it applied to the provinces of Connaught and Munster. It was a total misconception on the part of the hon. and learned Gentleman. The cause of small schools was the character of the country, mountainous and with bad roads, 1056 and the sparse population. Ireland was in its present condition, or the greater part of it, a country of small schools, and it must remain so unless they adopted the system which was followed in some parts of the United States of consolidating small schools, and organising a system of transportation by means of char-a-bancs or cars of children from the scattered districts to central schools. If they penalised the teachers of these small schools, which in absolute fact were a necessity of the country, they were declaring war on the only system of schools which could serve the population. Did anyone who took an interest in primary education deny the fact that the teacher in a small school—say with only thirty children—ought to be a better teacher than the master of a larger school? He deserved the utmost consideration instead of being punished as under the present system. In a large school the pupils were divided into classes, and the head master did not take them all himself. He had assistants. But the man who had only twenty-five pupils had to divide them into five or six classes, and take them all himself, which was the hardest work possible. Another consideration which had been forced upon his mind was that in a great many districts owing to this starvation of the small school teachers there were no educated men now except the priests and rectors. It was peculiarly unfortunate that that should be the case. When he was a boy, in his own district in the County of Mayo there was one of the most efficient teachers he had ever known in the course of his life. Boys came from places thirty to forty miles distant to get their education from him, and were content to board in the hovels of the peasants. That man rose under the old system to be master of a school, with a salary of £230 a year, while he was still quite a young man. His influence over the whole parish was extraordinary, and numbers of his boys succeeded remarkably in businesses established throughout the district, simply from the training they had got. Now, under the present system all these poor parishes were condemned to put up with the refuse of the teaching profession, because, once there, the schoolmaster was without hope of promotion. Over his 1057 school might be written the legend of Dante hung over the gates of Hell: "All hope abandon ye who enter here." When a man got into a small school, ambition was killed; he had no incentive to study or to make his school a success. Therefore, under the present system the Education Department were doing everything in their power to discourage and destroy education over a large portion of Ireland. He had a letter from the President of the Western Union of School Teachers, who said that the country was in a state of absolute revolt over this matter. This gentleman gave him the following figures:—In County Galway there were 390 schools. Of these, 138 had an attendance of under thirty-five pupils, and therefore got no benefit from the grant. In County Leitrim there were 197 schools, of which 118 were entirely excluded from the benefit of the grant, or more than 60 per cent., although Leitrim was a very poor county. In County Mayo there were 387 schools, of which 138 were excluded; in County Roscommon there were 230 schools, of which 104 were excluded; and in County Sligo there were 202, of which 109 were excluded. In the province of Connaught there were altogether 1,418 schools, of which 607 were entirely excluded from the benefits of the grant. The effect of this proposal would be not in any degree to satisfy the schoolteachers but to arouse a perfect storm of indignation and anger throughout the country. A speech of the Chief Secretary had been quoted, in which the right hon. Gentleman stated that Ireland was necessarily a land of small schools. That was undoubtedly true, but he asked the right hon. Gentleman to imagine the feelings of the teachers who were now being met with this slap across the face. He had received a letter from a teacher in which it was stated that to teach a small school more skill and ability were needed than to conduct a large school, and that letter was written by a gentleman who had taught successfully in both classes of schools. The Irish Members were opposed to the whole system of education in Ireland, they objected to this nominated Board, and they hoped before long to see it swept away and some form of authority established in Ireland responsible to the 1058 people. But pending this reform, they demanded that the fullest information should be given as to the communications that had passed between the Irish Board of National Education and the Treasury, and that they should be laid on the Table of the House. Then there was the question of grants to school buildings. There again the Chief Secretary had done a very substantial thing. They were ten or twelve years fighting to get the building grant for the Irish schools and they were never able to get a penny until the present Chief Secretary came into office. He had obtained for them £40,000 a year for three years. That was not £100,000, but it was better than nothing, and he protested against the theory that because they did not get the whole that they asked for they were therefore to reject and repudiate it—and belabour and beat the man who had given them what they had got. They were, however, promised that they would have a large additional grant from the Irish Development Fund. He remembered that when this fund was commenced he always believed it would be grabbed for all kinds of improper objects. They were promised a considerable addition to the £40,000 a year. But he found that in the Estimates for this year the distribution of the Development Grant was most singular and extraordinary. According to the Estimate there was a balance to the credit of the grant from last year of £91,000, to which was added £185,000, making in all £276,000. Then came the distribution which was made by the Lord-Lieutenant. In the course of the distribution came national school-buildings; £25,000 was the balance of a grant of £70,000, towards the cost of rebuilding necessitous schools in Ireland. That would have given, between the Development Grant and the grant direct from the Treasury, £65,000 towards the building of new and the rebuilding of old schools. That was not £100,000, but it was a good way on. But what was their horror and astonishment to find a reduced Estimate issued only last week, according to which the balance was not £95,000, but £51,000. The £40,000 had disappeared and there was no explanation. That was the result of this kind of finance, and when 1059 he turned to the distribution the unfortunate schools were the sufferers. National school buildings got £5,000; 20,000 had disappeared. What had become of the £40,000 and the £20,000? He objected to the disappearance of the balance of £40,000 and still more strongly to the fact that the loss was immediately saddled on the grants for repairing these unfortunate national schools. Of all the various conditions there was none which illustrated so much the necessity of Home Rule for Ireland as that of education. The education of Ireland had been ruined on every hand by that House. There was not to-day in the whole civilised world a more disgraceful system of education than that in Ireland, and that after 108 years of the government of that House. Yet when they brought forward this supreme and vital question they were faced by an absolutely empty House. It was an intolerable scandal that in these matters which Englishmen did not and could not understand, they would not take the trouble to listen to the debates, and that Irishmen, should not be allowed to settle these matters for themselves.
persisted and on being called on by the Deputy Chairman he asked if the hon. Member was at liberty to raise the whole question of Home Rule.
§ THE DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. CALDWELL,) Lanarkshire, Mid.
As I understand it, it is an incidental allusion.
§ MR. DILLON
said that after more practice in Committee Rooms upstairs the hon. and gallant Member would know what order meant. The debate had been an illustration of the extraordinary attempt to control the affairs of Ireland when great vital questions were treated as the question of education had been treated that day. It was not until some great disturbance arose in Ireland that they could in any 1060 way get the attention of the House of Commons.
§ MR. BIRRELL
We have had a long and interesting debate, in which, of course, there has been a great deal of repetition of arguments, owing to the undoubted fact that everybody has been of the same opinion. That, consequently, has prevented that variety of view which one often notices on Irish questions. I have had a good deal of advice given to me to which I have listened attentively as to the whole duty of a Chief Secretary. Some of the speakers have indicated a view that it is the duty of a Chief Secretary to make himself the spokesman of all the just and legitimate financial demands of the country. I quite agree with that, and I think if my conduct were known, I should be found to have discharged the whole duty of a Chief Secretary in this matter. When one goes to see the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and make these demands, he, of course, meets you with courtesy and consideration, but he points out that you are not the only one of his colleagues who presses demands upon him, he points to the several financial conditions of the country and indicates pretty plainly that he cannot give you an undue preference, adding that were he to concede the demands which he might conceive just and proper, bankruptcy and deficit would stare him in the face. Then the question arises, having regard to these statements, what is the Chief Secretary to do? He has only one course open to him; which course occurs naturally to his mind every week, and that is to tender his resignation, and say he will not be responsible any longer for the government of the country unless his fair financial demands can be instantly met, and that unless all other claims are put on one side and special attention given to him, he will take his seat with a light heart on a back bench, and indulge in that freedom of criticism which is generally noticeable on the part of those who have left the Government. My own opinion is that a person who is always threatening resignation is, after all, somewhat of a coward, and unless he is satisfied that he can do no good in the position he occupies, he had better remain there and bear the brunt of all 1061 criticism directed against him. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin, my predecessor in office and, therefore, always very friendly disposed, so far as political differences will allow, to a man in my position, pointed out—and I accept his view—that it would be absurd for a Chief Secretary to repudiate his colleagues of the Treasury. He has no right to do so, and that was why I admitted that I had a direct responsibility for this Estimate. We do not live in watertight compartments, we are bound one to the other. It is not until you go to a back bench that you have freedom of criticism. If on any particular point you are over-ruled by a Government of which you still remain a member, because the financial necessities do not admit of your request being granted, you have got to put up with it and allow yourself to be criticised and even abused for not having done more for the country you represent. I quite agree with that view. Then the right hon. Gentleman expressed a view with which I do not know if, constitutionally, I can altogether agree. He said that although I was bound to the Treasury, if I succeeded with the Treasury and got a grant of money for Irish purposes, I could waive all their terms and conditions on one side and say: "The money is mine and a fig for your conditions. You promised me £114,000, and it is not for you, but for me, for the Irish Government, to decide what is to be done with it." I cannot agree with that, because one cannot deny the right of the Treasury—it is not necessary to have a few animalculæ in a back room—one cannot deny the right of the Chancellor of the Exchequer——
§ MR. BIRRELL
I will come to that. This is entirely new money. It is not subject to any existing Act of Parliament. It is quite open to the Irish Government and to the Treasury to endow Ireland with new money, and it is open to the Treasury to impose in the Resolution by which the money is voted what terms it likes, which terms become, under the Appropriation Act, part of the law of the land.
§ MR. BIRRELL
It is, at all events, news to me that, if new money is granted by way of a Supplementary Vote on an original Estimate for education in Ireland, it is immediately bound by previous statutory conditions with regard to money paid over to the National Commissioners or anybody else. I imagine, this being new money, it is open to the Treasury to impose what terms they like as to its disposition. I, therefore, cannot altogether agree with the right hon. Gentleman. After all, however, these are matters of constitutional law and learning and are a little bit beside the mark. I do not think it can be taken as a maxim admitted by everybody that, once the Treasury has acceded to the demands of a Chief Secretary with regard to a particular grant for education, it is not for them to impose terms as to the manner in which that fund is to be distributed.
§ MR. BIRRELL
I do not know. It is the Treasury, and that is why I accept the responsibility for this Estimate myself. I apprehend the Treasury would have the power. It goes without saying that any branch of the Government which has the control over money, would have the right to say: "We give you this money upon certain conditions as to its disposition, because we are anxious to procure a particular result." I cannot imagine what power there is in the Constitution to prevent that being done. I pass away from that to the merits of the question. I say at once that I presume the reason, as it has always been explained to me, of the conditions of this Estimate is that the Government is anxious to reduce the number of unnecessary schools in Ireland. No-Body disputes that the figures with regard to schools in Ireland are rather remarkable as compared with Scotland. For example, you find the two countries with practically the same population. In Ireland, with an estimated population of 4,399,000, there are 8,659 schools, 1063 while in Scotland with an estimated population of 4,652,000 there are only 3,240 schools. Therefore, in two countries with practically the same population and, in some respects at all events, in some parts of the country with very similar physical conditions, you have an enormous disparity in the number of schools. I quite agree when you come to investigate the circumstances of the two cases, these figures, although obviously striking, are not really so forcible as some people might suppose, because you find, for example, when you examine the last census, that there are forty towns in Scotland which have a population of over 10,000 each and with a total population of 2,369,705; that is, 52.9 per cent. of the entire population live in towns, whereas Ireland, with a total population nearly equal to that of Scotland, had only twenty-one towns having a population of over 10,000, with a total population of 1,033,232, or 23.2 per cent. of the entire population. In other words, more than one half of the population of Scotland is found in fairly large towns, while under one quarter of the population of Ireland is found in towns of the same size. At the same time, everybody who knows anything about Ireland knows that there are in different parts of the country an unnecessary number of schools. I am not speaking of the desire to send Protestants to Catholic Schools or vice versa, but of schools under the same management. Undoubtedly there are surplus schools in Ireland, and it is a most desirable thing, although a most difficult thing for anybody really interested in the financial position of Ireland, to reduce those schools. I quite agree I have not very warmly attached myself to the terms imposed by this Estimate. I think in all these cases you ought to consider the geographical circumstances and position of the school, and you ought not to punish a school simply because it happens to be in a part of the country which is sparsely inhabited and where you cannot possibly, under any circumstances, have a large average attendance, and where in point of fact you have to make up your minds between having no school at all and having a small one. At the same time I cannot allow it to go forth that there is not a very grave 1064 necessity for the reduction of a very considerable number of these 8,000 odd schools in different parts of Ireland. Nobody, I think, can claim to consider himself an educational reformer in Ireland who is not most anxious to do everything that can be done to reduce the number of these schools. That is one view which has to be borne in mind. Now we come to the actual Estimate. Although I quite agree that there is very much to criticise, I must say that had there been more people in the House they might almost have been led to believe, from what has been said, that the Government are taking away from school teachers pecuniary increment which they at present enjoy instead of making an increase thereto. It has been said that the effect of the proposed distribution will be to shut up schools, but I am not prepared to concede for a moment that those schools will be closed, even although the teachers in them have to go on receiving their present somewhat insufficient salaries. After all, the Committee must recollect that what we are discussing is an additional grant of £114,000 by way of increment to the salaries of school teachers. I quite agree the Irish people are entitled to have a voice in this matter. We are here to consider the most fair mode of distributing this not inconsiderable sum of money. You cannot meet altogether the demands of Ireland. I own I was slightly surprised to hear that a sum of £400,000 would have to be forthcoming before you could place the salaries of teachers in the rural parts of Ireland on the same footing as the salaries of the teachers in the rural parts of Scotland. I do not think that would bear investigation. I think on examination it would be found that there is very little difference, if any, between the salary of a teacher of a comparatively small school in Scotland, and the salary of a teacher of a comparatively small school in Ireland. I am quite willing to admit that £114,000 does not meet the necessities of the case, but, at all events, it is quite as large a sum as was in my mind when I went into the lion's den and addressed the teachers of Ireland. I am bound to say I have always found confidence is strictly observed in Ireland. If you are addressing people there, and you 1065 tell them in confidence you hope to get it for them, they always respect your confidence most scrupulously. I certainly gave many of the teachers cause to believe that some such sum as this—a sum not much exceeding £100,000—would be the very most I should be able to do for them for some time to come, and, though they did not say they would take that as a full discharge of their claims, they did not feel the profound discontent which the language of some speakers in the debate would lead us to suppose. They live on a small income, and they are desirous to get an addition to it to which they are clearly entitled. I think, therefore, so far as the amount of this Estimate goes, it is quite as considerable as in the bottom of their hearts they anticipated getting. It took a good deal of getting, and I certainly pleaded their cause with far greater pertinacity and emphasis than I ever pleaded any cause with which I had personally to do. Therefore, I am glad I have got this sum. It must be remembered also that there was £40,000 given for three years for the building of schools, and the schedule to the Irish Universities Bill. This Government has also produced a Budget which undoubtedly from an Irish point of view is the best they ever had. The reduction of the sugar tax will leave £340,000 a year to fructify in the pocket of the Irish peasant, and, in a literal sense, sweeten the cup of many a poor peasant in Ireland. And then it has been calculated that old-age pensions will represent a sum of something like £700,000 in the case of Ireland. So that, after all, great as has been our debt to Ireland and cruel as has been its treatment, owing chiefly to the ignorance of Ireland in this House in times gone by, I really think we are entitled to say we are doing our best to repay the debt. We have, therefore, got to consider now the best mode of distributing this fund. I cannot at present hold out any promise that it will be enlarged by one penny. I will not play the role of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He has played it himself at this box a good many times during the last week, and we all know what he says, and, having regard to other demands on the Treasury for purposes 1066 connected, it may be, with land purchase, certainly with the Congested Districts Board, with afforestation and other things, it would be very foolish of me to quarrel with the hand which is to feed me. It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman opposite to ask why we should spoil a good job for a miserable £20,000 a year. There are so many miserable £20,000 a year, and they mount up to a considerable sum. Of course were education the only thing which had to be done for Ireland I quite agree it would be a contemptible policy to spoil a good thing by parsimony, but parsimony is sometimes not parsimony at all, but stern necessity. At all events I stand by my colleague in this matter and share his responsibility, happily in a less degree as far as the national finance is concerned, and I am not authorised to increase this fund this year. Therefore, the question simply is, how is it to be distributed. The hon. Member for Mayo said he thought he was entitled to know the opinion of the Commissioners on this subject. I do not mind tolling him that the Commissioners favoured drawing the line at schools of twenty instead of thirty-five. The schools in Ireland with an attendance under ten are only eight; under twenty, 434; under thirty, 1,467; and between thirty and thirty-five, 908. These are the figures of the schools. Now I am bound to confess that I personally very largely share the views expressed by many Members in this House. I am no enemy of small schools, assuming always that they are small by virtue of the physical conditions of the locality. When I was at the Education Office I was often appealed to by small schools which had been suppressed, by perfectly justly economic considerations of county councils—I was appealed to to allow them to continue and I had in my time four or five of those appeals. One appeal was for a school in Bedfordshire where the country is in many parts very bleak and exposed, the roads very high and the weather very often exceedingly severe from falls of snow and otherwise. I never had one of these appeals without being convinced in those cases that those small schools were doing an exceedingly good work, and that the suppression 1067 of them would have meant the suppression of an influence for good. In all those cases my bias was strongly in favour of keeping up the small schools. Here in Ireland I agree in the great majority of cases in the South and West these small schools must exist, and they are most admirable and useful institutions. We might gather from the hon. Member for Mayo that the Government ought to give the biggest amount of the grant to the teachers with the smallest number of pupils. But the teacher with 200 pupils, under him does not get the grant for the whole 200—he might get the capitation fee for about seventy, and the balance is divided amongst the assistant teachers. So he is not such a capitalist as that. But when you come to consider the lot of a teacher with a class say of twenty, I quite agree his duties are most interesting, and he has an opportunity of impressing his personality upon his pupils, and if he is a man of fine character and generous disposition, they will learn more from him than they would do from the teachers perhaps in a very much larger school where there is not the same room for personal influence. The teacher with only twenty pupils, if he is a man of fine character and generous disposition, and takes all the classes, has a greater opportunity of impressing his personality upon his pupils, and he cannot expect the same remuneration as the man in a big school in a crowded locality with all the diverse duties imposed upon him. I feel that you must strike a distinction. Some men think it is better to be a country curate than a bishop. At any rate, the clergyman has the opportunity of enjoying the same simple natural life as the people amongst whom he lives. It is quite impossible to give the teachers in the smaller schools a slight superiority in capitation fee over those in the larger schools. I really think the teachers in the smaller schools derive certain advantages and benefits from their natural, simple lives, and they do not expect so large a remuneration as those who live in crowded localities. I quite agree with what has been said about the grading rule. Having had an opportunity of discussing the point with the Commissioners I think that any rule that 1068 prevents promotion or stereotypes a man for ever in a particular class of school is, in my opinion, a great mistake. It may very well be that a young teacher develops his teaching abilities better in a small school when he takes all the classes and exercises sole control. But if he is stuck there for the rest of his life, without chance of promotion, that would be a harsh rule. The Treasury, however, has nothing to do with that, but I will certainly see whether some reconsideration may not be given to the point, although I have no control over the Board of Commissioners. I think it is not only a harsh rule, but it is a very foolish rule in the interests of the Treasury. I now come to the question of what is to be done in regard to this matter. The Commissioners propose that the capitation fee should be divided in a way that would leave out 442 schools. I have been brought up in the Court of Equity, where I was taught that equality is equity, and equity is equality, and my own natural disposition is to see this sum, extracted not without toil, distributed amongst the teachers, but whether all the teachers should be included, or whether those in the schools of under twenty scholars should be left out, is a matter which requires to be most carefully considered. Unlike one of my colleagues I cannot take the sense of the House whilst standing on my legs. There is not much in the point, but it must be borne in mind that I cannot get any more money. If I do what I have promised, the capitation fee will have to be reduced, but I really think there is sufficient solidarity and esprit de corps among the teachers to be willing for the present to submit to this reduction. I do not know that I can usefully say more than that now. The course I propose to take is to withdraw the Estimate in its present shape and, after consultation with the Commissioners of National Education, to bring it up again in a form including all schools. I must repudiate the idea suggested by an hon. Member from Ulster that there is in the policy of the Treasury any hostility to the schools of the Church of Ireland. Whatever the Treasury may be, and it has many faults, it at any rate is a most undenominational body, and the idea that the Treasury would wage war upon the 1069 schools of a particular denomination in order to destroy them is altogether out of the question. Undoubtedly what the Treasury has in mind, and what every educational reformer in Ireland must have in mind is the desire to reduce the unnecessary number of schools in particular parts of Ireland. I could give instances, but I do not want to rouse the denominational spirit. In some places there are as many as four schools belonging to four different Protestant denominations. The object to be aimed at—unpopular though it may be—is to get the children of these districts into two schools—if not into one—instead of into four; and I am glad, to notice a disposition among some of the Protestant bodies to bring about a reduction of school staffs by amalgamation. The duplication of staffs is a great and undoubted evil, arid it cannot be denied that we were justified in putting a certain amount of pressure upon the Board to pursue that subject. Whether the right way of putting on that pressure was to reduce the increments of the teachers is a subject which it is not now necessary for me, having acceded to the general wish of the House, to deal any further with. I hope, however, I may be allowed to obtain the first Vote on the Paper, and then I will bring up the Supplementary Vote in the form I have suggested.
I am afraid I do not quite understand the point of order. The question put from the Chair is the Supplementary Vote.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Quite so. You only put the question, as I understand 1070 it, that the sum of £114,000 be granted to His Majesty for the service stated. You do not attach to it all the embroidery attached to it by the Treasury.
§ MR. DILLON
The Chief Secretary offered to consult all parties. If the Vote is withdrawn now, we shall have an opportunity of saying something about it again. If we vote the money now, we shall not be able to do it.
§ MR. BIRRELL
I cannot agree to withdraw the Vote now, for I want to say a word upon a question which excites very strong interest. It was referred to by the hon. Member for East Clare, namely, the sad state of many of the schools in Ireland, particularly in wet and cold weather. The weather in Ireland is not particularly cold, but it is extraordinarily wet. I have seen the thing for myself, and I know about it from conversation with inspectors. They have often told me that in going into one of these schools on a soaking wet day, and finding the children cowering in clothes saturated with damp round a miserable turf fire, they felt that, in the interest of the children themselves, the best thing was to tell them to go home and forego the inestimable benefits of education for that day. That is a very shocking state of things, and, of course, a claim has been put forward for the heating of the schools. But it is impossible to overlook the fact that in Ireland there is no such thing as a school rate, and that it was undoubtedly always contemplated that the form which the local contribution would take would be in seeing, as a matter of parochial pride, that the schools should not be in the lamentable condition in which I have solemnly to admit they are. Prone as I am to love everything Irish, I cannot in this matter exonerate the local authorities from considerable responsibility. The sums required are not large. The people left to themselves 1071 are a generous people—the most generous I have ever been brought into contact with, most generous to one another; but they have got the notion that everything that has to be paid for in connection with the schools should come from the British Exchequer, and they have forgotten—I do not blame them; people do forget these things—perhaps some of them did not even know, that it was certainly always the understanding that, there being no school rate in Ireland—though there are rates now for labourers' cottages and the like which they bear with astonishing patience—they should look after the comfort of the children. I think they ought to have brought home to them that it is something of a shame that they should allow the children to whom they are so deeply attached to incur the risks of tuberculosis and those other terrible diseases which ravish the children of Ireland, and that they have as much obligation to the children and their school-house as to anything else they hold dear. Although I have pressed this case, and I daresay shall continue to do so, I find it difficult to resist the argument that it is really a matter in which the Irish people might, at no great cost to themselves, be brought to take a personal care and interest. I have at all events, failed in obtaining the grant I sought for. I would have liked to have been able to make some proposal in regard to this; but I hope the words I have said will not be taken amiss by any Irishman or lover of Ireland. Other little matters have been referred to. I listened to what the hon. Member said about the Christian Brothers. He told me the other day that he might take the opportunity of referring to them. I have seen what has been said by my predecessors at different times in regard to them, but I do not require to learn from them, for I have seen for myself whilst in Ireland, the schools of the Christian Brothers over and over again. I have seen their famous school 1072 in Cork. Everybody who sees their schools appreciates their value, and the part they have played for many a long day in Irish education. Although I am on terms of friendship with the Christian Brothers they have never approached me and I am not certain what their views are. I think they value their freedom. The hon. Member was careful to say that he did not represent their views to me. I also wish I had a little more freedom myself, for I value it. They do a great work in Ireland. Parents prefer their schools partly because they carry out their work in their own way without being bothered by the public authorities. Although so far as inspection as to the value of their educational work is concerned, they have been willing to submit to it, I am not sure what their views are on the subject, and were they to present them to me, I should consider them most sympathetically, I do not think that the books used in the schools represent the difficulty it was at one time. I think we have got past that, always assuming that the books are educational and up to the mark. I cannot think that there will be any difficulty on that ground, because the opinion is exploded as to children using the same books from the north to the south of Ireland. With reference to the sacred emblems of religion, that is a matter I am not now going into. I do not know what the feeling in Ireland now is on the subject, but I certainly share the opinion expressed by more than one of my predecessors upon the value of the work done by the Christian Brothers, and were I assured that they were desirous of parting to some extent with the complete freedom which they now enjoy I would be willing to consider any proposal they might make. Having regard to the great work they do in Ireland, I think it would be impertinent on my part to express anything more than I have done.
§ MR. BIRRELL
I am sorry that, this not being on the Vote, I have not the material before me to answer the hon. Member's Question. I have taken a note of what the hon. Member said, and I expect that I shall be able to tell him of the missing £35,000 when inquiry has been made. Something was said about an appeal in the case of Protestant teachers. That is a very important question, and I am all in favour of a schoolmaster feeling that he is not liable to be dismissed by the arbitrary will of anybody, because we all know that in scholastic matters tempers are often short and hasty things may sometimes be done. In the case of the Catholics there is a willingness to submit any case of dispute to the bishop of the diocese. Roughly speaking, it may be said that the appeal to the bishop is satisfactory. The only thing is to find an equally satisfactory appeal in the case of the Protestant community. I understood the hon. Member for South Belfast to say that the teachers were prepared with an appellate jurisdiction but that the managers did not agree; but I am quite willing to put the case again to the Education Commissioners.
§ MR. BIRRELL
I know that difficulties have arisen. I quite understand that the teachers and the managers are not quite agreed at present as to whom they should appeal to; but I will refer it again to the Commissioners, and I hope some satisfactory appellate Court will be found. It is, however, a little too much to put on the Commissioners 1074 the duty of finding a Court for two rival parties in which each has equal confidence, and it would be rather difficult to force a Court on one of the parties if that party was indisposed to accept a decision of that Court as final. It is a matter for negotiation, but it is a most important matter to come to some speedy decision about. My hon. friend the Member for East Kerry was a little troubled about the licensed house question. I am bound to say that I think it is preeminently undesirable that any one occupying the position of a teacher should be directly or indirectly, or even accidentally, connected with a public house. I am assured by the Commissioners that their rule has not really had any retrospective effect, and, therefore, I must, for once, stand by the recognised authorities. I feel that this debate has been useful, though I do not know whether there will be any sore hearts over it. I believe that the Committee has exercised a wise judgment in being so comparatively unanimous on the subject; and I hope good will come out of a decision which will, at all events, not carry with it to anybody the sense of injustice. I am quite with the decision of the House that the Government has done its best.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said that the Chief Secretary had made a reference to a remark he had made earlier in the debate in which he thought the right hon. Gentleman had somewhat misrepresented him. First of all, he wished to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the dexterous way in which he had extricated himself and his colleagues out of a somewhat difficult position. He was very glad he had seen fit to change the attitude of the Government and make the valuable concession he had promised, but he regretted very much that the right hon. Gentleman was not able to go a little further and get the extra £25,000 which would have enabled the 1075 poorer teachers in the smaller schools to get a pro rata addition without deducting anything from the teachers in the larger schools. The right hon. Gentleman had poured contempt on his description of the £20,000 that was wanted for the smaller schools, but the right hon. Gentleman had forgotten that earlier in his period of office he had extracted from the Treasury a promise of £680,000 to sweeten the Government of Ireland—a great portion of which was intended for education.
§ MR. BIRRELL
If the right hon. Gentleman wants to know the sad history of the past, that £650,000 was calculated on the basis of giving £100,000 to education.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said that Ireland no doubt would have benefited enormousl by getting the £650,000, but the right hon. Gentleman might have been able to get the extra £20,000 or £25,000 for the smaller schools. He was, however, very glad that the right hon. Gentleman had made the concession he had. With regard to his view that the Irish Government ought to maintain their own right to distribute the money conceded by the Treasury, the Chief Secretary said that the Treasury had only exercised its constitutional right. With great respect to the right hon. Gentleman, who was a high constitutional authority, he did not admit that for a moment, his view being that where a Government Department, whether it was the Irish Government, the War Office, the Admiralty, or any other, had established its right to Government money for a particular purpose it rested with the Department to distribute the money for the purpose defined. Supposing that the Treasury granted money for educational purposes in Ireland, it would be quite wrong for the Irish Government to spend it, for instance, in the establishment of hospitals, but it should have 1076 the right to decide how it should be applied educationally. That was exactly what had happened in this case, because it was the Chief Secretary and not the Treasury who had announced the change of policy to which they had listened. Therefore the action of the Committee was a vindication of the view he had put forward, and he hoped that the step the right hon. Gentleman had taken would help in asserting the right of every Minister to distribute money granted for a particular purpose within his own Department in the way that he thought most beneficial, efficacious, and just. He thought that the Chief Secretary had somewhat misunderstood his hon. friend behind him when he referred to the Church schools. His hon. friend had not for a moment suggested that there was any covert attack made on the Church of Ireland schools. What his hon. friend referred to was that in some parts of Ireland the operation of the Supplementary Estimate would have a severe effect on Church of Ireland schools. They had held very strongly that if the money were distributed as had been proposed it would operate very unfairly on a very deserving class that could not defend itself, and he rejoiced that the Chief Secretary had receded from that position.
§ THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. HOBHOUSE,) Bristol, E.
said that he spoke on behalf of a Department that must always be an unpopular one, because it had to control rather than encourage expenditure. After an experience of a month or two at the Treasury he would not have ventured to lay down any rule unless he had had behind him the experience of the Department. He ventured to assert that during the time of office of the late Chief Secretary it had lever been successfully held by any Department that the Treasury was not entitled not merely to interfere in the 1077 gross amount of the sum to be expended, but to criticise the method in which that sum was to be spent, and to make conditions that it should be spent in a certain way.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said it was well known that the Treasury and the various Departments had their negotiations, and in every case there was behind all the authority of the Cabinet, who settled whether the Department or the Treasury was to have the final word.
§ MR. HOBHOUSE
said that that imparted an aspect which the right hon. Gentleman had not put before the House. Nothing had been said of the power and authority of the Cabinet.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said he had no hesitation in thanking the Chief Secretary for the efforts he had made to improve education in Ireland. He recognised that he had made great efforts, and that he had given great assistance to the national schoolmasters; he had given them about three times as much as had been given to University education. There was, however, no doubt that the Treasury had been a curse in the life of Ireland, and he thought they must take some stand against the growing attitude the Treasury was assuming of attempting to legislate for the country. That was why he now said it would be better from the constitutional point of view that when grants were given to Ireland they should not have a fresh Estimate put forward and a fresh attempt at legislation. He denied altogether that the Treasury was entitled to say how this money should be spent. The Appropriation Act had been referred to as legalising what had been done in this case. He denied that. He recollected that when Mr. Gladstone, in 1881, sought to increase the salaries of certain resident magistrates he argued that it was legalised, first, by the passage of a 1078 Resolution in Committee, and then by the Appropriation Act, but in the result the Comptroller-General disallowed the amounts, and Mr. Gladstone brought in a Bill to legalise the payments, and it was defeated. That was not a precedent in favour of the Government, but against them. To bring forward a fresh Estimate and to say that by it schools with twenty or thirty scholars were to have money allocated to them in a particular way would be illegal. The Treasury must remember that Ireland had certain rights under the Act of 1817 by which the Irish and British Exchequers were amalgamated. The Chief Secretary misinterpreted the feeling of the Nationalist Members if he supposed they were ungrateful to him.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
expressed a hope that next year the Chief Secretary might be able to increase the amount of the Vote. The right hon. Gentleman having met the Nationalists in regard to the allocation of the grant, he advised his hon. friend to withdraw the Amendment.
§ MR. BYLES (Salford, N.)
said that year after year Irish Members brought before the House the gross inequality with which Ireland was treated in regard to education, and they were met with sympathetic speeches by the Chief Secretary, but still with a non possumus. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that while he was called the King of Ireland he was not the King of the Cabinet, and that he could not get what he wanted. As an English Member he listened year after year to these stories of injustice with sorrow and a sense of shame. Parliament had been justly charged with gross injustice. Why should a child because he was born on the other side of the Irish Channel be handicapped in his opportunity for primary education? He knew these country schools in Ireland where the little children with bare feet, 1079 and often scantily clothed, stood on the clay floor, their only comfort being the miserable turf fire, and then he thought of the council schools in England, and the infinite opportunities given to the English child, and he wanted to know why the Irish child should be treated with this inequality. The English nation ought to feel their responsibilities in this matter and to be ashamed to be charged with gross injustice. They ought to say: "We are rich and they are poor. We are a big country, and they are a small and despised people." ["No."] He would be only too glad if that word could be withdrawn, but he was only too afraid there was some truth in it. They were in the minority, and they came a great distance to plead their case, but they kicked against the pricks and could do nothing. They came and laid their case before the Government and were met with a non possumus. ["No."] He thought hon. Members next year would have very nearly the same tale of injustice to unfold. If it were not so, he would be only too glad. He asked Members of English constituencies to consider this argument. The Irish child had just as strong a claim as the English child and ought to be just as well educated.
§ MR. O'DOWD (Sligo, S.)
said he knew female National teachers of high training—teachers who had increased the efficiency of their schools to a considerable extent, but whose services as principal teachers were discontinued solely because the average required by the Commissioners of National education could not be reached. This meant, in a number of cases, the abolition of separate female schools, and the practical dismissal of teachers. Parents who objected to have their daughters sent to mixed schools were placed in a position of great inconvenience, especially in rural districts, where children had had to travel for miles in order to reach female schools. He hoped the matter would be inquired into.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ £670,818, to complete the sum for Public Education, Ireland.
§ Resolution to be reported upon Monday next; Committee to Sit again upon Monday next.