HC Deb 09 January 1913 vol 46 cc1354-5

asked the Chief Secretary if, in connection with the coming inquiry into primary education, the Irish Government is prepared to give a guarantee that no teacher or official will, as the result of his action in giving evidence or supplying information, be subjected to annoyance or financial loss by the Commissioners of National Education or their officials?


Although I cannot think it likely that any witness at the coming inquiry would be exposed to the risk of annoyance or loss on account of any evidence given by Mm necessary for the purpose of enabling the inquiry to be carried on, I will see what can be done to give to witnesses the assurances they may properly require.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether there will be an undertaking that these teachers will not be unjustly treated if they come forward to give evidence?


The National Board of Education are in a certain sense the em- ployers of these teachers, and any undertaking of that sort would have to be given by them. There is no Statute I am aware of which confers on me power to give that assurance, but I have little doubt that all proper and necessary assurances will be given.


Will the right hon. Gentleman ask the National Commissioners to give that assurance? That is really the point.


I do not think my hon. Friend grasps the point. I will do what I can, but one must act judiciously in the matter.


Will the right hon. Gentleman give a guarantee to the teachers that their future advancement will not be prejudiced by any evidence they may give?


Well, Sir, I am told that guarantees are not of much use, but I am most anxious that this inquiry should be properly conducted, and I can quite well understand that teachers will be rather sensitive on the subject. I am most anxious that they should receive from the proper quarter such assurances as will enable them to give evidence fully and freely.


Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that in the Committees holding inquiries upstairs, such as that into the Postal servants question, assurances are always given from the chair that all employés shall be free to give evidence without any fear of punishment by the Postal authorities? Why should a different course be followed in regard to the teachers?


There is no question of a different course. It is a question as to what power, statutory or otherwise, I have, or anybody has, to give a guarantee or promise. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I am not aware of any Statute, Standing Order, or anything else, whereby a commission of this sort, which is simply instituted by warrant of the Lord Lieutenant, can give such an assurance.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the loss and annoyance are not so likely to come to an independent teacher from the National Commissioners as from a Roman Catholic clerical manager?