Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £528,600, 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, 1921, for the Expenses of the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland, including Grants in Aid of the Teachers' Pension Fund, Ireland.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL for IRELAND (Mr. Denis Henry)
The sum which the Committee are asked to vote arises owing to the fact that a Viceregal Commission was appointed in 1918 to consider the question of the salaries and pensions of the teachers in Ireland, both male and female, and that Commission reported recommending certain increases of salary. The increases in the first instance were not granted by the Treasury, but the teachers appealed to the Arbitration Board, and in the month of Septem- 1857 ber last the Arbitration Board directed the Treasury to agree on a certain sum with the teachers in the matter of salaries. The result of that agreement involves an increase of £528,600 to the teachers' salaries, and that is the sum for which we ask. I should mention that the increase has been spread over a period of three years, and the third, representing the increase for the first year, amounts to £528,600. The English teachers' salaries have also been increased, but In the case of the Irish increase it is provided to be one-third for each year for three years, and this sum of £528,600 represents the figure arrived at as the result of negotiations between the teachers and the Treasury.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
What the Committee is asked to grant to-night is not merely the sum of £528,600, but £1,585,800. That is what we are committed to, although we are only asked to vote a third of that sum now, but it is not conceivable that once the authority for the first third is given, there is any likelihood of the other two-thirds being refused. Am I right in the assumption that when the original Estimate was passed the Department concerned did not know there was likely to be an increase of a further £500,000 This would seem to be the second Supplementary Estimate which has been asked for by the Irish Education Department this year, and I should like to know what is the meaning of this exceptionally bad calculation on the part of the Department, which requires them to come down twice to this Committee for Supplementary grants. Under the Act which was passed some little time ago for obtaining better order in Ireland, and dealing with the retention of grants, is there contained power to hold back these particular grants?
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
Do I understand that, notwithstanding the disturbed state of Ireland, the education of children is still going on?
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I am very glad, indeed, to hear that, and I hope that nothing will happen to disturb that. It is some evidence that things are not as bad in Ireland as they are painted, and 1858 if the children go to school, there is some hope for the country. Personally, I do not raise any objection to these additional payments to the Irish teachers, because there is no doubt at all that the teachers on this side of the Channel have just cause to complain of their inadequate remuneration, but the under-payment of teachers in Ireland has been a scandal, which is only now being partially remedied. You cannot get anything like moderately good education out of teachers who are so grossly under-paid. Even in these times of monetary stress, I feel that while some economies might be effected in many directions, and even in the Education Department, I cannot oppose this Supplementary Estimate. It is quite clear from what my right hon. Friend says that this particular Supplementary Estimate is the result of an arbitration which only reported in September last, and therefore this could not have been in actual figures foreseen when the original Estimate was put before us.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I think it is quite clear that there have been two bad shots at the amount which would be required for the Estimate for public education in Ireland this year, because, first of all, we had the original Vote, which was £3,358,371, then we had a Supplementary Estimate of £557,290, and now we have the further sum of £528,600, which is the second Supplementary Estimate within 12 months. It is quite possible that this second Estimate may be necessary, but it shows the very bad business habits of the Irish Education Office, that they should not have been able to come to a correct conclusion as to what the actual sum they would require during the year for the purposes of education would be. I remember very well that in the old days it was always considered to be a sign of inefficiency in any public Department which was constantly bringing in Supplementary Estimates. I am not certain, but I should say that it is very rare that a Department brings in two Supplementary Estimates for the same service in any given financial year. My right hon. Friend opposite says he is glad to hear that the children in Ireland are still receiving education. I do not think the education they receive, or which their fathers and relations have received, has so far done them much good.
1859 There might be an exception in the case of hon. Members on these Benches.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I do not quite follow the interruption of the hon. Gentleman, unless it is that the people who represent Belfast are no good. I do not agree with that. I should have thought, so far as I know them, that they were more or less the pick of Ireland, and that they had taken advantage of the opportunity given them in education. I should certainly say that the majority of the people in Ireland had been taught wrongly, or if they had not been taught wrongly that they were born wrongly. I would prefer to believe that it was not natural sin born within them, but that the education authorities had given them wrong instructions. However that may be, we ought to have some further explanation of this Estimate from the learned Attorney-General. I hope he will tell us why it is necessary to have these two Supplementary Estimates in a given year. I do not wish to introduce extraneous matters, but I do not know whether we shall be in a position next year to discuss Irish education, or whether it will be discussed in a Parliament in Ireland. If it is discussed in this Parliament, I hope we shall get an assurance that the Vote will be introduced after due and careful consideration, and that it will not be necessary to have two Supplementary Estimates.
§ Mr. LYNN
I think the right hon. Baronet has forgotten that Lewis has recently gone dry, and therefore the hon. Member (Dr. Murray) does not understand how things have been done in Ireland and what things are happening there. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman (Sir D. Maclean) that the teachers of Ireland have been very badly paid. No class of people in the United Kingdom has been worse paid. A good deal of the trouble has been due to the fact that we have had an underpaid staff of teachers in Ireland. When one looks at the salaries paid to them, the wonder really is that they have not been more disloyal. Complaint has been made with regard to the Government not having estimated for this thing. So far as we are concerned, our withers are unwrung, because we tried two years ago to induce 1860 the Government to increase the salaries of these teachers, who are getting a miserable pittance. Hon. Members on the Labour benches will agree that these people have not been paid the trade union rate of wages. If our young people are to be properly educated, it is important that we should have a staff of teachers who are competent, efficient, well paid, and content. I am glad the right hon. Gentleman who represents the Liberal party agrees that this should be done. Speaking for an Irish constituency, I say that the grant is fair, but I would like to have seen it even larger. I wish to ask the Attorney-General why it is that secondary teachers are not being better treated. The Government are to be congratulated on dealing generously with the primary teachers, but they have treated the secondary teachers very shabbily.
This is a very considerable sum, which will have to be paid out of the national pocket, and I would like to ask, what proportionate effect is it likely to have on the Irish rates themselves? How far are Irishmen in various parts of the country contributing out of their rates towards education at the present time? I fully agree with what my hon. Friend opposite has said on the subject of education. I congratulate the Attorney-General on this increase for educational purposes in those parts of Ireland which have been very badly neglected in the past as regards education. So far as I understand the Irish Question, it has been one of many troubles that you cannot get the Irish themselves to display sufficient interest to come down here and exert pressure on the Government in order to obtain a proper amount of money for education. The empty bench below me is the best example you can possibly have. Here is money going to be expended in the interests of the Irish people, yet not a single Nationalist Member takes the trouble to come and support the right hon. Gentleman. Under the Home Rule Bill what chance is there of this sum being passed on to the Irish people themselves to pay? I have always been rather vague as to the precise position under the financial Clauses of that Bill. Before we vote this sum of money, we should know whether it is likely to be a permanent charge on the British tax- 1861 payer or whether, in due course, the Irish will be able to take up their own burden and carry it themselves in future.
I wish to say, on behalf of the teachers of Ireland, how much this action of the Government will be appreciated. It is exactly twenty-eight years ago since anything was done in the way of improving educational facilities in Ireland. In the meantime Scotland and England have advanced by leaps and bounds in that direction. It might surprise the Committee to tell them that if Ireland were to receive her equivalent grant, according to the Goschen ratio, instead of having £500,000, as compared with Scotland, she would be getting nearly £2,000,000. Compared with England, if Ireland got her equivalent grant, instead of £500,000, she would receive nearly £1,000,000. So that the Government is not asking for a Vote which is in any way extravagant as compared with the grants given to England and Scotland. Questions have been asked with reference to the Supplementary Vote to be found in H.C.148. I would like to remind the House that £200,000 of that money was granted out of War bonus and introduced in the House as War bonus. Those who are responsible for education in Ireland saw that the teachers were being starved at the beginning of the year; that their salaries, commencing for women at £64 and for men at £78 a year, could not be lived on, and not until this year did the Irish teachers get any War bonus That was an additional sum that was granted. The remainder was an interim grant in anticipation of the standardisation of salaries, and that is how the H.C.148 Supplementary Grant was passed in this House.
I would like to say how much we on these benches appreciate the remarks which fell from the right hon. Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean) with regard to teachers in Ireland. They were thoroughly sympathetic, and I believe he meant every word of them. On 24th February of this year a Bill for Irish Education was introduced into this House. Day after day, when Mr. Speaker put it from the Chair, the Noble Lord who has charge of the business invariably said "To-morrow." It is "To-morrow" still, and it will be for ever "To-morrow" so far as that Education Bill is concerned.
1862 This is the only thing, probably, that we will get from this House by way of an education grant. It is at least something that the teachers know that the House appreciates all that they have been doing, under the most difficult and trying circumstances, in Ireland, and by the passing of this Vote in a unanimous way these teachers in Ireland will appreciate it all the more.
May I say one word to supplement the remarks which fell from my hon. Friend the Member for the Woodvale Division (Mr. Lynn) upon the question of secondary education? Bad as is the position of the primary teachers, the secondary teachers are in a very much worse position. The primary teachers have pensions which are very small at the moment, but the improvement now in the salaries will eventually improve the teachers' pensions. Secondary teachers, after twenty years' teaching, have no pensions, and I am only sorry that we have not got the equivalent grant to which we are entitled as compared with England and Scotland, and then you would not only have to-night the consideration of the improved salaries for primary teachers, but we would also have sufficient money out of that equivalent grant to deal with secondary teachers. In conclusion, may I say how much we on these benches appreciate the action of the Government in dealing with this much vexed question? Teachers appreciate it, I can assure the Committee, more than they can possibly express, and I trust the Vote will pass unanimously.
Mr. TYSON WILSON
The Government are sometimes charged, and rightly charged, with being extravagant, but on this occasion I do not think they can be charged with extravagance. This Vote is only an act of innate justice. I remember in January of this year, when I was over in Ireland with some friends of mine, we met representatives of teachers from different parts of Ireland, and heard the pitiful story of the payment they receive. They said that unless something were done, and done quickly, they would take as many positions in this country as they possibly could, and I believe quite a number of teachers have come over to this country from Ireland to teach in English schools on account of the higher salaries paid here. We have to recognise that, if we want good 1863 teachers in our schools, either in this country or in Ireland, if we wish to attract good teachers, we must pay them a decent salary. So far as we are concerned, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman we shall not offer the least opposition to the passing of this Vote, and I am sure that, while the amount of the increase granted may not be considered adequate, I am quite certain the increase will be fully appreciated by the teachers in Ireland.
§ Sir W. WHITLA
I am surprised and delighted with the last speaker's remarks. It is quite refreshing to find that he has at length repented. I do not think it would be treating the Committee fairly if we did not disclose the situation in Ireland. England raises from her rates a sum almost equivalent to the grant for primary education. Scotland raises a sum equivalent to something like three-fourths of the grant given by the Treasury. Ireland receives the same amount proportionally, but she, owing to religious difficulties, has not any power to strike a rate. Consequently, all these teachers have been starving. It is a scandal to the nation and to this House. When the last speaker was addressing the House, I could not help remembering that when a Bill was brought in to remedy this state of affairs and to enable us in the North of Ireland to strike a rate, so that the teachers could be paid, it was blocked by the Labour party. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!" and "Yes!"] However, we may rejoice in this Supplementary Estimate, which partially removes a very great scandal and grievance. I do not think that scandal is anything to compare with the scandal of the treatment of the secondary teachers. The position of the secondary teachers is truly appalling. When we recognise that these primary teachers, who have been devoting their whole lives? the teaching, especially of the working classes, and that those who are not in the workhouse are driven to exist on an average pension of something like £40 a year, it is a state of affairs which ought to be remedied. I would beg the Attorney-General to bring in a Supplementary Estimate for the secondary teachers, whose case is even more urgent than that of the primary teachers.
I need hardly say that I am heartily in sympathy with the giving of 1864 this money to improve the position of the teachers in Ireland; the thing is very much to the point—and certainly in respect to the secondary teachers. My hon. Friend who spoke honoured me with a cryptic reference to the Island of Lewis—the third largest island of Great Britain— having gone dry. In Belfast it appeared to me, when I was there, that there were about ten times as many public-houses as schools. The difference between that place and the Island of Lewis is that on the island there are ten times as many schools as public-houses. I am not at all sure, in respect to Scotland, that there is not a big fallacy underlying this matter, and it is that about which I got up to ask. I agree that more money should be paid to the teachers. But does not Ireland get an advantage in other ways? Should there not be in this matter, when Ireland gets a grant, an equivalent grant given to Scotland, and also, possibly, to England? Certainly, if England were interested in education, for I do not believe in giving money to countries which are not so interested! England never worries about it. If we got an equivalent grant for Scotland the teachers might have it, and so it would help; or it would help to reduce the rates in some of the districts. The fact that there are 30,000 children in Belfast for whom accommodation cannot be found seems to reflect on the energies of the distinguished journalists from Ulster whom I see on the opposite Benches.
§ Mr. HENRY
Several questions have been put to me. I shall endeavour to answer them. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the City referred to the fact that there had already been a Supplementary Estimate this year. I thought I had pointed out that the sum in the first Supplementary Estimate was for additional war bonus for the teachers to the extent of £191,000, and an interim grant for the year 1919–20 in anticipation of a standardised scale of salaries for £345,000. The present Supplementary Estimate is in respect of the year 1919–20. It only arose in the month of September, the former Estimate having been presented to the House in July.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
But is this not very much out of order, bringing in in July, 1920, an Estimate for the previous financial year? Ought not that Supplementary Estimate to have been brought in before March of this year?
§ Sir F. BANBURY
That makes it worse. How do we know that next year we may not have another Supplementary Estimate for this year?
§ Mr. HENRY
There is no double vote —no second vote for the same items. My hon. Friend the Member for Tavistock asked me about the rates. There is no rate raised in Ireland for education. The cost falls upon the State. These charges will have to be borne by the Irish Department, and will fall upon the English taxpayer.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Before the Vote is carried, may I call the attention of the Committee to what seems to me to be a very serious position? I do not know about an equivalent grant for Scotland or England, but the extraordinary position is this, that the? money put into the pockets of the ratepayers does not reduce the cost!
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I was not discussing it. I was my hon. Friends below me. All I was going to say was that the grievances of Ireland seem to me to be disappearing, because so far as I can make out the whole sum spent on Irish education comes 1866 out of our pockets. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] In the event of Ireland becoming a little more civilised it would not be a bad place to live in.
§ Question put, and agreed to.