HL Deb 09 August 1875 vol 226 cc728-41

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, it was unnecessary for him at this time of day to occupy their Lordships with remarks on the subject of the advantages of education. These might now be taken for granted, and he thought there was quite as general a concurrence of opinion as to the necessity of having good teachers if you wanted satisfactory results to follow from a system of national education. The Bill now before their Lordships had immediate reference to teachers, and it came up from the other House of Parliament under circumstances rather peculiar in the case of any Bill, but more especially so in the case of one applying solely to Ireland. A complete unanimity prevailed in respect of the Bill in the other House of Parliament. He was convinced that if the Irish Members had not felt satisfied that the measure was one which would be of advantage to Ireland, it would not have passed through that other House without some—not to say considerable—opposition. He was afraid, however, that the unanimity which prevailed in "another place" with reference to this Bill did not extend itself to their Lordships' House, for his noble Friend be-hind him (the Earl of Donoughmore) had given Notice of his intention to move its rejection. He thought the principle that there should be local assistance in aid of Imperial grants for the purposes of national education was one which could not be controverted. That from the first this had been intended in Ireland was clear from the letter of the late Lord Derby, issued at the time of the foundation of the Irish national system, because in that letter it was pointed out that the schoolmaster should be paid mainly by the district, the State adding a gratuity. The fact, however, was that 85 per cent of the cost of national education in Ireland was now paid by the State, only 15 per cent of that cost being raised by local efforts. That was a very much larger State contribution than anything we had a notion of in reference to national education in England, and he really did not see why the principle of helping those who helped themselves should not be applied to Ireland as well as to this country in the matter of education. In 1868 a Royal Commission recommended that attention should be given to the subject of local contributions to education in Ireland, and he could not help thinking that that would be legislation in the right and proper direction. He was at a loss to know what objections could be urged against this measure If it was objected that it was a question which ought to have been dealt with earlier in the Session, he would only point out that some Bills must give precedence to others, and that it would be impossible to fix a period in the Session after which no legislation should take place. He had, however, to remind their Lordships that so early as the month of March his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant gave utterance clearly and unmistakably in "another place" to the views which were embodied in the Bill now before their Lordships' House. It might be said that the Bill could have been discussed in Ireland if it had been brought forward earlier; but his answer to that was that the way in which to obtain a full and fair discussion for the Bill in Ireland was to pass it. When it became law it would be at once the duty of the Local Government Board in Ireland to write to every Board of Guardians in Ireland to point out to them what they could do under this Bill, and thus the whole subject would be taken up and discussed. He understood that another objection to the Bill was founded on the allegation that the incidence of taxation which it proposed was not the right one—namely, that the levy for the purposes of education ought to be in the county cess, and not in the poor rate as proposed by the Bill. He believed, however, that the proposition in the Bill was the right one, because when levied in the poor rate the sums raised for educational purposes would fall one-half on the owner and one-half on the occupier, while if they were levied in the county cess they would fall entirely on the occupier. The Bill had one peculiarity which ought to commend itself to their Lordships—namely, that it was entirely permissive in its character. The Boards of Guardians might avail themselves of it or not. If the Guardians resolved that they would contribute out of the poor rates one-third of the full amount to the payment of the teachers in national schools, they would do so in the manner provided by one of the clauses in the Bill; and if, after a certain time, they declined to go on, they could give notice to rescind the resolution which they had previously come to. There was a clause at the end of the Bill which dealt with teachers of Poor Law Union national schools, and which would be the means of bringing them within its purview. He felt that this was a step in the right direction, and therefore hoped their Lordships would assent to the second reading.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Lord President.)


My Lords, I have not the excuse of having previously come forward on any matter connected with the National Board for presenting myself now, but hope for a few moment's indulgence on the ground of great interest; I might say, in the belief that some of your Lordships, who hold bygone days in remembrance, will allow the claim—an hereditary interest in the main question of primary education in Ireland. And although my observations on the proposal before the House will not be in its favour, or in accordance with the views of the promoters of this Bill, still I can confidently state that they do not contain solely my own opinion in the matter. From opportunities I have had of consulting those who are interested in this question, I am happy to find the objections which I feel it my duty to bring forward to-night very generally entertained. My noble Friend the noble Duke is quite right in supposing that many consider—and that is an opinion in which I fully concur—that a measure of such vital importance which requires such delicate handling, and in dealing with which any mistake would lead to such serious consequences, should not have been introduced into your Lordships' House at this period of the Session, at a time when it is impossible for many who might be desirous of stating their views to come forward and do so. There is not, I should hope, a single Member of your Lordships' House who would not testify to the extreme difficulty of dealing with any matter connected with education in Ireland, and any hasty or ill-judged step must inevitably lead to present dissatisfaction, and largely increased difficulty in the future. Those of your Lordships who have studied this Bill will have perceived that its object is to enable Boards of Guardians to put their unions under voluntary contribution to results fees in the proportion of one-third of the sum granted annually by Government by way of results fees to such union. Now, I would ask your Lordships to turn your attention to this matter from two points of view—first, as to what probability there is of Boards of Guardians availing themselves of these facilities; second, as to what the effect would be in the event of their doing so. With regard to the first point, my Lords, I confess I am no believer in the likelihood of these provisions being made use of by Boards of Guardians. An honorary member and attendant of two Boards myself, I hear so many disputes about high rates—such discussions on adding to the salary of the master, the doctor, or the matron—such anxious enquiries about the lowest tender when any new building or necessary alteration is projected, that I despair of Guardians voluntarily subjecting their unions to further imposition. Moreover, I have gone so far as to avail myself of such local opinion as could be procured in a very limited time, and hold in my hand a letter from the clerk of one of my neighbouring unions, from which, as it describes fairly the feeling on the subject, I will take the liberty of quoting. He says that the clogheen Board, in common with the other unions of Ireland, will oppose the measure. And I am further confirmed by this letter, in what I previously heard was the case, that the Cork Guardians had passed a protest against the scheme, which was being circulated among other Boards with a view to its adoption. My Lords, I believe our poor teachers would get very little benefit from this Bill, that for the purpose intended it is almost useless, and in a case like this, where a large and impressionable population is interested, and is eagerly watching the action of the Government, ready to judge whether it is decided or halfhearted, vigorous or lukewarm. I would submit that no measure at all would have been preferable to one which must fail in its results, and must remain, to all intents and purposes, a dead letter. But I would now ask your Lordships to turn your attention to the second point to which I alluded—what would be the effect in the event of Boards of Guardians consenting to accept the provisions of this measure? It is in this that what I believe to be the fatal fault of the Bill lies, both as regards present consequences, and with reference to its influence on the course of future legislation in Irish educational matters. I would earnestly ask your Lordships to look back upon the history of the National Board from its foundation to the present time, and to note the constant disputes upon subjects relating to religious education which arose even in the earlier days. Your Lordships are aware that since the year 1858 the Roman Catholic priesthood have forbidden candidates of that denomination to avail themselves of the system of training teachers offered in Dublin, and I need only refer your Lordships to the Report of the Commission of 1870 for further confirmation as to this religious difficulty. In spite of all this, my Lords, this system of education has grown until it has become recognizable as a national system—an imperfect one, perhaps—but still one that affords facilities to 1,000,000 of Irish children. Consequently, any revival of the old disputes, especially one brought about by means authorized by the Legislature, would be far more dangerous, more fatal to the cause of Irish education than any difference that might have arisen in the earlier times. But what does this Bill do, my Lords? It converts every contributory Board of Guardians meeting into an arena for sectarian disputes, and those of a most virulent character, if we are to judge by discussions within our own experience, on topics far less calculated to excite ill-feeling. The Chief Secretary for Ireland, in a speech the other night upon the Irish Education Vote, said, this argument might carry some weight if the rate proposed had been a compulsory one; but I should have thought that the very fact of the process being voluntary would give rise to more discussion than were it otherwise, for everyone-would deem himself at liberty to advance his opinion on the advisability of the step or the contrary. In the other case, the very compulsion takes away the incentive to discussion on matters of detail. I believe, therefore, my Lords, that the present consequences of this Bill will be dispute and dissatisfaction—that in the future insurmountable difficulty. Every well-wisher of the cause—and I trust they are not a few—must look forward to the time when the entire question of Irish education will be dealt with, not in the spirit of party, not in the heat of religious acrimony or sectarian impulse, but on the broad ground of mutual concession and conciliation. Our national system has attained such dimensions as to give us some hope in looking forward to this end. But throw down this bone of contention—raise up, revivify, and localize these old disputes, and you not only create present heart-burnings, but retard the process for years. It is for this, my Lords, that I protest against this hasty legislation—this mockery of dealing with a great issue. I shall say no more upon the subject, but will leave the issue in your Lordships' hands. I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time this day three months.

Amendment moved, to leave out ("now,") and add at the end of the Motion ("this day three months.")—(The Earl of Donoughmore.)


said, that considerable differences of opinion prevailed amongst the Members of that House connected with Ireland on this subject, and it was generally believed amongst them that the Bill would not be proceeded with this Session. It was true that the Chief Secretary for Ireland in the House of Commons shadowed forth in March last what might be the provisions of some such measure; but it was felt that the Bill would share the fate of others that had been announced early in the Session. On the 9th of August, 1869, on a Motion to consider on the following day the Commons' Amendments to the Parochial Schools (Scotland) Bill, the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees, in moving an Amendment to that Motion, used these words— The practice of proceeding with important measures at a period when the larger number of the Members of the House had conceived that their duties were over, and that they might retire to the country, was a practice that required to he checked if the House wished to preserve its privileges.… Their Lordships were aware that he had always attended to this matter not at all as a party question, but with the view of watching the privileges of the House and securing fair deliberation. At one time, indeed, he induced their Lordships to take the course referred to by Mr. Gladstone in the speech he had quoted—namely, to resolve that after a certain day no Bill should be read a second time; and though in deference to a feeling of jealousy on the part of the Commons he gave up pressing for that Order, he did so on the understanding that the principle of it would he adhered to by the Governments of the day; "—[3 Hansard, cxcviii. 1473–4.] and on the Motion of the noble Lord their Lordships resolved, by a vote of 55 to 43, not to consider the Amendments to the Bill. Several noble Lords who had made themselves well acquainted with the system of national education in Ireland were now absent, and he submitted that the arguments he had just quoted from the speech of the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees had great force on this occasion. This question was of more importance than anyone would be induced to believe from the statement of the noble Duke in proposing the second reading of the Bill. It revived the whole question of national education in Ireland, and of the extent and proportions in which that system should be supported by Imperial, national, or local taxation. The Boards of Guardians were unfit bodies to decide from time to time whether an educational rate should be levied, as strong feelings existed in Ireland on the education question, and these would find utterance at every Board of Guardians when the provisions of this Bill came to be discussed by those Boards. The effects on the schoolmasters themselves would be very bad. In a contributory union one would receive an increase to his salary, while another, in perhaps an adjoining Union which was not contributory, would not receive such an increase. Then what became of the position of a school teacher in a contributory Union which afterwards, by the action of the Guardians, became non - contributory? What would be his feelings when he lost his increase of pay? Granting that the school teachers ought to get an increase of pay, still, he asserted, the mode proposed in this Bill was not the proper mode of giving it to them. It was too late in the Session to raise the question or to consider in what proportion payment should be by results, and the other great questions affecting education in Ireland. Under this Bill the result fees would be unlimited, and the rate, which was a Union rate, would be unlimited. He submitted that their Lordships' House should not be committed by such a Bill, read a second time on the 9th of August, and in the absence of a great majority of the Irish Peers.


said, he was unable to read private letters to their Lordships on this subject, and therefore could not give chapter and verse for the assertion, but he asked their Lordships to believe that he spoke on good grounds when he asserted that this Bill would not have passed unopposed in the House of Commons except for the belief that it would be dropped in the House of Lords. In his experience he found that Irish Poor Law Guardians were not inferior to English Guardians; but of one thing he felt quite certain, that the former were averse to responsibilities being cast upon them which were foreign to the purpose of the Poor Law. Not only would they have to levy rates for the payment of the registration of Parliamentary voters, for the return of jurors, for the registration of births, deaths, and marriages, and also for carrying out sanitary regulations, which they did at present, but after this Bill became law they would also be obliged to tax the ratepayers with amounts for educational purposes before paying over anything for the relief of the poor. That was one of the most extraordinary features of the Bill. That the national school teachers themselves were not satisfied with the Bill was evident from a letter which had appeared in The Times. The noble Earl who moved the Amendment had expressed his belief that the Bill would be inoperative. He did not concur in that view. On the contrary, he feared that in one direction it would be too operative. At present a great number of the Irish national school teachers taught very curious and mischievous history, and took their own political information from revolutionary teachers. They taught their pupils that the Catholic aborigines of the island were saints, and that the Protestant Saxons who came into the country were demons. Such histories did a great deal of mischief and induced disloyalty to Her Majesty; and he believed, if true histories were substituted for them, the people of Ireland would place their mouths in the dust, and would cry, whether Roman Catholics or Protestants—" Peccavi. I have sinned against thee, my brother." Well, the result of this Bill would be that in every electoral division of a Union there would be efforts to turn out respectable Guardians and put in their place persons whose sole mission would be to increase the salaries of the teachers. He was as anxious as anybody that the teachers should be paid properly; but he doubted whether it was wise to increase their salaries until we had further results from the national system. He hoped their Lordships would not allow the Bill to be read a second time.


said, there was a great deal of good in the Bill and much harm, and he scarcely knew whether he should be pleased to see the Bill passed in its present shape or not. No one could doubt that the pay of the Irish national teachers was too small. He approved the principle of paying the teachers according to results. Indeed, he went further, and held that they ought not to acknowledge teachers at all except by shown results; and he was afraid that if a Government Inspector of schools went through Ireland applying the English standard the results would be found far from satisfactory. The fault in the machinery of this Bill was that it treated Irish Boards of Guardians as if they were composed like English Boards of Guardians; but that was an entire mistake. Speaking for a considerable district in Ireland with which he was connected, he could not help saying that the constitution of Boards of Guardians was by no means such as to render those bodies fit for exercising the powers given to them by this Bill. The Guardians were, generally speaking, small farmers, having had little education themselves, and very indifferent judges of what was good or bad in matters of that sort. He should be very sorry to see a bone of contention—for the power given under this Bill would be little else—thrown among them. If the schoolmaster was a Roman Catholic the vote would go one way; if he was a Protestant it would go the other way. He thought that the National Education Board ought to have a veto; and they might also have the power of initiating an Educational Vote where the Guardians did not take the initiative themselves. He thought, upon the whole, that the Bill might fairly be postponed till next Session.


did not, as an Irish landlord, feel that alarm with which some noble Lords looked to the operation of this Bill. He thought they had some reason to complain of the time when this Bill was brought up, and he was not able to say that he very much admired the particular plan of obtaining support to Irish national schools from local rates; but he did not apprehend the faction fights and party religious feuds in Irish Boards of Guardians which they seemed to expect. He thought it much more likely that in most cases the Bill would be a dead letter. He had not much apprehension as to the discovery and patronage of Fenian teachers by Boards of Guardians. It would not be in the power of Boards of Guardians to patronize an inefficient teacher, because he had taken the means of ingratiating himself with them, because the payments to be made were for results, and it would be only efficient teachers who would have any chance of obtaining a contribution from the rates. Feeling strongly what a scandal it was that the amount of local contributions under any form towards Irish popular education had been so small, he could not make up his mind to oppose a Bill, however imperfect it might be in other respects, which made a step in the way of experiment towards curing that great evil. It was lamentable that Irish landlords, speaking generally, should not think it their duty to give pecuniary support and otherwise to schools in which the children of their tenants might be taught as was thought necessary in this country. But such was the fact, and the result of that state of things was that out of the whole cost of Irish popular education only 15 per cent was produced by school fees and subscriptions together. Thus the position of Irish national education was in a most unsatisfactory state. Along with this Bill the Government had persuaded the House of Commons to grant a fresh boon from the Imperial purse; an additional sum of £60,000 a-year was to be given as a bonus irrespective of results to the Irish national school teachers. He was bound to say he regarded that bonus simply as a sop to the Irish national school teachers. Considering the many disadvantages under which they laboured it was wonderful how well they did their duty. They were an active and influential body, especially as regarded the Irish Members; but this Bill did not solve any of the real difficulties of national education in Ireland. It did not carry further that system of results which, so far as it had been tried, had worked admirably. Above all it left the training of Irish teachers, to the importance of which he had alluded on a former occasion, untouched; it left Irish national education in a lamentable state of deficiency, and this he held to be a great cause of discontent in that country. If they were to have at any future time a system of rating in Ireland for the support of schools, they must regard the wishes of the Irish people and establish good training schools.


said, as the noble Lord (the Earl of Limerick) had appealed to an opinion of his with respect to passing Bills sent up at a late period of the Session, he wished to state that he had always held that it was wrong for their Lordships to agree to any measure of serious importance which they had not time to consider, and for which there was no urgent necessity. What had their Lordships heard on this occasion? Every Irishman who had spoken, with the exception of the noble Lord who had just sat down, had denounced the measure, and that noble Lord had said it was a very bad one. ["No!"] He understood the noble Lord to say that the Bill was not one which, on the whole, it was desirable to adopt; but because it was a step towards doing something favourable to the teachers of Ireland, he would not oppose it.


explained that what he said was, that as this was a mode of trying the experiment of obtaining local aid for the Irish schools he would support it, though it was not the mode he would have chosen.


said, as the Bill was one for giving something to Irish teachers, the noble Lord would vote for it; but he did not approve of the manner in which this was to be done. Their Lordships ought not to be hasty in passing such a measure, but ought to consider it fairly on its merits, and in the last week of the Session that could not be done. He hoped that what had been said would induce Her Majesty's Government not to proceed with the Bill.


said, his noble Friend who had moved the rejection of this measure had taken a very strong and unusual course. This Bill dealt mainly with a question of taxation—of local taxation, no doubt—but still of taxation, and on such matters, in the first instance, at all events, the action must commence with the other House of Parliament. It should be remembered also that this Bill had not been brought hurriedly before the House of Commons; it had been announced deliberately in that House early in the Session; and Members from Ireland, who were not always of one mind, showed in this question an absolute unanimity. There was no division on the Bill, no alteration made in it, and not a word said against it that he had heard of. That was a circumstance which distinguished this Bill from those to which the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees had referred. He quite subscribed to the opinion that Bills—brought up at a late period of the Session, should be treated with great caution by their Lordships; but, in this case, there were two considerations on the other side which should be taken into account. One was, that the Bill was one of which ample notice had been given; the other, that it was not a measure involving many details. The Bill, as he had said, had been announced in the other House of Parliament a considerable time since; it had been made the basis of the financial arrangements of the Irish Education Vote—or, at all events, the supplement or complement of those arrangements. Then this was not a question of detail, for the Bill was one which must be accepted or rejected at once. Further, it might be judged from the attendance of noble Lords connected with Ireland that there was no lack of interest in the Bill, as there was no lack of opportunity of objecting to it. There was no doubt that the position of the teachers in the national schools of Ireland interfered seriously with the efficient working of the national system of education in that country. With the inadequate pay which they received we could not command the services of teachers in whose hands we should be content to leave the education of Ireland. Was not the matter, therefore, urgent? The noble Lord the Chairman of Committees was of opinion that there was nothing urgent in the matter. He (the Lord Chancellor,) on the other hand, maintained that there was, because the matter had been left over for several years, and if the education given in the national schools of Ireland was unsatisfactory, that was because the remuneration of the teachers was inadequate. His noble Friend (Viscount Lifford) referred to a letter from the Secretary to the Committee of the National School Teachers in Ireland, according to which there ought to be no payment by results, but an absolute grant from the national purse for increasing the salaries of the teachers. But that, was not a plan which Parliament would be inclined to adopt. Then, the only alternative was either to adopt the proposal of the Bill, or to make the Bill compulsory. It was said the measure would aggravate disputes at the Boards of Guardians. But it was, he believed, impossible that that could be the effect of it. Any person who knew Ireland must know that the schools in every Union were either in the hands of one denomination, or of different denominations. Where they were in the hands of one denomination, what controversies could there be? The only question that could arise was as to the economical point, whether Poor Law Guardians would wish to increase the rates. On the other hand, in Unions where there were schools of different denominations, why should any altercations arise? It was not a measure for the benefit of one denomination at the expense of another. Schools of both denominations would be benefited in the same way. It was therefore, he thought, a chimera to say that disputes would arise under this Bill; and it would be much better that well-educated scholars should be secured by a measure of this kind, rather than that there should be—besides ignorant and ill-advised teachers—ignorant and ill-trained scholars. It had been said that all the Boards of Guardians were against this permissive Bill. If so, at any rate, the Bill could do no harm, But he doubted the accuracy of general statements of this kind. One of the first principles of representative institutions was, that for ascertaining the opinions of the represented we should look at the opinions of the representatives. Now, the Representatives of Ireland were surely the best judges of the opinions of Boards of Guardians there, and the Representatives of Ireland had concurred in supporting the Bill.

On Question, That ("now") stand part of the Motion? Their Lordships divided:—Contents 38; Not-Contents 17: Majority 21.

Resolved in the Affirmative:—Bill read 2* accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House To-morrow.

Cairns, L. (L. Chancellor.) Bagot, L.
Carlingford, L.
Clanbrassill, L. (E. Roden.)
Richmond, D.
Somerset, D. De L'Isle and Dudley, L.
Salisbury, M. de Eos, L.
Dunmore, L. (E. Dunmore.)
Beauchamp, E.
Bradford, E. Forester, L.
Cadogan, E. Grey de Radcliffe, L. (V. Grey de Wilton.)
Carnarvon, E.
Derby, E. Hammond, L.
Granville, E. Hampton, L.
Hardwicke, E. Penrhyn, L.
Jersey, E. Romilly, L.
Malmesbury, E. Saltoun, L.
Nelson, E. Selborne, L.
Rosslyn, E. Skelmersdale, L. [Teller.]
Shrewsbury, E.
Verulam, E. Strafford, L. (V. Enfield.)
Exmouth, V. Vernon, L.
Hawarden, V. [Teller.] Wharncliffe, L.
Hood, V.
Bath, M. Denman, L.
Dunsany, L.
Bantry, E. Foxford, L. (E. Lime-rich.) [Teller.]
Lucan, E.
Oranmore and Browne, L.
de Vesci, V.
Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.) [Teller.] Redesdale, L.
Sherborne, L.
Somerton, L. (E. Nor-manton.)
Lifford, V.
Templemore, L.
Churchill, L. Ventry, L.
Colchester, L.