HL Deb 17 June 1880 vol 253 cc172-5

rose to call attention to the Sixth Report of the Commissioners of the Exhibition of 1851, which recommends the establishment of Scholarships for the purpose of aiding the development of scientific culture and technical training in the manufacturing districts of the country, and to ask the Lord President of the Council, Whether he will consider the propriety of giving similar encouragement for instruction in agricultural science? The noble Marquess said, it appeared from the last Report of the Commissioners of 1851 that a very large sum of money belonging to the Commissioners was in their hands which they proposed to devote to certain purposes, and one of the purposes to which they proposed to devote it was to establish a number of Scholarships for the purpose of developing scientific culture and technical training in the manufacturing districts. He thought that out of the large sums of money belonging to the Commissioners—amounting, he believed, to more than £1,000,000—some might be devoted to the development of agricultural teaching as to the instruction of science in other branches of trade and manufactures. He asked the Lord President of the Council that Scholarships should be extended to the teachers and students of agriculture. The other Question he had to ask of the noble Lord was, Whether the Science and Art Department proposed to repeat this summer the course of instruction to teachers of agricultural science? A Question was asked last year with reference to the class formed by the Science and Art Department, which produced from the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) a statement showing the great increase in the number of students who came up year after year to pass a course of agricultural science. The statement made by the noble Duke was to the effect that a course of instruction in the principles of agriculture was being given to teachers of agricultural science at South Kensington. He believed he was rightly informed that those teachers were the first to whom any instruction had been given at South Kensington. He considered it of the utmost importance that such instruction should be given, for it was of no use having teachers in the agricultural districts unless they were able and capable of teaching the rudiments of agricultural science. It was rumoured that it was not intended to continue the instruction at South Kensington this year. If that was so, he could only assure the Lord President of the Council that it would cause very great disappointment in the rural districts. There was no use having an agricultural class in rural districts without having a qualified teacher. He understood that the number of teachers who desired to attend the course of instruction at South Kensington last year was greater than there was room for, and that more than 60 were refused admittance. It was well known that utter ignorance of agricultural chemistry was displayed by many farmers, and that there was a great waste of money in consequence.


wished to assure the noble Marquess that this subject was one in which he felt a very deep interest. He thought it was a matter of great importance to agriculturists in this country. As to the first part of the Question, which related to the Commissioners of the Exhibition of 1851, he would point out that the large sum of money which was alleged to belong to that Body had not yet been realized by them. In fact, the Commissioners had no funds at their disposal at present to to carry out any scheme which they looked forward to adopting in the future. In the Report to which the noble Marquess alluded, the Commissioners stated that they wished to found Scholarships for science in different parts of the country, and they hoped still at some future day to carry out that part of their scheme; and if they did, he felt assured that they would take agriculture into consideration along with other matters. With regard to the part of the Question referring to the Science and Art Department, he wished to say that last year his noble Friend who preceded him in Office laid on the Table a statement with respect to what had been done in the Department, and he would shortly refer to it. Since 1875 the Department had made payments in aid of instruction in agricultural science. In 1875–6 there were 150 students examined; in 1876–7, 800; in 1877–8, 1,265; and 1878–9, 365 for England, 177 for Scotland, and 1,651 for Ireland. That would show that the Department was fully alive to the importance of this subject, and that they had used their exertions throughout the country to have it considered. There could be no more important matter than this application of science to agriculture. Great attention had of late years been very properly called to the great aid which science gave to the various classes of manufacturers and producers; and that principle applied with quite as great force to agriculture as to any other art. This was especially the case at the present moment, when the country was inquiring very narrowly into the whole subject of agriculture. His noble Friend had proposed that the Commission should inquire into the subject, and he had no doubt that the Commission would consider this a subject to which it should give proper weight. If science would enable the agriculturists of this country to produce more from the land, by improving their appliances, than they had hitherto done, science would add another to the many great services it had rendered to us. With regard to the classes for agricultural science, he might say that last year 60 persons had applied to be permitted to avail themselves of the benefits offered by those classes, and that in no case had such an application been refused. It had been decided by the Department, in consequence of the pressure for accommodation for science classes and for instruction in various branches, not to have a special class for agricultural science this year, seeing that botany, geology, and chemistry, which were so intimately connected with agriculture, were taught separately. But since he had been in Office the matter had been brought under the attention of the Department again, and he had looked into the matter. He wished to announce that certain relaxations would be allowed, and that teachers might be able to earn result payments next year, on condition that after next year every teacher must have his certificate; and, lastly, considering the very great interest that had been felt on this subject throughout the country, the Department had now decided that a class for agriculture should be held this year, and that class would be held in August.