HL Deb 21 June 1892 vol 5 cc1656-75


Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I feel I ought to apologise to your Lordships for the numerous occasions on which it has been my duty to intrude on the business of this House during the last week; I can assure your Lordships that I have done so most unwillingly; but the fact is that in the present legislative orgy into which we are now plunged, your Lordships have pressed upon your attention Bills of all kinds and sorts, relating to various portions of the Empire, and all within a very limited space of time. My Lords, I will not refer to the remarks which have been made upon the conduct of business in your Lordships' House further than to say that the circumstances of the last few days have been especially inconvenient in this respect. The other House of Parliament has sent up a very large number of Bills, and it has been found necessary to take them all at once; and the result has been a considerable congestion in the printing department of the House, and also I think I may say a considerable increase in the business of the officers of the House; and in consequence I am afraid many of your Lordships have been put to serious inconvenience. With regard, for instance, to the Bill of which I have now to propose the Second Reading I may say that I only received a copy of it myself this day at one o'clock; and the same thing happened with a Bill a few days ago. This renders it difficult for noble Lords to place Amendments upon the Table within the various stages of a Bill, and makes it exceedingly difficult to secure a proper examination of Bills. With regard to this Bill, which I think noble Lords on both sides of the House will admit to be one of the very greatest importance, I do not intend at this stage to delay the House with any lengthened remarks, or to enter into any details; but I will endeavour briefly to expound to the House the main provisions of the Bill. My Lords, the circumstances under which we find ourselves in a position to deal with education in Ireland can be very briefly stated. Last year, as your Lordships know, by a grant of money education was practically freed in England and Scotland, and a sum of money, which may be considered to be an equivalent grant to Ireland, was voted at the same time. The opportunity therefore arose, not only for assisting Irish education, but also for taking steps to increase its efficiency, and to enlarge the scope of operations, in accordance with the legislative principles which were enacted in England. My Lords, the Irish National Education Commissioners have, since the year 1831, had the management of education in Ireland practically in their own hands. I think I may be permitted to say that they have carried out the important duties assigned to them, not only with credit to themselves, but with the greatest advantage to education throughout Ireland, and that they have earned a debt of gratitude from all those who value this important matter. It may be said of these Education Commissioners that they have more immediate relations with the schools than the Education Department has in England, and that they have a far larger responsibility, as noble Lords from Ireland know, as regards education than the Department in England. I may say in passing that, whereas in England and Scotland the State contributes two-fifths of the cost of education, in Ireland the State contributes about four-fifths. My Lords, I shall not enter into the vexed question of denominational as against mixed education; that is not a matter which I think need arise upon the present Bill. But there is little doubt that it is highly desirable, and that it would be extremely advantageous to Ireland, if national schools could be, not only encouraged, but increased. By the Act of 1870, coupled with that of 1876, education was, as your Lordships know, made compulsory in England. I shall avoid giving too many statistics; but, as this Bill deals with compulsion, I think it may be well, with the indulgence of your Lordships, that I should give a very few short statistics to show what the effect of that compulsion has been. My Lords, there has been undoubtedly an enormous increase in the attendance in schools in this country since the date of the passing of the measures to which I have alluded. In 1872 the average attendance in English schools was 1,300,000 odd; in 1876 it was 1,900,000; in 1880 it was 2,590,000; and in 1890 it had risen to 3,700,000. In 1872 the average attendance, compared with the population of England and Ireland, was about equal. But we find that the attendance in 1890 in England was nearly 80 per cent. of the children; whereas in 1890 in Ireland it was only 60 per cent. Therefore a fall of 20 per cent. has to be accounted for in the attendance in Ireland, as compared with that in England, since the passing of the compulsory Acts; or perhaps I ought to put it the other way, and say that there has been a rise of 20 per cent. in the average attendance in England and Scotland since the passing of the compulsory Acts, as compared with that which prevailed in Ireland. I may say that in England and Scotland we have an average attendance of nearly 13 per cent.; whereas the average attendance in Ireland is only 10 per cent. That difference of 3 per cent. has been roughly calculated to amount to 110,000 or 120,000 children in Ireland—that is to say, from the absence of compulsion in Ireland, it appears there are over 110,000 children who ought to go to school in Ireland, and who do not. I think these figures, at all events, not only establish a prima facie case for compulsory education, but go to show that in a comparatively short time there has been a large increase in the average attendance at the schools in consequence of the operation of these Acts. My Lords, the conclusion, therefore, that we have come to is that we must devise some remedy for this falling off in the average attendance at schools in Ireland, and we consider that that remedy can only be found in compulsion. In some portions, that is to say in the towns at first, in Ireland we propose to establish the principle of compulsion. In England, as your Lordships know, a parent is compelled to send his child to school from the age of six to fourteen; we propose to take the same standard in Ireland. We propose to make employment illegal up to the age of eleven, and, under exceptional circumstances, that is by certificates of proficiency, that age may be extended from eleven to fourteen. My Lords, the compulsion, as I said before, will at present apply only to the towns, that is to say to towns under Corporations or under Town Commissioners. Your Lordships will observe that those are authorities which now exist. There are no authorities outside the towns in Ireland to whom such duties and such authority could be properly committed; and we believe that the towns, in which compulsion will now be applied, will furnish about one-fourth of the population. Of course in future it is to be hoped that compulsion may be extended to the rural districts; but that will depend upon the establishment of some adequate authority, such as that proposed under the Local Government (Ireland) Bill, which the Government have, unfortunately, been obliged to drop for the present Session. The attendance of these children will be provided for by the Attendance Committee which is to be appointed, half by the Local Authorities and half by the Education Commissioners. The number of attendances required will be seventy-five for each half year. With regard to the financial arrangements, this House has less to do with them, and would probably not care to enter into them in great detail. But I may state that there was £90,000 due to Ireland on the last financial year, concluded on the 31st of March last, which was expended in additions to the Teachers' Pensions Fund. The sum to which I alluded at the beginning of my remarks, as the sum which is at our disposal as an equivalent grant for the ensuing year, will amount to £210,000. And perhaps the House will allow me, very briefly, to state how it is proposed that that £210,000 should be expended. Roughly speaking one-half of it will go to an addition to the teachers' class salaries. I may say that there have been complaints, which I believe were amply justified, that teachers and assistant teachers in Ireland are underpaid; and, therefore, it is thought that this is a grievance which might be remedied; and one-half of the sum is to go to adding to the teachers' class salaries, and to the salaries of assistant teachers, and, further, to a bonus for the assistant teachers who have served five years There will also be a provision for a grant in aid for increasing the salaries of small school teachers. That will provide for the first half of the £210,000. The other half will be employed in increasing by 3s. 6d. the capitation grant to schools receiving such grant, and the residue to the capitation grant in aid of schools at present assisted by the Education Commissioners. In return for these grants of money we shall ask that all schools, the fees of which do not exceed 6s. a year per child, shall in future be freed from school pence. That is to say, that such freedom will chiefly act upon the poorer schools. The Bill, therefore, as summarised, deals with three subjects. It deals with compulsory education; it deals with prohibition of employment of children up to a certain age; and it deals, lastly, with freeing education in the poorer and smaller schools by the distribution of the grant of £210,000. My Lords, these I think are the chief provisions of the Bill. But there is one other to which, I think, the attention of this House will be probably directed, namely, that of Clause 17, which gives power to the Education Commissioners to authorise the compulsory purchase of land for school sites and for teachers' residences. I may say, in explanation of this provision, that I believe that any one who knows Ireland will admit the necessity of some such compulsory clause. Certainly when you establish compulsory schools there will undoubtedly be places—I am told that in fact there are many—where it will be impossible, within a radius of some miles, to obtain sites unless under compulsion. The power I need not remind your Lordships is given in England and Scotland, under the Education Act in those countries. And lastly, the Bill, as your Lordships see, provides for compensation under the Lands Clauses Act, which provision, if opposed, must be confirmed by Parliament—that is to say, it will be made subject to a Provisional Order which will be laid before Parliament in the usual way. My Lords, I really do not think I need detain the House any further on this stage of the Bill. The policy of the Bill is derived largely from that which has found favour and is established in the other parts of the United Kingdom. It is founded on the Education Acts, which are all within the knowledge of the House. It may be necessary to consider Amendments which may be proposed in Committee. But of the principle I am confident that the House will approve; and I can only trust that the House will believe, as I do, that some measure of this sort is not only urgently required, but that, as a matter of justice, it should be conceded to Ireland; and I have no doubt that it is one which will redound to the prosperity of that country, and will improve and increase largely the benefits derived from education. My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

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


My Lords, I should like to say a few words upon this measure which has been introduced by my noble Friend. This is a Bill which consists of twenty clauses, and my noble Friend took great credit for the fact that compulsion had done so much good in England, and he hoped, and I hope he is right, that compulsion would also do great good in Ireland. This is a Bill which has peculiar Irish characteristics; it takes fifteen clauses out of twenty to arrange for compulsion in Ireland; but by one sub-section—I allude to Clause 1, Subsection 3 (b)—those fifteen clauses are rendered entirely inoperative. It is perfectly clear that anyone in Ireland who wishes to evade the Act can do so. I will point out what I mean. This sub-section begins by saying— Any of the following reasons shall be a reasonable excuse for non-attendance of a child"; and then it goes on to say— by reason of being engaged in necessary operations of husbandry. Necessary operations of husbandry go on all through the year. But there is something worse than that— or giving assistance in the fisheries. Well, my Lords, there is no close time for fisheries; that goes on the whole year; therefore, if a parent, living near a fishery, applies to have his son let off from attending school, he can do so during every portion of the year. Then it goes on again even worse— or other work requiring to be done at a particular time or season. My Lords, I ask you whether this compulsion, which my noble Friend takes such credit for as having been put into the Bill, is not rendered entirely inoperative by those Amendments which were unfortunately admitted in the other House. As I said before, I think this is essentially an Irish measure. I hope my noble Friend will agree, if he really wishes for compulsion, to an Amendment of that particular clause. My Lords, I must say how grateful I am individually to Her Majesty's Government for having dealt with this most thorny subject in such a very clever and liberal way. I say "clever and liberal," because it appears that they have actually fairly satisfied all parties—and to fairly satisfy all parties in Ireland requires a great deal of cleverness. My Lords, the opposition in another place I do not think was a really genuine opposition: because I do not believe that one of those men who spoke against this Bill would really have taken upon himself to reject the benefits which this Bill undoubtedly gives to Ireland. Certain Amendments, one of which I have pointed out, were allowed to creep into the Bill in Committee in the other House, I fancy probably through stress of work owing to the period of the Session, and everything being in a state of winding up—certain Amendment which our friends objected to, and I hope some of them will find themselves amended again. Certainly that one about compulsion should be amended; and I propose to point out one or two others to my noble Friend. My Lords, this Bill is only one of several measures that the present Government have passed for Ireland. I do not think any Government has ever done so much for the benefit of the Irish people. Your Lordships must not forget that this Government succeeded to office when Ireland was in a state of actual chaos—when anarchy, terrorism, bloodshed, and boycotting reigned supreme—and that law and order have been re-established and prosperity is now beginning to return again. My Lords, we were told by the noble Lords opposite that it was impossible LO govern Ireland. Well, I think the late Chief Secretary has shown uncontestably that that is not the case. There can be no doubt that he has re-established the Queen's Law in Ireland, and has given back liberty to the Queen's subjects, that he has administered the laws with firmness and fairness to all classes. Great proof of whether a country is well-governed or not is whether prosperity is going away or coming back; and prosperity is coming back to Ireland. My Lords, last year you passed a kindred Act, and a most liberal Act too, which will be of the greatest benefit to Ireland if it will work—that is to say, the Land Act, 1891, in which Imperial credit was given for three millions of money. And you also passed the Congested Districts Act, which I am told is now already being put into operation, and is doing immense good; and which will no doubt produce prosperity in districts where prosperity has never been known before. My Lords, my noble Friend has told you what the present Bill proposes to do. It gives £210,000 in addition to the money already allocated to education in Ireland. Are your Lordships aware of the enormous sum that is spent upon education in Ireland? The grant for education in Ireland is about £800,000 a year, and this will make it £1,010,000 a year. As my noble Friend pointed out, up to the present time, unlike the procedure in England, you have been paying four-fifths of the expenses of education in Ireland, and I would ask you, when you think of this enormous sum of money going for the advantage of the country, whether it would be possible to expect a Home Rule Government to be able to advance anything of the kind with the other large expenses they would have to undertake? My Lords, the teachers in Ireland are a most deserving class, and they are very much benefited by this Bill. They have done their duty very well indeed, and I believe the education they have given in Ireland has been extremely good. They will have their salaries increased by twenty per cent., and in addition they will get a bonus of £9 if they have been five years in the service. That is an enormous thing to the teachers, who will have their result fees as well to trust to. But my noble Friend did not allude to another matter which I think is of very great importance—namely, the subject of pensions. Are your Lordships aware that, at this moment, there are something like 940 old and worn-out teachers who are receiving £33,000 a year in pensions? My Lords, I am informed—I can hardly believe it—that in England there is only a very small fund, something like £16,000 a year, voted by Parliament for pensions. It seems wonderful that Ireland in this respect should bestow so much more liberal a sum than England. I think if you look at the amount that the teachers are to receive in Ireland under this Bill, and take it with their pensions, there is no doubt that the Irish Education Board ought to be able to get the services of the very best men: and I sincerely hope they will. I consider this is a most liberal measure in every way. My noble Friend alluded to small schools. Well, my Lords, the small schools are of the very greatest importance to us Protestants in the South and West of Ireland, because it is difficult to get a sufficient number of children together in order to start a school. There is a great boon given I admit in reducing the number required to fill a school from thirty to twenty. If there are twenty scholars the teacher gets a third-class salary. But I would ask my noble Friend whether it would be possible to give two-thirds of a third-class salary if there were less than twenty scholars; because in many places in Ireland it is impossible to get twenty Protestants together. I will deal with denominational education afterwards, which no doubt now is accepted by all parties in Ireland. I wish to pass to the question of the Christian Brothers, of whom there has been a great deal of talk in another place. The Christian Brothers I know, from my own knowledge, give most admirable education, and I should be very glad to see them admitted under this Bill. But there is no reason in the world why they should not be admitted; they could have been admitted under the old Act; they have only to agree to the National Board Rules. My Lords, I am told—at least I saw in a newspaper—something about some arrangement by which the Christian Brothers were to be admitted under this Bill by altering the National Education Clause and inserting the Intermediate Education Clause instead, and I should have no objection to that; but I should object most particularly to doing away with the Conscience Clause in Ireland in any respect whatever. I think it would be the greatest possible injury to the country, and a great injury to education. My Lords, I would ask my noble Friend to explain to us—because it is very difficult at this period of the Session to understand what has been done; in another place—what is arranged about these Christian Brothers. If my noble Friend will tell us when we come to Committee I shall be very much obliged to him. I think it is necessary that the country should know. Some advocates of the Christian Brothers have given out that the Conscience Clause is to be done away with in their behalf; others say, nothing of the kind. We do not know what has been done, but I think we should be told. As my noble Friend has told you, school fees are to be practically done away with in Ireland. I think this treatment of Ireland is very superior to the treatment of England; because in England you had compulsion long before the fees were done away with, and it rested with Her Majesty's Government to do away with them, although I think another Government gave compulsion. But in Ireland you have got school fees done away with first, and compulsion, in a very moderate form, is going to be applied afterwards. I said just now that I would refer to denominational schools. I have always been in favour of denominational schools. I am told that we are gradually creeping into denominational education in Ireland under the National Board, because half the schools in Ireland are of one denomination, and therefore religious instruction can be given. I have always been in favour of religious instruction being given in these schools because it is the only opportunity that the children in any country of that class have of learning anything about religion at all. I know there is the greatest difficulty, where you have mixed religions, about religious instruction; and the fact of the matter is that there is none in schools where there are mixed religions; but where you have only one denomination there is no difficulty. I would ask my noble Friend whether he can do something for these smaller schools which are under the National Board, but which deserve some consideration, because if the children cannot go to them they must go to the mixed National Board schools where they get no religious instruction whatever. Then as to technical education, I am sorry there is nothing about it in the Bill. I believe a great deal has been done towards starting technical education in Ireland; but this Bill, at any rate, I am sorry to say, does not deal with it. I suppose we cannot expect too much. My Lords, I have only to conclude by mentioning the Amendments which I consider necessary to the Bill. Among others I refer to Clause 2 Sub-section 2, which is another of the Amendments that slipped in in another place at the last moment. It is an Amendment which will have the very worst effect in Ireland. It affects what are called half-time children. I allude to two lines at the end of the clause— But no employer shall compel a child to attend a school to which its parents object on religious grounds. That sounds extremely reasonable, but the effect of it will be that Roman Catholic children will not be able to be employed in many of these factories, because no doubt their parents will remove them from the factory schools. In many of these factories where there are half-time children employed there are schools attached, and those schools are under the present Board and have a Conscience Clause, therefore no parent can have any objection to religious teaching, because he has only to make an objection to his children being taught religion under the Conscience Clause, and it cannot be taught. The effect of these two lines would be that the children would be taken away from these factory schools, where they are taught under the National Board rules with the Conscience Clause in existence by interested persons, and removed to schools at a distance, thereby causing the greatest inconvenience to the children and the greatest inconvenience to the employers; so much so that the employer will have to give up the employment of Roman Catholic children, which I assure your Lordships would be extremely distressing to the employers. I hope my noble Friend will agree to an Amendment on that point. That has really caused the greatest anxiety in the North of Ireland, where Protestants employ numbers of Roman Catholic children. If this clause is retained, and a fine of forty shillings is imposed for every breach of this law, I am quite certain that a large number of these children will be driven out of employment. My Lords, there is one other point I wish to mention. Perhaps my noble Friend will explain why it is so desirable, with the modified compulsion that this Bill gives, that the advantages of it should be put off till another year. The original draft of the Bill was that this Bill was to come into operation on the 1st January, 1893, and it only gives compulsion in the towns of Ireland; we are to wait for the County Councils Bill to give compulsion all over Ireland. But why are we to put it off to January, 1894? I hope my noble Friend will agree to put the date back to what it was originally. My Lords, I must again express my gratitude to Her Majesty's Government for this very liberal measure, and for the liberal treatment that Ireland has received at their hands; and I sincerely hope and believe that this Bill will have the most beneficial results, and will materially improve the system of education throughout Ireland.


My Lords, I must express my great regret that the Archbishop of Dublin, who, as Lord Plunket, has a seat in your Lordships' House, is not present on this occasion. I have no doubt that the circumstances that have been mentioned by the Lord Privy Seal in his opening address have made it necessary that this Bill should be brought on at short notice; but the absence of the Archbishop, or perhaps I should call him here Lord Plunket, has deprived us of a Member of your Lordships' House who is possessed of more information on this subject than any of your Lordships. It is especially unfortunate, I think, that he should not be present when we are discussing this matter in Committee. Whether it will be possible for him to be here then or not I do not know; but in his absence I feel bound to make a few remarks, connected as I am, as some of your Lordships know, with the government of the Church of Ireland. At the same time I would wish your Lordships clearly to understand that, in the few remarks that I shall make, I do not speak in any way with authority, and that any remarks of mine must not be taken as binding anyone but myself. My Lords, I may join, I think, in the expression, used by the noble Marquess who has just spoken, of gratitude to Her Majesty's Government for having introduced this measure. The contents of the Bill have been before the public in Ireland for some time; they have been discussed with the greatest care in different quarters, and I think have met with general approval. In one particular I regret that Lord Plunket, Archbishop of Dublin, should not be here, particularly if there is any discussion on the question the noble Marquess has raised as to increased grants to small schools. I know that the question of grants to schools is a subject of most anxious deliberation—that the whole subject was gone into with the greatest possible care; and I should certainly hesitate very much before consenting to any alteration which could in any way disturb the most carefully-considered plan which is contained in this Bill. My Lords, this measure has met with the approval of certainly all the Protestant subjects in Ireland. The national teachers of whatever denomination also approve of it. At one time there was a hope that the Roman Catholic Prelates would have approved of it, too; but after a certain time, a statement was made by Archbishop Walsh, speaking, I believe, in the name of others, that he could not approve of the measure that made no provision for the Christian Brothers. That apparently has been arranged; from a conversation that took place in the other House of Parliament. Mr. Sexton, who is supposed to represent the views of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, made an application for an alteration of the Conscience Clause on behalf of the Christian Brothers' schools. It was met by Her Majesty's Government in a way that satisfied Mr. Sexton. I would defer for the present some remarks that I have to make on that, because I think it requires very careful consideration; but the result is, I think I may say, that this is a measure that has met with very general approval in Ireland, and, as the noble Marquess has done on behalf of all Irishmen present, we may thank Her Majesty's Government for a most valuable measure. My Lords, with regard to the arrangement that took place in the other House of Parliament the circumstances were rather peculiar and a little unusual. As we all know, at the end of a Session the Government is liable to very considerable pressure. The Government are anxious—and no doubt the country is anxious—to pass a measure which they consider justly and very properly of great importance to the country. Mr. Sexton, speaking in his place, was perfectly well aware that, if the Bill was opposed in the interest of the Christian Brothers, it would have been lost, and that would have brought all the national school teachers down upon him; so he spoke under compulsion, too. Under these circumstances you may very well imagine that an arrangement was easily come to on both sides. But then what was that arrangement? When I first read the report in the papers it appeared to me that Her Majesty's Government had made a most dangerous concession, likely to give rise to very considerable excitement and very special dissatisfaction. But when I came to study the speech of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and the explanation that was given by Mr. Balfour on the following day, I felt quite satisfied that there was no pledge whatever given. I think the position of the Government was thoroughly put and may be taken in Mr. Balfour's words— That all his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary had done was to promise that the National Education Commissioners should consider the two alternative Conscience Clauses referred to in the Debate. The noble Marquess has made an appeal to the Lord Privy Seal to speak somewhat further on this subject in the course of this Debate, and I shall be glad if he does so; but, whether he does think proper to do so or not, it appears to me that that statement of Mr. Balfour is sufficient to show that the Government are not pledged to alter the Conscience Clause: that it is to be referred to the National Education Commissioners to see if the Conscience Clause existing in the Intermediate Education Bill cannot be applied to the Christian Brothers too. I think it is of importance to insist upon that condition, because I am very well satisfied that a claim will be made that a promise has been given to the Christian Brothers that the Conscience Clause shall positively be removed or altered in their favour. Should the present Government be in power, I can quite understand that pressure will be put upon them to fulfil what may be called a promise, where no promise has been made. Should noble Lords on the other side be in office, I am quite satisfied that pressure will be put upon them that the existing Government have given a pledge which they must fulfil. I think it is of the greatest importance that it should be understood that there is no pledge, further than is contained in those words of Mr. Balfour. It is of the greatest importance that the Conscience Clause, and the principle of the Conscience Clause, should be maintained in the national schools in Ireland. The noble Marquess spoke of it, and I can entirely concur with him. It is a general opinion that the Conscience Clause is only wanted for the poor Protestants in the South and West; but it is entirely forgotten and overlooked that there may be a necessity for the Conscience Clause for the Roman Catholics in the North. Perhaps some of your Lordships may have seen the Census Returns that are now being published, which contain very valuable tables on the subject of religion, and in connection with education. Taking the subject of population only, I find that the relative proportion of the Roman Catholic population in County Antrim is now 21.8 per cent., and that it is steadily decreasing, and has been decreasing for the last twenty years. It is the same with regard to Belfast and with regard to County Down. In each of those two counties and that city the relative proportion of the Roman Catholic population is steadily diminishing; and it will be of the greatest importance that the Conscience Clause shall be maintained in their schools. Mr. Sexton acknowledged that in his speech. He said there were, I think, thirty towns in which Roman Catholic boys had no option but to attend schools conducted by Protestant teachers. So that this question of the Conscience Clause is as much a Roman Catholic as it is a Protestant question. With us in the South and West of Ireland it is a most difficult question to deal with. I am of opinion, which others may not share, that a national school under Roman Catholic patronage is not a school that a Protestant child can go into with perfect safety to his faith; and I think, wherever it is possible, a Protestant school should be kept up. But, my Lords, connected as I am with the government of the Church, I know the extreme difficulty there is in keeping up the payment of the clergy, and in keeping up the Churches in the southern and western districts of Ireland; and, if it be difficult for us to pay our clergy and to maintain our Churches—if it is necessary to consolidate parishes—I need hardly point out to your Lordships that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to maintain our schools; we do our best, but circumstances must arise in which the Protestant children must go into Roman Catholic schools; and, in protection of those minorities, I say it is of the most pressing importance that every safeguard that can be devised should be maintained. My Lords, with regard to the Christian Brothers' schools, I sincerely hope that some plan may be devised for bringing these schools into connection with the National Board. I believe they are doing a great and good work. And I must point out that, when the Lord Privy Seal speaks of the deficiency of education in Ireland, the great illiteracy is in the Roman Catholic population. I do not go into the causes—I merely assert the fact. In the Census Returns there are some Returns of population in connection with the education which show the percentage of the number of persons of five years old and upwards who are illiterate. My Lords, I find that the greatest number of Protestant illiterates is among the Church of Ireland population in County Armagh, where over fifteen per cent. are illiterate. The highest Roman Catholic illiteracy is in County Donegal, where it is over thirty-seven per cent. The lowest Roman Catholic illiteracy is in County Dublin, 13.2 per cent. I think the Lord Privy Seal, in speaking of the dropping back, as it were, of education in Ireland, cannot be aware of the progress that is being made; it may not be all that it should be; but it is being made; and I shall be very glad if the proposed system of compulsion will increase the spread of education. My Lords, I will say nothing further than to thank Her Majesty's Government for the great boon which has been conveyed to Ireland by this Bill.


My Lords, after the clear statement made by my noble Friend, the Lord Privy Seal, I do not think I have any right to detain the House at any length this evening, further than to express my cordial agreement in the principle of the Bill, and to congratulate Her Majesty's Government on this further instalment of the policy of assimilating the institutions of Ireland to those of the United Kingdom, when local circumstances and conditions permit. I only regret that the other great Irish measure has not been sent up to your Lordships to be passed into law. So far as that measure is referred to in the Bill before the House now, I would ask my noble Friend to consider before the Committee stage whether it is advisable to retain in Clause 15, Sub-section 2, those permissive portions which do not enforce on the future County Councils the putting of this Act into force. I do not press the point; I ask my noble Friend to consider it. My Lords, I pass to a far more important matter in connection with the Bill, which has been already alluded to by the noble Marquess and the noble Earl—that is as to the admission of schools managed by the Christian Brothers to the benefits and control of the system of national education. It is somewhat difficult to address your Lordships upon this point, because I cannot find in a single line of the Bill any reference to the Christian Brothers, or to the agreement that was made in another place; but I think it is common knowledge that the furtherance of this Bill was imperilled on that very point, and that some concession, or agreement at any rate, was made between the Government and those who espoused the cause of the Christian Brothers, by which a modified Conscience Clause was agreed upon. I am fully in agreement with the admission of these schools to the benefits of the national system of education, and I have not a word to say against these schools: they are admirably managed by a body of gentlemen who have enrolled themselves as a religious Order, mainly, if not entirely, for the purposes of education. But I would point out that this is a step, and a long step, towards the reversal of the policy of the undenominational education of Ireland; and I think it is only Light to ask my noble Friend whether at the Committee stage of the Bill—this point has already been pressed upon him by the noble Marquess—he will be prepared to lay on the Table the modified Conscience Clause, if it has been agreed upon and accepted by the Government and the superior authorities of the Christian Brotherhood. Besides this Conscience Clause—I speak under correction—I understand that for the future religious emblems will be permitted to be exhibited in schools. This is a concession which hitherto has been denied to all other national schools—it has naturally always been asked for in the Roman Catholic schools. If this is permitted, I would further press upon the Government that the National Board should be empowered, in cases where there is a scattered population of Protestants, as in the South and West of Ireland, to deal generously with those schools which now exist or may be provided for parents who object, on conscientious grounds, to send their children to schools where religious emblems, on equally conscientious grounds, are exhibited. My Lords, there is yet one more point that I wish to press in regard to the Christian Brothers. It is possible that a certain pressure may be brought to bear upon the Board of National Education to transfer schools which are now taught by laymen—and I am referring now solely to Roman Catholic laymen—to the management of the Christian Brothers. I hope the National Board will resist any pressure or attempt of that kind; it would be a source of injustice to existing teachers and those in training; and I think education generally would be deprived of the benefit of competition between the lay-taught schools and those managed by the Christian Brothers. My Lords, I have nothing further to say on the subject of the Bill. I only wish to say that I am confident that this Bill will be a success. I am sure it will be popular in Ireland, where the standard of education has always been higher than most people suppose judging from the returns of bogus illiterates at General Elections; and where education has always been gladly taken advantage of where proper facilities have been provided.


My Lords, I wish to express the hope that Her Majesty's Government, before we get into Committee, will consider the point raised by my noble Friend with regard to the date for the operation of the Bill. In the North of Ireland, where I live, this Bill is regarded very favourably, and there is a great desire that we shall be in a position to enjoy the advantages that it confers upon the community at as early a date as possible. My noble Friend has pointed out that the Bill, as originally drafted, was intended to come into operation on the 1st January, 1893, and I should have thought that six months would have been plenty of time in which to have done any necessary preliminary business. I hope, therefore, in Committee the noble Lord will consent to restore that date.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Thursday next.