£626,734 to complete the sum for Public Education (Ireland).
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
There are several matters connected with this Vote to which I desire to direct the attention of the Committee. First of all, there is the extraordinary position in which the question of the arrears of the free grant due to the Irish teachers now stands. It is not necessary for me to go over the whole question, but in one or two sentences I might remind the Committee of what has occurred. When the Irish Education Act was passed the Irish Members pressed for the application of the fee grant in Ireland to be on the same principle as it was in Great Britain—that is, on a capitation grant of so much per head—and the Treasury in these days absolutely refused to accede to the request of the Irish Members, and insisted that the principle of proportionate grants should be put in force as regards the fee grant, and accordingly it was decided that the grant should be given to Ireland in a certain proportion to the grant in England. It was then discovered after some years 1234 that in calculating that proportion, whether knowingly or unknowingly, because that does not touch the argument, the Treasury had held back from Ireland a very considerable sum of money which ought to have come to them on the principle which the Treasury itself had insisted upon, and that a considerable sum of arrears had accumulated and become due to the Irish teachers by this mistake on the part of the Treasury. When this matter was brought under the notice of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, after some considerable debate, he admitted the wrong, and consented, from the year before that in which the matter was debated, to set it right, and that this sum in future should be fairly calculated and paid in its proportion to the Irish teachers. Since that time the system of making a fee grant has been changed, but a considerable sum of money was due by way of arrears, extending over, I think, three years, during which—and this is an admitted fact on which there is no controversy—a sum amounting to £90,000 became due to the Irish teachers. The Chancellor of the Exchequer himself admits £75,000, so that I am within the mark in saying that a very large sum due to the teachers of Ireland has been withheld from them owing to a mistake in calculation by the Treasury, although it was legally due. If it was legally due, about which I do not think there is any contention, then it ought to be paid. In order to make that perfectly clear, I will refer to what occurred when this question was discussed on the 2nd July last year. I said—The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that the arrears of the fee grant ought to have been paid to the teachers.The Chancellor of the Exchequer: I never admitted that.Mr. Dillon: You admitted that an injustice was done.The Chancellor of the Exchequer: I admitted that there was a debt to Irish education on that account, but not to individual teachers.That is the position taken up by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is a position which I cannot admit, because nobody can deny that, even if the calculation has been correctly made, the 1235 money would have gone for education—and the Chancellor of the Exchequer takes up that position now—that inasmuch as the Treasury did make this mistake, and this money ought to have gone, according to law, into the pockets of the Irish teachers during these three years, because certain of these teachers had disappeared, or there was a certain difficulty in identifying those who ought to have got the money, that the debt was no longer to the individual teacher, but he admitted it was a debt to Irish education. I cannot admit that at all. I think that the argument, that it might be impossible in some infinitesimal cases to ascertain who are the men entitled to these arrears, is a very weak argument indeed, because numbers of them about whose claim any doubt could arise must have been infinitesimally small, and I shall show in a few moments that that view has recommended itself to the Treasury. That is a very clear position. The Chancellor of the Exchequer himself admits that the debt is due to Irish education. We say that it is due to individual teachers by the English Treasury, according to the law, and that it is the duty of the English Treasury to find out who these men are who claim the money as being due, and to instantly pay them that which they ought to obtain. Now, Sir, a most extraordinary development has come into this question since the Debate of last year. In that Debate, I maintained, and other Irish Members who spoke also maintained, that this question had no possible connection with the totally different question of the new pension. A dispute had gone on for a considerable time between Irish teachers and the Treasury in regard to the position of the pension fund, and on that question I shall have a few words to say in a moment. But there is no connection between the debt due to the teachers in respect of the arrears of the fee grant and the question of the solvency or insolvency of the pension fund and the new pension rules which have been issued by the Department, and if the question of the solvency or insolvency of the pension fund had never arisen, this debt in respect of the arrears of the fee grant would have been equally due, and it would have been an unanswerable claim on the part of the Irish teachers to get this money paid over to 1236 them if no question had ever arisen as to the solvency or insolvency of the pension fund; and, on the other hand, if the question of the fee grant had never arisen, and the Treasury had never made the mistake which gave rise to the arrears in the fee grant, then the question of the pension fund and the dispute between the Treasury and the Irish teachers as regards the new pension rules would stand on its own basis. Therefore, there was no connection between the objects. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the Debate last year, finding himself very hard pressed on both questions, and finding that in the Debate the claims of the Irish teachers were pressed not only from these benches, but also by strong supporters of his own, including the honourable Member for Belfast, whom I see now in his place, and also the Member for the University of Dublin and other leading supporters of the Government, he sent for the Irish teachers——
§ MR. DILLON
Well, we will hear about that later on. What I have said is, according to the information placed in my hands, the Chancellor of the Exchequer sent for the Irish teachers and desired an interview with them, and, according to the statement which has been placed in my hands, he stated to them that the question of their right to obtain individually the sums due to them in respect of the free grant would be favourably considered if they agreed to the new scale of stoppages in respect to the pension fund. Now, that is a most extraordinary line to take, and we must, in order to fully appreciate its extraordinary character, remember that in the course of the Debate on the 2nd July last year it was strictly argued, and very influential legal opinion was given on the subject, that the demand to increase the stoppages in respect of the pension fund was perfectly illegal, and that the Government had no power to enforce that demand. That is the decision of the legal Members of the Bar in Dublin who have been consulted in the matter. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says he is wrong, and then he warns the teachers that they 1237 have not a shadow of a chance of getting any of the money due to them in respect of the arrears of free grants unless they surrender with regard to the pension rules. If what I state be a correct, or even an approximately correct, view of what took place between the teachers and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I say that that transaction is entirely unworthy of a great officer of the State. These two questions ought to be dealt with separately on their merits, and it is unworthy of a man in the position of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in this country to enter into a bargain, and bring pressure to bear upon poor men in the position of the Irish National teachers. I am informed that the teachers, having for a considerable time resisted this pressure, finally referred the matter to the executive committee in Dublin, who, fearing that if they held out any longer, they would lose their chance of the free grant, and then be compelled to accept the pension fund scheme, because at that time they were not convinced that they had so strong a legal position as they have now, surrendered. The executive committee surrendered, and sent a letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, saying that they would be willing to agree to the Government proposals in respect of the pension fund, on condition that they got their arrears of fee grant. That is the position up to last autumn. What happened then? The Chancellor of the Exchequer having succeeded——
§ MR. DILLON
Well, I am stating the case as it was stated to me, and we shall hear in the course of the Debate whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer can correct my statement in any particular. The Chancellor of the Exchequer having succeeded in driving this bargain, which appears to me to be a hard bargain, and one which it was entirely outside the proper sphere of action of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, issues directions to the Department in Dublin to do that very thing which it was said to be impossible to do, to find the amount due to each individual teacher in Ireland in respect of the arrears of the fee grant, and, as I am informed, this calculation has been 1238 made. I put a question last week to the Secretary to the Treasury, and he informed me that the calculation referred to cost about £650; so that, if I am correctly informed, at the present moment, in the Education Office in Dublin there is a list elaborately calculated giving the amount of money due to each, individual teacher in Ireland in respect of the fee grant, and that calculation cost a sum of £650. What happens then? While the calculation was being made, or nearly finished—indeed, I am not sure that it was not actually finished—the Teachers' Congress met in Dublin. Great agitation had arisen in the country about these questions, and the congress repudiated the action of their executive committee, and stated that the executive committee had been guilty of an act of weakness in yielding to the pressure of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and they entirely refused to yield, and decided to stand on their rights. I must confess that they were fairly entitled to stand on their rights. It is a serious step to stand fact to face with so inflexible a Department as the Treasury Department. But, whether for good or for evil, they decided to stand on their rights and to withdraw the letter sent to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. And now what an extraordinary position we are in! It is not denied that at an expense of £650 a calculation has been made, and that it is now complete, showing exactly how much is due to each individual teacher in respect of the free grant. The Chancellor of the Exchequer takes up this position: I will not pay these men the amount due to them unless they will surrender their rights in respect of the pension fund. Let us turn for a moment to the question of the pension fund. I do not desire to go fully into that, because I maintain that the two questions are separate, and ought to have been kept separate, and it is the Chancellor of the Exchequer who mixed them up.
§ MR. DILLON
At all events, I say that the two questions ought to be kept distinct and separate. Let us see what the pension fund is. It is a fund which was started in 1879 by an Act called the Irish Teachers' Act, and it was originated 1239 by the appropriation of a million of money from the Irish Church Fund. Small grants have been made by the Treasury since, and when that fund was set apart in the Act there was a proviso that the Lord Lieutenant, with the sanction of the Treasury, could make rules from time to time, and also alter these rules, setting forth the schedule of the deductions from the teachers' salaries as contributions towards the fund, on the faith of which deduction the teachers were to get certain pensions. That rule was made, and a large majority of the teachers came in and agreed to the deductions. This Went on for several years. It was said by an expert who examined the fund that it was insolvent, and not only insolvent, but insolvent to a considerable extent. It appeared from the calculations that it was not more than half of what it ought to be. The Government then proposed, under a certain provision in the Act, to alter the rules, and they altered the rules to such an extent as in some instances to double the deductions from the teachers' salaries, and also to considerably reduce the amount of pension. The teachers very naturally resented this proposal and took up the position that, having entered into a contract as regards the present teachers who had come in under the pension rules, the implied contract existed, and that they—the teachers—were not responsible, at all events, for any mistakes made by the actuaries of the Treasury. They had carried out their part of the contract, and the Treasury had practically contracted on certain conditions to find them the pensions set forth in the rules. This question has been largely debated, but I am informed that the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Trinity College, the honourable Member for St. Stephen's Green Division, and The Mac-Dermott, who was the Attorney General in the late Government, and also, it is stated, in Dublin, Chief Baron Palles, one of the greatest lawyers on the Irish Bench, all agree in this, that they have no doubt that the teachers are: legally right in their contention, and that the Treasury and Castle in Dublin have no legal power either to increase the deductions or to reduce the pension set forth in the rules; and their interpretation of the Act is this, that whatever may be the 1240 position as regards future teachers who come in after the date of the altered rules, there is no legal power to make what they hold to be an implied contract between the Treasury and the teachers who had come in before the change was made. I understand that that has not been brought to a legal test, but a very curious thing happened in the House the other day. I asked the Chief Secretary whether he would consent to make public those remarks of the Education Commissioners in Ireland which had reference to this matter since the publication of the new rules, and he refused to do so. His answer was that the record would be imperfect without giving, in addition to the minutes, the official correspondence which had passed between the Castle and the teachers and the Board of Education on this subject. I fail to appreciate the necessity for having the correspondence, although we should be very glad to have that also. I see no reason why the holding back of that correspondence should make it impossible for the Government to give way on this question. The reason I ask for these minutes is that they are more or less contradictory. It has been asserted that the Board of Education themselves have taken legal opinion—the highest legal authorities they could find in Dublin—and their opinion is that they are acting illegally in attempting to enforce the new pension rules. Now, I ask, when we are called upon to vote a sum like this, are we, is the House of Commons, not entitled to have information to set us right upon the rumours, if rumours they be, which I have mentioned? I do not undertake to say whether they are true or false, but if statements have been made in reference to a matter about which, so far as the public are informed, the weight of legal authority is against the contention of the Treasury; if it is rumoured that the Board of Education, having submitted a case to experienced counsel, have been advised that their action is legal, I say that we are entitled to know whether that is true or not, and we are entitled to know whether we are called upon to pass this vote, while the Board of Education is under the coercion of the Treasury. I very much doubt whether the Board of Education would be hostile to the claims of the teachers, and we are 1241 entitled to know whether the Board of Education is endeavouring to enforce the claims against the teachers which are illegal. I think it has been said that the teachers do not challenge the legality of this question. Very great difficulties surround the matter, but even if there is grave doubt as to whether the Treasury were treating their servants illegally and unfairly, I think they ought to be inclined to treat them properly, and not enforce against them the strict letter of the law; and where they have an opinion from the highest legal authorities that the claims of the teachers are legally right, then I think that the teachers ought to receive the benefit of that opinion. The Department responsible for these rules took legal advice, and have received a formal opinion that their proceedings were illegal, that they were quite against the principle of the law, and I think that they certainly ought not to come to this House and ask for this money. Let me say that these sums ought to be divided one from the other; they ought to be entirely separated. Let the House remember what our contention is. It appears to me that the position taken up by the Treasury in this matter is extreme and unworthy of responsible Ministers of the Crown. If there is any real power in that Department to enforce the new pension rules, then what is the use of paying upon the basis of the old claims? Cannot you have power to enforce those rules which you think you are justly entitled to enforce, although we may not think so? Why not make it a Departmental question, and deal with it quite apart from the other? I think it is a wrong thing to bring here, and that it will arouse suspicion in the public mind, because people will naturally say, "If the Department is right, and are dealing legally in this matter, why do they not deal with their other servants in the same way?" They have a strong moral claim, even if they have no legal claim. Separate the two questions entirely, and deal with the question of the fee grant upon its merits; dismiss from your mind the whole controversy of the new pension rules. For my part, I think it would be more worthy of the Government, and would be a very much, more satisfactory thing, if the question of the 1242 teachers' claims to the fee grant were treated upon its merits, and then, having dealt with that, for the Government to deal with their protest upon the subject of the new pensions rules. Now, there are just one or two matters that I wish to mention, one of which is, I wish to ask the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary what is the attitude which the Government proposes to adopt with regard to the model schools? We have raised that question year after year; there is a Committee sitting upon the subject of the model schools, and we are told that nothing can be done until they have reported. I do not know whether the Committee have reported yet, and I should like the right honourable Gentleman to tell us what course he means to pursue. There is another question with, regard to the Committee which has been sitting upon the subject of technical education; the right honourable Gentleman has not yet had time to consider the Report of the Committee, but if he has any statement to make it would be a matter of great interest to us. I have no doubt that he will direct his attention to it at the earliest possible moment.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXQUER
It appears to me, from the statement of the honourable Gentleman, that his remarks are due to a complete misconception both of the facts and of the law. The honourable Member complains that I have attempted to mix up the questions of the solvency of the Irish teachers' pension fund and the arrears of the fee grant. As a matter of fact, it is absolutely impossible to separate these two questions, which were mixed up, not by me, but by a very much greater authority than myself—namely, by Parliament, with the complete acquiescence of the Commissioners of National Education of Ireland. Two and a half years ago, as the honourable Member has said, this question of the arrears of fee grant occupied the attention of this House, and complaints were made on behalf of the teachers of Ireland as to what were considered to be arrears which were due to Ireland in regard to education, on account of the impossible basis upon which the fee grant had been calculated for Ireland in connection with England.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I know. The arrangement which was in existence I found to be unworkable, and I altered that arrangement under the advice of the law officers of the Crown, and made an arrangement for the future, which I think I may say met with the general acquiescence of everyone concerned—namely, that in the three countries the same amount, 10s., per child should be paid as the fee grant to the schools or teachers, as the case might be, and in order that that should be done I proposed a Vote very early in 1897 of £108,000, to provide for what are called arrears in this matter. Now, in what manner was the Vote dealt with? £12,600 of it went to the convent schools—not to the teachers, but to the schools themselves—because the teachers in those schools were in no way entitled to pension; the rest was devoted to the pension fund, with the complete acquiescence and approval of those honourable Members who had taken an active interest in the matter of the claims of Ireland to this particular grant, and the Commissioners of National Education, who accepted that arrangement as one which satisfactorily met the claims of their board with regard to the pension fund and fee grant. It was necessary that the pension fund should be added to in order to make it solvent, and in order that it might fulfil its objects. The honourable Member has, I think, suggested that the idea of the insolvency of the teachers' pension fund is a delusion; that reminds me of what often happens in the early days of a rotten friendly society or village club: the members being ignorant people, are surprised at the rapid accumulation of large funds, and they little know that in 30 years the whole thing will be gone.
§ MR. DILLON
I did not make that suggestion, but it has not been a profitable concern from the beginning, and if it is so rotten it is the fault of the Treasury officials.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
No, it is not the Treasury's fault. I think I can show what took place. In 1877 I was Chief Secretary 1244 for Ireland, and I had a great deal to do with the drafting of the Teachers' Pensions Act, which afterwards became law. I know what was intended, and I know what that Act provided, and I know that it imposed no permanent liability on the Treasury whatsoever in connection with this fund. What happened was this: £1,300,000 was set aside from the Irish Church surplus as a pension fund for teachers, to be supplemented, so far as it was required, by the contributions of the teachers; the amount that was to be paid out of the Irish Church surplus was to be paid as soon as might be by the Church Temporalities Commissioners to the Irish teachers' pension fund. That was a fixed amount chargeable under the Act; and the only provision under which the extraordinary suggestion has been made that the Act imposed a liability upon the Treasury, is a clause under which the Commissioners of the National Debt are authorised to make temporary advances from time to time to that pension fund, pending the paying in of the £1,300,000, and the Treasury has to make good such advances if necessary. The words are these—If the pension fund shall be insufficient for the repayment of such advances, the Treasury shall issue the amount of such deficiency out of the Consolidated Fund.And upon that misconception is based this idea, that the Treasury is to make good for all time any deficiency in the pension fund. There is no basis whatever for such a contention. It was clearly intended that this pension fund should be kept solvent by contributions from the teachers themselves, for the payment from the Irish Church surplus was a fixed payment, while the Act itself provided in a schedule the payments which the teacher should make, and laid down in so many words that the rules by which these were fixed might be varied from time to time by the Lord Lieutenant, if he saw fit, with the assent of the Treasury; and therefore, when it is contended, as it has been contended, that the alteration of the premiums or pensions to existing teachers is illegal, I can only say that in the course we have taken we have followed the advice of the law officers of the Crown, and the contention of honourable Members is 1245 absolutely baseless. This Act commenced in 1879, and in 1885 a valuation was taken by an actuary appointed by the Treasury. As a result of that valuation, alterations were made in the benefits and the premiums—rather more in the benefits than in the premiums—under which teachers received more than they had received before. The premiums and benefits which were laid down in the schedule of the Act were varied by the Lord Lieutenant with the consent of the Treasury in favour of the teachers. Well, if it is legal to do that, to vary these things one way, of course it is also legal—I am speaking technically—to vary it the other way.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
There was no consent at all asked or given in 1885; and there is no ground for the claim that the Act gave the teachers a perpetual right to certain benefits on certain conditions. The Act distinctly provides that the benefits and premiums named in the schedule might be varied from time to time by the Lord Lieutenant. Well, that is what occurred. In 890 or 891 a fresh valuation took place and the fund showed a large deficit. That was a very serious matter. At the instance of the late Government the matter was fully examined by two of the leading actuaries in the United Kingdom in consultation with the actuary who had been already consulted. They found that the deficit was something near £1,200,000. Of that deficiency as much as £200,000 was calculated to be due to the past contributions of teachers having been insufficient. It was perfectly obvious that this must be remedied in some way. The honourable Member seems to think that the whole of that deficiency should have been borne by the Treasury. On what grounds? The Act intended that the contribution by the teachers should be varied from time to time. What we have done is this: we have acted in accordance with the statement that was made by the Chief Secretary of the day, who, when he introduced the Act of Parliament in 1879, stated that the intention was that the contribution of the 1246 teachers should be one-fourth of the costs of the benefit, and that the remaining three-fourths should be borne by the Fund. That was the intention, and we are carrying it out, by supplementing the £1,300,000 year by year by grants from the Treasury. Considering that the teachers have largely benefited in the past by the fact that their contributions were far too small, it is a little strong that complaints should be made now that it is not only illegal, but inequitable, that those contributions should be somewhat increased. Well, what is the increase? The increase is intended to provide some £10,000 a year. But how many teachers are there? There are 11,000 teachers in Ireland, and the average rate of increased contribution required from the teachers of which so much has been made is less than £1 per head. Since 1879, when the Act was passed, the average income of the Irish teacher has been increased by Parliament by at least £20 a year, and since 1895, when we came into office, no less a sum than £21,000 a year more than they had before has been granted by way of fee grant. Therefore I contend that it is perfectly legal and perfectly equitable that the teachers' contribution should be increased, and that they are perfectly able to bear it. The honourable Gentleman referred to the National Board of Education. With regard to this matter the National Board of Education has, of course, acted on the advice of the law officers of the Crown; and acting on the advice of the law officers of the Crown—and they themselves are men perfectly capable of judging of this matter—they have accepted these new rates of contributions and benefits, and are enforcing them. We have said that if there be any belief that this action is illegal, we are perfectly willing to give whatever opportunity we can for the matter being fully tested in court, but the law officers advise that it is legal. Therefore we have acted in this matter as we intend continuously to act. Now the honourable Gentleman has gone on not only to charge me with acting as if I doubted the legality of the course which has been pursued, but with attempting to bring pressure to bear on the teachers, in order to induce them to accept it. Sir, I have never done anything of the kind. What 1247 happened was this: after the matter had been debated last year, a deputation from the organisation of Irish National teachers—which, I believe, represents about half the teachers—came to London, and asked for an interview with me. Some of them I had known years ago when I was Chief Secretary for Ireland. They had sent me a memorial stating their views as to these arrears, and they expressed a strong wish to place these views before me. I complied with their request and they stated to me their arguments. They said the principal teachers alone were entitled to the fee grant, and yet assistant teachers also would benefit by the Pension Fund, that the amount of the fee grant depended on the average attendance, while the amount of the pension depended upon the classification of the teacher, so that a low classed principal teacher of a large school would be entitled to much more proportionately out of the fee grant than he would get out of the Pension Fund. They gave other reasons why in their opinion this matter should be reconsidered. I pointed out, in reply, the absolute necessity of providing against the bankruptcy of the Pension Fund. As to the legality and equity of the course we intended to pursue, I think I convinced them, as far as they were individually concerned, that it was right that further contributions should be required from the teachers. Afterwards they wrote to me a letter stating that if I would reconsider this question of the fee grant, they would undertake that a part of any further payment made to them on account of it should go to make up the deficiency in the premiums paid by them since 1885, and as to the future, that the teachers should bear the cost of the pensions according to the proposals of the Departmental Committee under the new rules. I said I was perfectly willing to examine the arguments they had placed before me, and endeavoured to arrive at a fair conclusion. Parliament had already voted this grant to the Pension Fund with the assent of the National Board of Education, and with the assent of some of the honourable Members who are now sitting on these benches. But I was anxious, as I always have been anxious, that the Irish National teachers should feel, at any rate, that if the Government was unable to 1248 accede to their views, the matter had been fairly re-examined by the Commissioners of National Education, acting in concert with the Government of the day. The matter was re-examined, and it was found impossible to carry out the particular proposal made by the teachers, because the change which had been made in 1885 was rather an increase of benefit than a reduction of premiums. The teachers, therefore, withdrew their letter. I do not complain of that; but it seemed to me to leave me no course except to drop all further proceedings. I am willing now to reconsider the matter if honourable Members from Ireland feel that a grievance exists that deserves a remedy. But to this we must adhere. This pension fund was founded by Parliament in a certain way and under certain conditions. We have accepted a great liability for the Treasury—a liability which Parliament has not yet accepted in regard to other teachers in the United Kingdom—for providing in future three-fourths of the pensions required by the National teachers in Ireland. I contend that it is equitable and right that they should in return bear the moderate increased contribution which the new rules provide. We are unable to accept the view of honourable Members opposite that there is illegality in this; but if there is anything unfair to the teachers, anything of which the teachers can complain on the question of the fee grant, I am perfectly willing, as I have said, to consider that.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
Sir, I think the right honourable Gentleman must admit that there are two sides to the question. I am not going to argue the strictly legal point of view, but I am going to make a few suggestions upon the Statute itself and the surrounding circumstances. The right honourable Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said that the Irish teachers were placed in a better position than any other body of teachers in the country; but, how? In the teeth of the promise of Mr. Gladstone that the Irish Church Fund should not be used for educational purposes, the Irish Members assented that a sum of £1,300,000, which they might fairly have argued should be provided from Imperial sources, should be obtained out of a strictly Irish fund. It 1249 must be remembered that the State claimed in Ireland to educate children from the British and Imperial point of view, and deprived us of the chance of influencing the upgrowth of the youth of the country. But why did the Irish Members assent to this sum of £1,300,000 being dealt with in this way? Anybody who reads the "Hansard Debates" of that date will see that the opinion expressed when this fund was established was that there would be sufficient money for the purpose of providing teachers with a pension according to the scale in the schedule. But, Sir, the right honourable Gentleman said that a delusion has been generated by a misconstruction of clause 7. I quite agree with his construction of the clause. I quite agree that no lawyer would draw from it any other arguments than that of the right honourable Gentleman, although perhaps a layman, in reading it without due consideration, might hurriedly come to a different conclusion. But I do not think the teachers will found much of their case on that clause. Well, Sir, having abandoned that portion of the case—and I think it is always wise to abandon the weaker portion—I turn to section 11 of the Act, which, from the Treasury point of view, is the strongest part of the case. Section 11 provides that the schedule of the Act shall be considered to have the effect of part of the Act, and that the rules in the schedule may from time to time be varied by the Treasury. Now, Sir, the rules and the schedule are perfectly different. The rules may be varied by the Treasury, but the schedule cannot be varied; and what Parliament intended to open for alteration were not the actual figures upon which teachers were asked to pay, but the rules under which from time to time the teachers of different classes were to pay similar amounts. The belief under which Irish teachers accepted the arrangement was that by paying into a certain fund—and, after all, we cannot expect them to be lawyers—they would get certain results. And now, Sir, the right honourable Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made some comparison between a rotten village club and the pension fund being put on a sound basis. Is not that an unhappy 1250 comparison for a Chancellor of the Exchequer to make in regard to a Measure framed by the Treasury? Sir, I should be very sorry indeed to compare the Treasury in that way, nor should I like to compare it to a welsher on a racecourse or any person of that kind with whom you deposited your money in the faith that your winner would be forthcoming. But, Sir, the position of the right honourable Gentleman, instead of being either of these, rather resembles, I think, the new system of betting under which, I understand, anybody who invests on any horse gets something out of the pool, whether his horse wins or not. But, Sir, would it not be an unfortunate thing if by a miscalculation it was found at the end of the day's racing there was not enough in the pool to go all round? Well, take another illustration. Suppose in the month of August I join a Christmas goose club, and in order that I may be entitled to a goose on Christmas Day, I pay a certain amount of money during the autumn. Would it not, to say the least of it, be a very unfortunate thing if, after the regular payment of my contributions to the club, I found myself "plucked" as the result of my investment? These are not my comparisons; they are the comparisons of the right honourable Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government. But is it fair that a fund which was founded by Statute on a Treasury actuarial basis should be compared by the right honourable Gentleman to the case of a rotten village benefit club? Well, that, I think, may be regarded as the effect of his argument on behalf of the Treasury. It appears to me that if there is something to be said from the point of view of the Treasury, there is much more to be said from the point of view of Ireland. Sir, the right honourable Gentleman has suggested that it is rather ungrateful of existing teachers to now repudiate the obligation that their contribution should be increased; but allow me to point this out. The existing teachers have got no benefit whatever from the pension fund, and the men who ought to pay are the men under pension. I can well understand the Government saying to men drawing their pensions, "You are getting too much, having regard to the depleted position of the fund; you have been 1251 paid too much all along, and you must bear a share in this loss." But that is not what the Government say. These pensioners are undoubtedly the men who have had the benefit of this fund. Some of them are dead and gone, but there are a number still drawing their pensions, and they ought to contribute; for it is the state of their pensions in proportion to their contributions which has brought about the actuarial insolvency of the fund. Why is this contribution to be borne solely by existing teachers, and not by those who have really got the benefit from it? It must be confessed by everybody that the existing teachers who are now in the service of the country have gained no benefit from the fund, and what is now asked of these existing teachers is that they should pay for the blunders of the Treasury, and to provide pensions for those who are drawing them very quietly, while the others who remain in the service have to provide the fund. In other words, if a teacher left the service in 1898 that teacher gets the full benefit of his pension, whereas another teacher who has still 10 years to serve will have to pay, in order to get the same benefit, a much larger class of contribution, although, in fact, his position is actually the same as in the other. I myself regret that the teachers did not push this matter to a conclusion in the courts when the Government made their offer; but, as the right honourable Gentleman the Member for East Mayo has said, they are a body of men who do not represent the entire teachers of Ireland, and therefore they would be fighting the battle for a number of teachers who had not provided, the funds for the fight, and who do not belong to the association. Then, of course, if they were successful, the prestige of the Treasury would take it to the House of Lords for trial, and that is more than can be expected from men like the National teachers of Ireland. I think that on the Whole the teachers would have done better for themselves, and it would have been better for us in presenting their case in this House, if they had endeavoured to test it in the law courts. Now, the right honourable Gentleman has complained, not unduly, perhaps, of the action of the body of teachers representing their organisation. I feel, however, 1252 that any body of teachers who, on behalf of the teachers' organisation, offer to fight the case, have a very difficult battle, and I think their fellows in the organisation should show them perhaps a little more consideration than they actually receive. I think, if they made a mistake, they made it in the best interests of their organisation, and when you send representatives to do your duty, it is really better to stick to those whom you appoint than to criticise them afterwards without knowing the whole of the difficulties in which they were placed. The right honourable Gentleman has made, however, what I consider to be a further suggestion in the matter, and he has again thrown it upon the Irish authorities, that they should again look into the matter, with a view to its further consideration. The Irish Members are in as great a difficulty on this question as the teachers were last year when they met the right honourable Gentleman. We are prepared to strike a bargain in the matter, although the teachers, who do not understand the manner in which these questions are settled in the House of Commons, may think their rights are higher than they really are, and the teachers might have no hesitation in turning round on us for making a compromise, which they, from their stronger feelings, would feel that perhaps they were wrong in making. The right honourable Gentleman has not, as I understood him, taken up an absolute non possumus attitude in the matter.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I am pleased to hear that sign of approval. If he would tell us what he has in his mind by way of a compromise, I do not think he would find that there is any hostile spirit amongst Irish Members or on the other side of the House, because Conservative Members are just as much entitled to be in favour of this as we are. It is not a matter for Nationalists specially, or for Nationalist teachers alone, nor is it a political question from any point of view. We are striving to do our best for a body of public servants, no matter of what religion they may be, and this is 1253 a matter on which they are entitled to have their views respected. I should be glad to hear from the Government that, having regard to the circumstances of the case, they will not take up the strong position which the right honourable Gentleman now assumes. When you look at the matter from the point of view of high and dry Treasury law, it may be found that the Treasury may turn out to be right or wrong. But when you are dealing with a body of men, some 2,000 or 3,000 strong, it is not wise that they should get into their heads what the ordinary man does get into his head, that he belonged to a goose club or a building society which turned out insolvent, where he found that in the end he had been paying contributions in an insurance society or pension fund, and his hopes were not realised, although he had planked his money down on the faith of the promises in the prospectus. We are living, Sir, in an age of bogus prospectuses and bogus companies. Here is a British Statute passed by a British Minister, and really some higher validity ought to be given to it, and it ought to be construed in a somewhat different spirit than if it was an ordinary society or pension fund. In consequence of the construction of that Act of Parliament, Irish teachers have no power, and everything connected with it is moulded by the Treasury. They paid into that fund started by the Treasury, on the faith that if they did so they would be insured for all time, and that their contributions would, at the end of their long, laborious and irksome careers, secure them a substantial pension. God knows, the teaching of children is the most irksome task that any body of men can be given, and I think that they are entitled to something more than the strict measure of the law. I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer might wind up the Session—which has not been wholly unpleasant to the Irish Members in their relations with the Government—creditably and amicably in agreement with all parties by settling this matter, and thus give satisfaction to a large and deserving body of men.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I am not unwilling to respond to the appeal of the honour- 1254 able and learned Member, though I do not regard the matter as one for bargaining. I have looked at it with a view of trying to arrive at a termination of this question on what appears to me to be a basis that will be generous. I should like to settle the matter on a basis akin to that suggested in the letter sent to me by the representatives of the National teachers. I should like to ask Parliament to vote a sum of £95,000 and devote it to paying to the teachers the fees to which they can make claim under the calculations that have been made by the Commissioners of National Education, subject to a deduction which shall not exceed 25 per cent. for the insufficiency of past contributions. I think the teachers will get out of that between £70,000 and £76,000, and the rest will go to the pension fund. I throw that suggestion out without prejudice, as the lawyers say.
§ MR. E. GRAY (West Ham, N.)
The statement made to the House by the Chancellor of the Exchequer has removed from my mind many misconceptions with regard to the teachers' complaint. The pension fund was insolvent not so much through the insufficiency of the actuarial payments, but in consequence of the large number of teachers who withdrew, professedly broken down in health, before they reached the pension age. That, I have always understood, has been a source of weakness to the pension fund, and has gradually reduced it to a condition of insolvency. I am not pleading or suggesting that any duty rests upon the Treasury to add to the fund, for I do not think that that is hardly the point at all. It may be that the Treasury was thoroughly justified in requiring from the teachers either increased contributions or else decreasing the benefits, but the difficulty I have is one that the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not clear up, and that is the question of the use of the fee grant for the purpose of strengthening the pension fund. Admitting that it ought to be made solvent, it appears to me that it was not right to take up the arrears of fee grant which were due to the teachers as part of their salary, and appropriate that for the pension fund. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, I notice, did touch upon it with 1255 one or two phrases, and had shown that he had appreciated the discontent of the teachers with regard to this one feature of their case. I understand that the fee-grant, after certain charges have been made, ought to be paid to the Irish teachers in proportion to the average attendance in the schools. Some of the schools could, therefore, look forward to receiving a fairly large sum from the fee-grant. They have never received that sum, for it was taken and used for strengthening the pension fund, and they will not reap from the pension fund the benefits equal in amount to that which they would have received had they taken this fee grant. I understand it is admitted by the Treasury that in the calculation for three years there was an error, and that error was made good by Parliament voting for this purpose a round sum of money. The teachers, I think, in justice, after the error was discovered, contended that they were entitled to receive that money, in addition to their present salaries, and they ought to have received it. No doubt there is a desire to strengthen the pension fund. But it ought to be done in another manner. Certainly this money which they can claim as part of their salaries, and within their fee grant, ought not to have been diverted into the pension fund, because between man and man it is a subject which creates great irritation. While one man will take a large amount in fee grant, another man will receive a small amount. So that one man will lose, and another will gain. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer will consider the position, I cannot help thinking that he will see the justice of the case can only be met by asking Parliament to make a further grant equal in calculation to a grant of three years, and make that in addition to the current salaries of the Irish teachers. I quite agree that it is most essential that a teacher at the end of his days should have some provision to fall back upon. It is a false policy altogether to allow the fund to become insolvent. The contributions must be increased. At the present moment they have an idea, and it is well founded, that the fund was insolvent, and might be improved; but the proper method of improving it was not adopted. It was no reply to the argument to say that the 1256 pension of one person should be increased to the loss of somebody else. I cannot see how the grievance can be redressed except by a grant to Ireland of a sum necessary to meet the claim under the fee grant. I know myself from a number of individuals that teachers in the north of Ireland have to some extent been unjustly treated. They hold this opinion, rightly or wrongly. If they are holding the opinion rightly, then let us redress their grievance at once. It is all in the direction which tends to bring about the good relationship which ought to be between Great Britain and Ireland. It is in the power of the Committee, and I hope they will see to it, to remove the feeling of discontent which is shared by every teacher from the north of Ireland to the south; and the feeling is intensified with the teachers of the National schools that the share of the aid grant due to the monastic schools has been paid over, not to the teachers, but to the representatives of those schools. There again the National teachers say they have been hardly dealt with. If the convent schools have had their way as to the aid grant, the National teachers should have had meted out to them the same treatment. I am not prepared to argue as to the grievance relating to the Pension Act. My own belief is that the words of the Act are sufficiently clear. If the contributions do not meet the necessities of the case, the contributions must be increased; and if it be indispensable that the teachers themselves must bear a portion of the contributions, they must do so. The lesson has got to be learned, but I think the difficulty is gradually being grasped, and the subsequent strengthening of the fund is fully realised by the Irish teachers. If British statesmanship and British friendship can now take a step to redress this wrong and pay over to them the share of the fee grant for these three years, I repeat the Treasury and British Government will secure the gratitude of the teachers who are able to secure for the Unionist Government the esteem of the children committed to their charge.
§ MR. VESEY KNOX (Londonderry)
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, as I understand it, Sir, has made two offers, and one seems to me to be of more importance than the other. In the first 1257 place, the Chancellor of the Exchequer offers to guarantee, or he will make good to the extent of three-fourths, all demands made upon the teachers' pension fund. That is an offer of great importance, and one which I think we ought to have fully defined. For instance, by these rules which have just been made by the Treasury, the pensions are cut down. It is not merely the contributions of the teachers, but the pensions are, in many cases, cut down. It is not any guarantee of certain sums being realised that you are able to cut them down when you please; and I think you ought to understand, if the Treasury is to give this guarantee, it must be a guarantee that the pensions will be paid from time to time in accordance with the contracts with the teachers. Otherwise the contracts are of no use. If I might make myself a little plainer: men might be paying for their contributions year after year, expecting to get the maximum pension, and be under the impression that it could not be altered. That has been the actual impression which has been conveyed in the letters which have been exchanged between them and the Department when they first contracted. But suddenly these men find they will never get the maximum pension, and that the so-called maximum, when they do get it, is something less than that mentioned in the contract. If I understand the Chancellor of the Exchequer rightly, the proposal is to cut down the amount of pension to be paid to the teachers. If that is so, where does the benefit come in?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
It is within the power of the Lord Lieutenant and Treasury to alter the rules.
§ MR. VESEY KNOX
That is where the difficulty comes in. From my point of view I think it is a most extraordinary thing that the teachers should have the full assurance that after a certain age they will have this provision, and then not get it because there is no doubt that in teaching work men get past it at a certain age, and are not able to go on. I do not think there is any employment in any country so uncertain in regard to superannuation as that of the British 1258 teacher. We find that all the Chancellor of the Exchequer says is that they guarantee three-fourths of a certain payment; but the Lord Lieutenant has power to cut it down, with the consent of the Treasury. If this guarantee is to be put on a satisfactory basis, we must have an Amendment of the Act. Looking at the Act itself, I do not think the teachers have a legal remedy. But I have never been willing to take that view. I think on the letters exchanged between the Board and the teachers there might be a case sufficient to constitute a contract. Because, I take it, that it might be possible under the Act for the teachers to render themselves liable to provide certain sums, even although the rule might be changed from time to time.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
was understood to say that by his proposal there would be a considerable Vote every year.
§ MR. VESEY KNOX
But it still leaves the matter very uncertain. We ought to let these men know for the future that if they have to pay their fixed proportion, of one-fourth, the Treasury will pay the other three-fourths. If we get that assurance, we shall be satisfied. I venture to hope, Sir, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be able to give us his assistance to put this business, once and for all, on a satisfactory footing. But I would like to see legislation which would fix the liability of the Treasury to contribute three-fourths to that pension fund. That, I understand, is really what the Chancellor of the Exchequer means to do, and if that is his intention I think it ought to be made so clear that there could not be any dispute in the future. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has not quite fully stated the payments into the pension fund. In the year 1891 a sum of £90,000 would have gone to the Irish teacher if the equivalent amount in England had been applied to Ireland under the pension fund, and this would have gone a long way towards the £200,000 which the Chancellor of the Exchequer said the teachers had underpaid to the fund; it would have left less than £20,000 short. There is another point of view that I never exactly understood, and that is what would be the extra amount which 1259 would go into the exchequer of the teachers if the scale of contributions had not been raised, and I think it would be most desirable before this question is settled that we should know what sum would really be necessary in order to secure these pensions to existing teachers on a sound basis. I always thought it would be quite fair to raise the rate again to what it was before 1895. If we take it on that basis, when the rate of contributions was as prescribed by the Act itself, I think we ought to have further information, not only for ourselves but for the information of the teachers, to enable a final decision to be come to. It would be a much smaller amount than the sum of £1,300,000 mentioned by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Then there is another thing: I understand there is going to be the superannuation of teachers in England and Scotland in some form or another—a Bill has even been promised this Session. Well, I suppose that means a contribution from the Treasury to the teachers of England and Scotland, and before we know whether we are making a good bargain for Ireland or not we ought to know what England and Scotland are going to get. If we knew that it would be a means to bring about a final conclusion. I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer will see that on that point he has the advantage of us, because he knows something which we cannot possibly know. The general position is this: there is not the slightest doubt that there has been a Treasury muddle; it is an unkind thing, perhaps, to say, but the Treasury made calculations upon which an Act was passed. The Treasury has always kept control of the Office of National Debt Commissioners, where this actuarial estimate was made, but, as a matter of fact, the Commissioners of National Education, if they want to know anything of the pension fund, send over to the office in Dublin under Treasury control, and they have not been able to get information. The two departments are distinct, and the pension fund is kept under the control of those who have nothing to do with the National Board, and they have now got into a mess which would not do credit to a friendly society. That being so, I think we have even a legal and substantial political claim against 1260 the Treasury. One thing we expect from the Treasury is arithmetic, and in that they have been deficient. I think there is a strong case made out on general grounds for paying back these arrears to the teachers, as we suggested. I do not think there is any use in heckling over this £20,000 in order to put the pension fund on such a basis that we cannot have a repetition of these mistakes.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Belfast, W.)
I am sure it would be a very great convenience to us in forming our opinions if the right honourable Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would, before the Debate closes, formulate even more precisely than he has done the precise way in which this money shall be given out. With regard to the Treasury guarantee of three-fourths, I quite appreciate the point of the honourable Member for Deny, and I think it is impossible; neither do I think the right honourable Gentleman is quite accurate. But nobody has the slightest ground for doubt that, the contract having been entered into between Parliament and the individual, the pensions will be granted in full. Some undertaking should be given to the teachers, and supplying three-fourths of the pension which the right honourable Gentleman contemplates receiving will be a guarantee by the Treasury. It is a very great point. A further point is this: I think I understand the Chancellor of the Exchequer to suggest that a further sum of £90,000 might be asked for from this House. Now he spoke of the calculations of the Treasury—
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
And he said that these contemplations are practically complete. Is it contemplated that a sum will be paid to the teachers who would not receive the fee grant, or is it to be confined to the fund for the benefit of the insured?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I calculated, on the basis I suggested, between £70,000 and £76,000 would be paid in cash to the teachers who are entitled to it by the 1261 calculation of the National Board; the remainder would go to increase the pension fund.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
That being so, it would be well if this payment would be paid out early. Although it seems a small matter to the Treasury, I think it is a very important matter to the interested parties, and I can assure the right honourable Gentleman from what I know of it that if a decision could be come to and action taken early that he would very much enhance the value of the concession.
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
I do not desire to offer any lengthened observation, but, Sir, I was struck by one observation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He said, or gave it to be understood, that the teachers under a scheme of this kind could hardly be said to have a legal claim; but surely the National teachers are invited to enter into this pension scheme, but they have no power in the selection of the appointments. You have the Treasury and the National Commissioners coming together and inviting the teachers to subscribe to the fund; they get a sum of £1,300,000 to start the fund, and surely if the teachers have not a legal claim they have at any rate a moral claim. With regard to this whole matter I have taken the trouble to read the report of the Committee appointed last year, and from it I find that the teachers apparently have even a stronger claim than the Chancellor of the Exchequer will allow; It was the intention of the Act of 1879, but was not indeed stated expressly therein. But if the National teachers' executive should see their way in the future to get legal advice, and to test this matter, as has been suggested by the honourable and learned Member for North Louth, in a court of law, I fancy that these words certainly will strengthen them very much, because here we have experts, reporting on the whole matter, who lay it down that the intention of the Act of 1879 was a contribution of one-fourth, but that it was not stated expressly therein. I think that is a very remarkable point for the teachers, and that it strengthens the case for the teachers very much. But there is another point 1262 on which they feel very much. They say under these new rules they are to contribute one-fourth; but, Sir, simultaneously with that the amount of pension to which they are entitled is to be considerably reduced, because we find that a man who, after 40 years of service, now, under the old system, would be entitled to a pension of £88, cannot under the new rules receive more than £60; a female; who would receive £63 under the former rules, finds the sum she is entitled to receive is now reduced to £47. You have two things in operation. You have, first of all, the increased contribution from the teachers; and, secondly, you have the pensions very considerably reduced. Now, under circumstances of that kind, Mr. Lowther, it is not unnatural to expect that these teachers should feel very considerable dissatisfaction at the whole arrangement, and that they should ask the Irish Members to express that dissatisfaction as forcibly as they possibly can. Now, Mr. Lowther, it is not for me to say whether the proposal made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be favourable to the Irish teachers or not, but, as the honourable Member for Londonderry pointed out, no offer can be satisfactory which does not carry finality. Are the teachers under the new scheme—even though the Chancellor of the Exchequer makes this offer—are the teachers in the future liable, to the same risk, to have the contributions still further increased, and have the amount to which they are entitled still further reduced? Because there has been no guarantee given by the right honourable Gentleman so far. And, if a mistake was made in 1879 with regard to the scheme, if the mistake was stereotyped and continued in 1885, only 13 years ago, what guarantee have these men that the mistake will not be continued, and that still further demands may not be made upon them? I think, Mr. Lowther, there is another element of injustice in the whole matter. It is this. If the new rules applied to the new teachers entering the service, and were part of the new system, it could not be said to be unfair; but the new rules are to be applied to the men who, rightly or wrongly, thought they were entitled to other conditions, who have been for many years in the service, and who 1263 thought the deficiency was to be made good from a fund to which they thought they were entitled. Suppose there were no pension fund in existence at all, would, or would not, the teachers be entitled to this £95,000? Of course they would. It is the equivalent grant. And, Mr. Lowther, I would ask the attention of the right honourable Gentleman to another point. He complained at the very opening of his remarks of the impossible and extraordinary arrangement made a few years ago, in 1890–91, with regard to the equivalent grant. He proposes to substitute for it the grant of 10s. a child for average attendance. Yes, but, Mr. Lowther, here is the strange thing. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is the right honourable Gentleman of to-day; a few years ago it was the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty, but the Treasury to the Irish National teacher is the Treasury of the time. It is the same entity, the same thing. If the Treasury in 1892 comes down and makes an equivalent grant, and then comes down four, five, or six years later, and says, "No, it is an impossible arrangement, we will now have a basis of 10s. a child for average attendance," I say all these things naturally cause anxiety, give rise to suspicion and distrust in the minds of the teachers in Ireland, and therefore it is not to be wondered at that they should have expressed their dissatisfaction in Ireland, and by deputations to the House, so persistently as they have done. It is not for me to pronounce upon the offer which has been made by the right honourable Gentleman, or rather indicated; but I am persuaded that if the offer could be made, an offer that could be said to carry with it the elements of finality, then the teachers would be in a much better position to say whether they would be agreeable to subscribe to the new rules. There is one other matter to which I wish to ask the attention of the Chief Secretary himself, and that is with regard to the system, of assistant teachers. As the right honourable Gentleman knows, I have made it my duty on several occasions to question with regard to the negotiations between the Commissioners of National Education and the Treasury with regard to this question of the 1264 assistant teachers. I questioned him a few days ago. He was not able to give a final answer, but trusted in a short time the matter would be arranged satisfactorily. The right honourable Gentleman has already been Chief Secretary long enough to know that, unfortunately, owing to the diminishing population, school attendance in Ireland is not increasing as it is elsewhere in Great Britain; and it is very difficult in many schools in Ireland, especially in the rural districts, to secure an average attendance of 70, which justifies the appointment and payment of an assistant teacher. The Commissioners have over and over again proposed that the average attendance to qualify for the appointment of an assistant teacher should be reduced to 60.
§ MR. FLYNN
It has been done! I am very glad to hear that. There is one other point with regard to assistant teachers, and it is this, that they seem to be tied up in a set of cast-iron rules by the Commissioners of National Education, and certainly do not receive in other respects that fair treatment to which, as instructors, they are entitled. I believe they amount to more than one-fourth—taking men and women—more than one-fourth of the entire teaching staff of Ireland. But, Sir, I understand that with regard to promotion they have very grave cause indeed for dissatisfaction. No matter how severe an examination they pass, they are not entitled to the superior classification which they reach, but are kept for many years—no matter how brilliant or clever they may be—they are kept for many years on the old low scale of remuneration, and are often unable to obtain the increased remuneration which they ought in equity to receive. And I understand that it very frequently happens that class monitors and young people are actually brought from training schools and made principals of schools over the heads of assistant teachers who have proved themselves fully qualified, and who have, of course, very much greater experience than the others. I am sure the teachers would be grateful if the right honourable 1265 Gentleman the Chief Secretary would represent this view of the case of the assistant teachers to the Commissioners of National Education with the hope that their position may be improved, their cause for dissatisfaction removed altogether, and that an incentive may be opened to them that by intelligence, by study and attention to their duties they may expect that reward which all those who serve the State—and none in more admirable way than those who instruct the young—should receive for work properly and efficiently done.
§ MR. DALY
Sir, I wish to draw attention to the unanimity that exists among Members who sit upon both sides of the House upon this question. This matter, Mr. Lowther, has been discussed for the past two and a half years, and to my mind I think it is time that the Treasury paid over the money, which it cannot be denied the Irish teachers are deserving of. Suppose a man in the country owed the Government a debt, and some accountants in the Government offices neglected to bring forward that debt at the proper time, and afterwards the Government found it out, is there any man so foolish as to think that the Government would not sue the man who escaped at the first for the amount which was found to be justly due? This is, to my mind, what the Government are doing. They gave an excuse for the last two years, that there was some mistake with regard to the clerks in the offices; and for that reason the Irish teachers are to be done out of a sum of £95,000. Well, if this is the case, which I think it is, Mr. Lowther, it is very mean on the part of the Government to endeavour to defraud a class that is highly deserving of this money, who earned it, and who to my mind should get it. The Irish Members, while they come here and put forward the case for the Irish teachers, are not begging at all for this money. This is Irish money, Mr. Lowther, and it cannot be denied. Even the right honourable Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that this pension fund was formed in the first instance from money taken from the Irish Church Fund. We in Ireland scarcely ever get a penny from this House except it has been taken from some Irish source. 1266 The right honourable Gentleman objects to that, but at the same time, to my mind, I am quite clear that not a penny of money ever goes to Ireland except it is extracted from some body or some individuals in Ireland. Now, it is quite true that the Government on this occasion have taken the large sum of £95,000 from the Irish Teachers' Fund. Some of the Irish teachers joined 30 or 40 years ago, and those teachers joined under certain terms, and almost when they were on the eve of retiring the Government steps in and savs, "You must agree to certain other rules." Now, take it that a man insured his life in his early days, and as long as he was young and had a good life the insurance company kept him on their books without any objection, but the moment it came up to the time he was leaving this world the insurance office stepped in and said, "Oh, you are becoming dangerous; you must pay a greater sum to keep the office safe." This is the attitude the Government have taken, and I think it is rather a petty, miserable attitude for the Government to take. It is admitted upon both sides of this House—whether among Nationalist or Unionist Members—that this sum of money is due to the Irish teachers. On other occasions the Government have got on by saying that the Irish Members were not united on the subject; and as long as they had them separated they had always a peg to hang their argument on and not to give the money. On this occasion, Mr. Lowther, the Members on both sides of the House think that the Irish people should get this money that has been justly earned, and that the young men who have not joined the service should not get the benefit of what has been earned by men who have been years and years in the service; because, after all, paying over this money and transferring it to a pension fund means that men who have not yet joined the service are going to benefit from the men who have got old in the service of the National teachers in Ireland. With regard to the assistant teachers, it is a most remarkable thing how assistant teachers are treated in Ireland. No matter how well a young man studies, or supposing he gets a first class, so long as he is teaching under 1267 another teacher, he only gets third-class pay. I want to show how the Government treat model schools in Ireland compared with how National schools are treated. The model schools are for a select few, and for that reason the Government treat the teachers in model schools differently from the teachers in National schools. The assistant teachers in National schools have to do the same work as those in model schools, who get higher salaries. It may astonish the House when I say that assistant teachers in model schools get £80 a year, whilst in National schools they only get £35 a year. Now, Mr. Lowther, I do not see how any Government can say that they are acting fairly, when they give to assistant teachers in model schools, simply because they have the pleasure of teaching a select few, higher salaries than those who teach the many, and the majority of the Irish people, who are to be cut off with less than half the salaries of teachers in the model schools. Mr. Lowther, there is scarcely a branch connected with the National teachers in Ireland who are so badly treated as these teachers are. The National teachers in any other Government department are supplied with paper, and ink, and pens, and almost everything else they want; but it is not so with regard to the Irish National teachers, because in a great many instances, when maps, and blackboard, and other utensils of the school are worn out, the teacher has, out of his own money, to take and replace those utensils and necessaries that are needed for the teaching of the young people. And, Sir, if that teacher, at any time afterwards, wished to retire, it is a most remarkable thing that the teacher could not take those articles of furniture that he has supplied to the school. There is another matter I wish to impress upon the right honourable Gentleman, and I ask that he would pay attention to it, and it is this: when a teacher gets unwell, and wants leave of absence, what I consider is very bad in this case is that the school is not kept open, because another teacher is not got to keep the school going, and the result is that while the teacher gets his month off the children are allowed to roam where they like during that time. For the difference of a very small sum I think that the 1268 Government should always keep a school open, and in a great many instances the teacher has to resume his teaching when he is not in a fit state. I would ask the right honourable Gentleman to consider this matter, because it is a very serious thing that children should be rambling about for a whole month while the school is closed because the rich Government of England refuses to supply substitutes during the time these unfortunate teachers are laid up. I would ask the right honourable Gentleman to consider these few matters which I have put before him, and I hope he will have no difficulty in handing over to the Irish teachers the money which has been so well earned by them and which is so justly their due. Irish Members are anxious that these teachers should have this money which they have earned, and it should not be handed over for the benefit of those who have not yet joined the schools.
§ MR. DILLON
This is probably the last occasion on which we shall be able to discuss this question for, perhaps, nearly a year. The Chancellor of the Exchequer made rather an important statement on this question in dispute between the Treasury and the teachers. It was, however, very vague, and it is extremely desirable that Ireland should know what really is in the mind of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I understood him to say that his mind ran towards settling the question on the lines of the original letter addressed to him by the teachers in November, 1897, since which a further correspondence took place between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the teachers, in which some misunderstanding arose, and in which the teachers' terms, whether rightly or wrongly, were altered for the worse against them. In the letter from Dublin dated 12th of January, 1898, they break off further correspondence, on the ground, as alleged in that letter, that the terms referred to in the letter of the 29th of July were changed for the worse. Now, Sir, I still adhere to the view that the £95,000 ought to be paid to the teachers, and that the whole question of the pension grant ought to be referred for settlement as a separate matter. That is a view which I strongly 1269 take in regard to this matter, and the first thing to be settled is whether or not this money should be paid and the pension matter referred to a future date. I would suggest to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he would do well to take some means of letting the public know definitely what are his ideas on this matter.
§ MR. DILLON
But there is not a single Member on these benches who understands the present position, or knows what the right honourable Gentleman means. I think every Member of the House will agree that it is a very unsatisfactory way to leave a thing in the condition in which he has left it to-day, and what I will venture to suggest is that we should have some definite statement of what the Government are prepared to do. What I desire to have is some definite statement of the terms alluded to in the second speech made by the right honourable Gentleman, so that we and the teachers for whom we speak would be in a position to consider the matter.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I have endeavoured to explain myself as clearly as I can, and if honourable Members do not understand me it must be my fault. What I have said is, that throughout, from the very commencement of the pension scheme, and, indeed, in the communications which took place between myself and the teachers before the Act was drafted, it was understood that the basis should be a contribution of one-fourth by the teachers and three-fourths from some other source. At the origin of the fund those three-fourths were intended to be taken from the £1,300,000 from the Church Surplus Fund; but, that having proved insufficient, the teachers must find one-fourth of the necessary amount, and I undertake, on behalf of the Government, that the remaining three-fourths shall be made up by the Treasury and the existing pension fund.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
On the scale under the new rules. Then, with regard to what is called the arrears grant, I have suggested that I should be willing for the whole matter to be settled by a Vote by Parliament of a sum of £95,400, of which from £70,000 to £76,000 should be paid by the National Board of Education to the teachers, on the basis of calculation they have made; and that the balance, which should not exceed 25 per cent. of the total sum found to be due by that calculation, should be devoted to the further augmentation of the pension fund. Those are the two proposals. They are perfectly clear. If they are accepted, I will carry them out; if they are not accepted, I shall remain where I am, without any intention of taking steps to make any further proposals.
§ SIR T. ESMONDE (Kerry, W.)
My honourable Friend has spoken about the teachers' pension fund, and also about the case of the assistant teachers, and I do not think that anything can be added to what has been said on the matter, and so I propose to raise a new point. I may be permitted to express my satisfaction that the Chief Secretary has been able to reduce the average attendance in National Schools, and to enable an assistant teacher to be employed where a school can show an average attendance of 60 children. That is an important point, both as regards the teachers and the well-being of the schools. Now, Mr. Lowther, I have a complaint to make about the arrangements of the votes for the Science and Art Department. There are several matters contained in the question of education in Ireland which are not put down under the Irish Education Vote, and I am glad that the honourable Baronet who represents the Science and Art Department is present. I hope that he will reply to the complaint I am about to make. I think that all matters relating to education in Ireland ought to be under one head, so that when. Irish Members come to discuss Irish education they can deal with the matter all at once. Under the new Rules of the House relative to Supply, we have one Vote put down one day and another Vote put down another day, 1271 and the result of this new Rule is that a great number of very important Votes never are discussed at all. There is a Vote of enormous importance to Ireland—that is, the Vote for the Science and Art Department—and that Vote, under the existing Rules, cannot be discussed at this stage. Now, Sir, if the Committee will look at the Scottish Estimates, they will see that there is some justification for my complaint, because on page 378 of these Votes, there are set down the Science and Art expenses in Scotland, but there is no similar item set down in the Irish Votes, and the result of that is that we are unable to discuss the Science and Art grants in the case of Ireland, unless we do it upon a rather incomprehensible item on page 388 of these Votes—namely, that of the teachers of music in model schools, or the teachers of drawing in model schools in Ireland. These particular portions of the salaries of these teachers come under the Science and Art Votes, and, Sir, I do hope that what I have said may induce the Government to consider this matter and to allow the Science and Art items for Ireland to be put down in the Votes for Irish education. So that they may be discussed upon them. Otherwise, Sir, I do not see a way out of the difficulty, except you give us a separate grant for science and art, which shall be independent of the Science and Art Institution at South Kensington. I do not think there is the least use in Irish Members coming here and endeavouring to discuss Irish Estimates, and ventilate Irish grievances, when we are precluded by the regulations of the House from efficiently discharging those duties. Sir, there is another item in this education of Ireland. Therefore, in view of to the Committee the peculiar position in which we are placed. We cannot discuss the science and art question under this Vote, but we can discuss the question of technical education. Why should we not be able to discuss them both together? I propose to say something upon the question of technical education in Ireland. To all intents and purposes the only form of technical education in Ireland is agricultural education. The Commissioners of National Education in Ireland are also entrusted with the super- 1272 vision of certain other forms of technical education, but only to a very limited extent. Sir, I say practically the only technical education that we have in Ireland is agricultural education, and of that we have not education enough. We have only a limited number of model schools in Ireland which cater for the agricultural education of the Irish people, and that number is notoriously insufficient. We ought to have in every Irish county a technical school, and that technical school ought to teach agriculture, as well as other forms of technical education. The position of Ireland in this respect is most extraordinary. Ireland is an agricultural country, and if we had an Irish Parliament, the first thing it would do would be to provide for the people a proper system of technical education; but the present Government, which is opposed to Home Rule, is bound by its professional to take the place of a Home Rule Parliament, and in this connection is bound to see that the Irish people are technically instructed. Take the case of Denmark. Denmark is not a rich country, but a few years ago the Danish Government took the trouble to teach the Danish people the most improved methods of farming, with the result that to-day Denmark is one of the first countries in Europe in this particular industry, whereas Ireland—a country far better qualified naturally—is the last. Sir, the amount of money expended in Ireland in technical education is ludicrously insufficient. I hold in my hand an instructive map, which shows the relative amounts of money spent in various portions of the United Kingdom in connection with technical education, and the Committee will perhaps allow me to give one or two of the figures. I will take the case of Scotland first, because not long since I heard a Scotch Member declare, in the course of a Debate, that Scotland received no grants for technical education. Well, Sir, I find that in the Orkney Islands there is 2d. per head of the population paid for technical education. I find, coming down to Aberdeenshire, that there is 5d. per head of the population; in Perthshire there is 7½d.; in Berwickshire 8d.; and in Dumfries 7d. So much for Scotland. Coming to England, I find in Westmoreland there is 9d. per head of the popu- 1273 lation; in Lancashire, 7½d.; Yorkshire, 6½d.; Cheshire, 8d.; Derbyshire, 9d.; Shropshire, 8d.; Warwickshire, 8½d.; Norfolk, 8d.; Huntingdon, 10d.; Herefordshire, 9½d.; Buckinghamshire, 10d.; Kent, 7½d.; Hampshire, 9d.; Dorsetshire, 8½d.; Somersetshire, 9d.; Wiltshire, 10½d.; Carnarvonshire, 7½d.; Monmouthshire, 5d.; Glamorgan 7d.; Radnorshire, 5½d. Now I turn to the case of Ireland. In Ireland I find that the county which has the highest amount is Dublin, which gets 6d. per head. The next highest is the county of Cork, which gets 2½d. per head; Waterford gets 1d., Kerry ¼d., Roscommon one-twenty-fourth of a penny, Donegal one-fortieth of a penny; and there are a number of other counties getting nothing at all. That shows how we are treated in comparison with England and Wales in this matter. Now, Sir, the Chief Secretary asked me whether there was any contribution made to the grant for technical education by the local authorities in England and Scotland. Yes, there is. As in Ireland, a contribution is made by the Imperial Exchequer equal to the amount which is given by the local authorities. But the people of Donegal, Kerry, Clare, and the other poor counties in Ireland, cannot contribute out of their rates in competition with Middlesex, Wiltshire, Aberdeenshire, and other rich counties in England and Wales; it is absolutely beyond their power. The idea of asking a county or an urban district in the west of Ireland which has to pay county taxes, and which has to contribute towards the relief of distress, to compete with the ratepayers of Middlesex, Wiltshire, Glamorganshire, Carnarvonshire, or similar districts, is perfectly ludicrous. It is beyond their capacity to do so.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
The grants to which the right honourable Gentleman refers are in almost every case derived from local sources. Where the money comes originally from the Treasury the local authorities are allowed to spend it in any way they like.
§ SIR T. ESMONDE
I have no doubt that that is so, but the Committee must not forget that £750,000 in round numbers is granted every year from the Treasury to local authorities in England from the beer duties, while no corres- 1274 ponding grant is made to Ireland. I hope that next year we shall be in a position to congratulate the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland on having met our wishes in this direction, without putting the House to the necessity of a long Debate. There is one other point to which I wish to refer in connection with technical education in Ireland. The evening schools in Ireland are, I fancy, to a considerable extent, under the control of the Commissioners of National Education, because the Commissioners of National Education make rules for the guidance of the teachers. Now, Sir, there is one rule to which I should like to call the attention of the Chief Secretary. Rule 198 provides that the teacher's salary shall be £1 for each month during which the school is open, and there must be an average monthly attendance of not less than 25 bonâ fide evening school pupils, which, of course, does not mean day school pupils. It is further provided that the results paid for are reading, spelling, writing, arithmetic, book-keeping, and the ordinary branches of education only; that not more than two extra branches will be taught by the teachers and that when the payment is made for these two extra branches no fees will be paid for the ordinary branches, in respect of the same pupil. Now, Mr. Lowther, that does seem to me to be a very injurious regulation. It seems to me that if evening schools are to be encouraged some modifications should be made. I have heard enough from the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary to lead me to hope that he will take up this matter as early as possible. I am not able to raise the question of science and art upon this Vote, and have only been able to refer to it by, as it were, a side wind; but now the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary has leisure, I hope that he will be able to devote his energies to considering the question of science and art. I am sure that if he will endeavour to make this branch of local education an Irish Department, regulated by rules and regulations to suit the true requirements of the Irish people, he will have the assistance of all Irishmen of every shade of opinion in bringing such a policy to a satisfactory conclusion.
§ MR. DAVITT (Mayo, S.)
I am very glad my honourable Friend has drawn attention to the very paltry provision made in the interests of manual instruction in Ireland. It is a great and growing evil that this instruction should be stunted in this way. I sincerely hope that the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary will give the matter his sympathetic consideration between this and next Session. The right honourable Gentleman has suggested a possible explanation of the small extent of technical education in Ireland in the fact that the local resources in Ireland are not tapped for this purpose as is the case in Great Britain. Well, it is our misfortune and not our fault if we have a rich class of landlords in Ireland, who will not follow the example of their brethren in England, and will not help out of their great resources to improve the technical education of the people of Ireland. Apart from this, I complain that out of the annual Vote granted for the purpose of elementary education in Ireland there is much too small a sum devoted to what I may call the interests of agricultural education in the country. For instance, the sum set aside for the teaching of agriculture is, I think, £12,000 a year, and most of that goes for the upkeep of a few model farms. Now, this is a very small sum out of the £1,250,000 which is expended in Ireland upon primary education, because it is well for the Committee to recollect that agriculture is the main source of employment for fully seven-tenths of the population of Ireland. Therefore, in view of that fact, I contend that there ought to be a larger sum given out of the annual Education Vote for manual instruction in agriculture than the sum to which I have referred. It is a common saying, when Ireland is mentioned in this respect, that its agriculture is much behind that of England and many Continental countries. Well, of course, that is true, but the explanation, I think, is—and it is a sufficient explanation of the facts and figures that have been adduced by my honourable Friend—that there ought to be a great deal more attention paid to the importance of agricultural subjects in training colleges at the present time. I am sure the system of training was planned with the intention of making 1276 these colleges as serviceable as possible, but I think that the position of these colleges requires that there should be constant attention given to the main industry of the country. I would also like to see more encouragement given to school managers and teachers to teach our boys and girls in the elementary schools more than they are now taught with reference to the industry which they are expected to follow when they leave school. I am sorry to say—and it is a custom which has very disastrous results to the interests of the country—that when our boys and girls leave school they are also anxious to leave Ireland. Now, I. think that might be prevented if more inducements were given to school managers and school teachers, who teach in Irish schools, to make the subjects relating to the agricultural industries more attractive to the children in their classes. This is a matter that has attracted a good deal of attention in Germany and other countries, where it is held that the elementary instruction given in the schools of the country is too mental and not sufficiently manual and technical, that the children of tenant farmers are educated above the calling of their parents. I do not find fault with the mental education of the Irish schools. I think our teachers fulfil their duty in that respect, but I would like to see the elementary teaching in Ireland made more practical in connection with the main industry of the country; so that when our boys and girls are educated there will be an inducement held out to them to improve the agriculture of Ireland, instead of their going away to other lands and giving them the fruits of the education which Ireland has been put to the expense of giving to them. I hope this matter, which is of a non-party character, will receive the attention and careful consideration of the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and I am sure I am only expressing what is in the minds of many honourable Gentlemen when I say that if more of the general taxation were used in making more practical and more technical the education of Ireland it would not be begrudged by this House of Commons.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
The discussion which has taken place has turned mainly upon the educational question, but other subjects have been touched upon. The honourable Member for East Mayo asked me what was my intention with regard to the model schools. As I daresay the honourable Member knows, the Committee of the National Education has the whole subject of the model schools under consideration. There are a good many other Members also connected with the Committee of Education, and they have not been able to report upon the question of model schools. Until they report, it is impossible for the Commissioners to make up their minds as to the line they will adopt. You have to consider the conclusions which have been arrived at by the National Board of Education. As to the Commission upon technical education, that has reported, but it has not yet been considered by the National Board, and I myself have not given the matter the attention which I am sure it deserves. I am glad to be able to repeat again that which I stated the first time to-day in answer to a question put to me—namely, that the proposal of the Commissioners that average attendances required entitling a school to assistance has been reduced to 60. We have had a great deal of correspondence upon this subject between the Education Commissioners, the Treasury, and the Irish Government, and I think it is now regarded as satisfactory by all parties. Now, some matters of comparatively small importance were touched upon by some speakers, such as the salary of the teachers and the closing of the school when the teacher is ill. I might remind the Committee, with regard to those matters, I have no control whatever. The position with regard to elementary education in Ireland is somewhat peculiar; I have no such power. I cannot exercise any authority over the National Commissioners of Education; all I can do is to suggest for their consideration the various points that may be raised by honourable Members in this House. I am quite ready to bring before them the various points raised to-day, but it is not really in my power to enforce my views upon the subject. All I can do is to bring it before the Commissioners for 1278 consideration. The important subjects of science and art and technical education in Ireland were raised by the honourable Baronet the Member for Kerry and the honourable Member for South Mayo. Broadly speaking, I sympathise to a large extent with the views expressed by those honourable Gentlemen. I am not in a position to give a pledge, but I may say that last year it was my intention to direct my attention to the questions of science and art and technical education in Ireland. Circumstances intervened which rendered it impossible for me to carry out the policy which I had in my mind then, but I earnestly trust that I may be able to take up this subject again, and bring the policy I have in view to a successful issue in the course of the next Session. It will give me the greatest satisfaction if I am able to carry out, on lines satisfactory to the House of Commons, a policy developing agriculture and promoting agricultural education, which has only been postponed by the higher claims of local government.
§ MR. DILLON
Will the right honourable Gentleman allow me to remind him of the National cry? An urgent application has been made that the grant of £753 for teaching cookery may be increased to £1,200. That is a branch of education still wanted in many parts of Ireland, and I desire and I would ask the right honourable Gentleman to direct the Commissioners' attention to this particular department.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I assure honourable Gentlemen that the Government have very little power except to bring the matter before the Commissioners of Education.
§ SIR J. GORST (Cambridge University)
It is impossible to put all the Votes relating to Irish education together, because the science and art department is responsible for science and art teaching in Ireland, the expenses of which must be included in the Vote. It would be impossible to separate it. The responsibility for science and art has been taken over by the Scotch Office, so far as Scotland is concerned, and it is no longer under the Council of Education, and therefore is taken in the Scotch Educational Votes, but no change could be made so far as 1279 Ireland is concerned until the Irish Office takes over the science and art department in the same way as the Scotch Office has done.
§ Vote agreed to.