Local Authorities (Education Scholarships) Bill, 1944—Second Stage.

Tairgim: "Go léighfear an Bille seo an dara huair." Sé fáth an Bhille seo comhacht a thabhairt do Chomhairlí Contae agus do Chomhairlí Buirge scéimeanna a cheapadh agus airgead a chur ar fáil fá chóir scoláireachtaí i Meán-scoileanna, i Scoltacha Gairm-Oideachais agus i scoltacha ceaduithe nach iad. Beidh na scéimeanna sin ag braith ar aontú Aire an Oideachais. Ordú a tugadh sa Dara Dáil a thug comhacht i dtosach scéimeanna a cheapadh agus ráta a leagan i gcóir na scoláireachtaí sin. Nuair a ritheadh an tAcht um Rialtas Aitiúil (Forálacha Sealadacha), 1923, tugadh an chomhacht sin ann in Alt a 17. Ach hathghairmeadh go hiomlán Acht na bliana 1923, nuair a ritheadh Acht Rialtais Aitiúil na bliana 1941. Ar an ábhar sin, níorbh fhuláir dlí a dhéanamh leis an gcomhacht a bhí ag Udaráis Aitiúla scéimeanna den chineál sin a leagan amach agus a riaradh a fhágáil acu. Ní hamháin sin ach bhí sé riachtanach leis na scéimeanna atá i bhfeidhm fá láthair agus a bhí i bhfeidhm ó hathghairmeadh Acht na bliana 1923 a dhéanamh dleathach.

On gcéad lá ar bunuíodh na scéimeanna sin, fuair 6,000 duine idir buachaillí agus cailíní oideachas Meánscoile no Gairm-Oideachas dá mbárr. Cé's moite de chupla cás, daoine iad sin nach mbeadh deis acu a leitheid d'oideachas fháil marach é. Níl bliain dá dteigheann thart nach dtagann athrú ar líon na gComhairlí a cheapas a leitheidí de scéimeanna, do réir mar fheileas dóibh a dhéanamh. Cuireann sé ríméad orm a rá, áfach, nach bhfuilComhairle ná Bárdas in Eirinn, ach ceann amháin, nach bhfuil fútha scéimeanna a cheapadh i gcóir na bliana 1944. Má smaoinítear ar an droch-bhail atá ar an saol fá láthair ní bréag ar bith a rá nach ro-ioncháinte an socrú fá chóir scoláireachtaí atá dhá dhéanamh i láthair na huaire ag na Comhairlí céanna. Ach do réir mar thiocfas malairt cóir ar an saol, tá súil agam go mbeidh ar chumas na nUdarás Aitiúil cur lena gcuid scéimeanna, agus go bhféadfa siad tuille airgid a chur ar fáil do mhalraigh nach mbeadh sé de bhrabach ortha thar oideachas bunscoile fháil, sin dá bhféadaidís a chruthú trí scrúdú no eile go mbeadh ar a gcumas tairbhe a bhaint as an deis a tiubharfaí dhóibh ar oideachas níos fearr fháil.

Gidh gurb iad na hUdaráis Aitiúla, mar adubhras cheana, a chuireann ceann ar gach scéim, agus gur as na rátaí a thagas an t-airgead ina gcóir, socruíodh leis an Aire Riaghaltais Aiteamhail gur ar Roinn an Oideachais, o cheart, ba chóir cúram an Bhille seo a bheith, thárla dlúthbhaint a bheith aige le cúrsaí oideachais.

Glacadh mar bhonn don Bhille seo leis na socruithe i gcóir na scéimeanna seo a bhí in Alt 17 d'Acht na bliana 1923. Ach de thairbhe an eolais a cuireadh o shoin i leith ar riaradh na scéimeanna, gan trácht ar na hathruithe a tháinig o thaobh riartha ar rialú áitiúil féin, ceaptar nach fuláir socrú níos cruinne a dhéanamh maidir le modh oibre agus modh riartha na scéimeanna seo sa saol atá romhainn. Ceist a scrúduíodh go mion, ar chóir iallach a chur ar Udaráis Áitiúla socrú a dhéanamh i gcóir scoláireachtaí no ar chóir a fhágáil fútha féin sin a dhéanamh mar a bhí in Acht na bliana 1923. Taréis gach ní a chur san áireamh shocruigh mé gur fútha féin a fágfaí scéimeanna a cheapadh no gan a cheapadh.

Fá'n socrú nua isé an tUdarás Áitiúil a cheapfas scéim dó féin agus ansin cuirfe sé ós cóir Aire an Oideachais é. Tig leis an Aire aontú no gan aontú le haon chuid de. No go n-aontuighe seisean leis ní thiocfaidh aon scéim i bhfeidhm. Má dhiúltuíonn an tAire aontú leis ní thiocfa sé i bhfeidhm no go ndéantar athrú air do réir mar mheasann seisean a bheith riachtanach. Is cuma cén scéim a ceapfar ní thig le dalta scoláireacht fháil gan scrúdú oideachais a sheasamh. Ach is gnás a bhí ann, agus ní gá aon athrú a dhéanamh air sa mBille seo, é bheith de chead ag Udaráis Áitiúla pé socrú fá leith a dhéanamh a mheasas siad a bheith riachtanach dá gceanntar féin, sin má bhíonn brí agus bunús leis.

I should like to have the Minister's observations regarding Sections 6 and 7 of the Bill. As he has observed, in Section 6, which deals with the approval of the Minister to the award of scholarships, he has taken to himself power to reject the scheme for examinations drawn up by Dublin Corporation, which, I may say in passing, like the other bodies affected, have to foot the bill in connection with these scholarships. I think that we shall all agree—the Minister is, I am sure, quite satisfied—that Dublin Corporation have carried out this scheme to his satisfaction and with great success. Under the Dublin Corporation Scholarship Scheme it is provided in Section 5, paragraph (b), in regard to conditions for passing the examination, that

"for the purpose of placing in order of merit those candidates who pass the examination the total marks obtained by each candidate in the four obligatory subjects will be reckoned,"

and so on. Under the Bill the Minister is taking power to himself to award these scholarships. He is not leaving it to the corporation or other public bodies who are to provide the money for the scholarships to do that. I do not think that is reasonable, and I would like to hear what the Minister has to say.

I think that the House, generally, approves of co-ordinating in some fashion the scholarship idea. How far this Bill does it, in the correct direction, is a matter of opinion. There is, undoubtedly, a great variety of schemes under the auspices of corporations and of different county bodies. In some counties it is to be regretted that there are no such schemes at all. As far as can be seen, the Minister is not taking power under the Bill to stimulate local authorities to provide scholarships, nor is it the intention evidently to provide any inducement to local bodies to establish and maintain scholarships. Everyone is in agreement with the general principle of scholarships if they are correctly used and applied for the benefit of the individual holders of them, for the locality in which they are given and for the State as a whole. Therefore, I think that the House would be quite agreeable that steps should be taken to do everything possible to promote and have a widespread diffusion of the scholarship idea: to make scholarships accessible to the members of the community, particularly their sons and daughters who, under the present economic system, are precluded from receiving higher education.

The Bill, as I have said, does not contain any provision to develop the idea of scholarships generally, but under it the Minister appears to be taking too much power to himself. He evidently requires central control in many directions where hitherto it has been absent. It is a moot point whether the giving of this control over scholarships to the Minister will be good for the whole idea of scholarships or will be of advantage to those who are in most need of the benefits of scholarships. The Minister has in every case to approve of schemes. I take it that there is to be little local autonomy in the matter. Everything will become more or less standardised. A certain amount of standardisation might be good, but too much of it does not take cognisance of local conditions. It does not relate those scholarships, for instance, to local industries—the needs of different industries whether it be agriculture or other industries which are considered to be best by the people in touch with local conditions—and, therefore, would not, I submit, be of benefit to the State at large, and certainly would not be to the benefit of local initiative.

It is provided in Section 3, in the case of schemes which are submitted, that alterations, if there are any, shall not be made without the previous approval of the Minister. That idea runs right through the Bill. Section 7 is the only section in which one finds perhaps a gleam of hope for the local people. Under it they may still retain some sort of initiative in determining, as I understand it, the actual number of scholarships and the value of them. That is to be a reserved function to the local council. We all agree that it is a necessary and correct provision if the council is going to determine the total number of scholarships. If the council is going to pay the piper, then certainly one would imagine that it would call the tune in a much more definite fashion than it is enabled to do under this Bill.

In Section 5 the Minister enters into the greatest detail in regard to his control. Not only shall he prescribe the examination tests and the age limits under this section, but he may, in respect of any examination, prescribe the subjects of such tests, the time and the place and the persons by whom they are to be held. He is even taking power to determine and fix the percentage of marks at such tests as will be necessary to qualify for a scholarship. My submission is that that is taking the matter too far. That the central authority should so determine may have some relevancy to the question of standardisation, but experience in regard to these examinations shows that any very rigid plan, particularly in regard to the percentage marks to be obtained in order to qualify, sometimes imposes a great hardship on those sitting for the examination. In many cases it actually works in the contrary direction, as those who have experience of examinations know. Where the qualifying standard is fixed at a particular level— the examiner after all is only human— in order to make certain that the scholarships which have been voted by the local councils are obtained and used by candidates, there will occur, in fact, a diminution of the standard in the marking of papers under such schemes, rather than have the scholarships going a-begging. That is particularly the case when there are quite a number of scholarships. The last to qualify, if it were just a straightforward matter of putting them in the order of merit, may not come up to the high standard set by the Minister in this section, with the result, perhaps, that students who, in many cases, are on the border line, will not derive benefit for a year, and that may impose a great hardship on them and it may prevent them, by reason of the age limit, from competing in the following year.

I submit that the general principle of fixing too rigidly the qualifying level, the percentage of marks, is not in the best interests of education and, in fact, is not observed by some of the best known examination bodies in other countries. For instance, the Royal Society of Arts, which is probably the largest examining body in Great Britain or in the English-speaking world, for many subjects, consistently refuses to disclose what is the qualifying level at which it will award certificates—and these certificates are recognised by our Department of Education; they constitute, in fact, teachers' qualifications in many cases.

I make those observations in passing to show that it is not the practice of those bodies, which have a long tradition in education and in examinations such as this, to confine too rigidly the qualification award to any pre-determined level. I submit, therefore, that the principle of the Bill, while it may be correct in so far as it regularises the whole question of scholarships, is still defective in so far as it is intended to place too great a power in the hands of the Minister. It is in keeping with many other measures which have been passed by this Assembly. It follows along the line of centralising everything, destroying to some extent local initiative and, as that always has a retrograde effect. I feel that when this Bill is under examination on later stages a more liberal interpretation of the whole position should be given to it by the Minister and that he should relax his control in a great many of the cases indicated under this Bill.

I think one of the greatest defects in our educational system is our attempt to have too rigid a curriculum, our attempt at standardisation, our attempt to turn out a type. I think we have inherited that from the British system. With their highly industrialised outlook, they strive simply to turn out a type to suit industrial purposes. That sort of thing, I suggest, is not in keeping with our conditions here, and yet we are still slavishly following that idea. It is running right through this Bill, as Deputy Connolly has stated.

The Minister reserves to himself almost complete control; he takes the control out of the hands of the local authority. It is true that the local authority has power to initiate a scheme, but the Minister reserves the right to select the subjects. Why should he have the right to decide the subjects for an examination test in areas in this country where the people might have a peculiar outlook, or where the conditions might be somewhat different from those of other areas? I suggest that in doing that the Minister is simply trying to standardise education, having all the time at the back of his mind the examination test and the cramming and all the other evils that result from that system.

One thing that strikes me about the Bill is the absence of any provision for a scholarships committee. People in a particular area may be interested in education and may be anxious to give their services voluntarily on such a committee. Should the local authority feel it necessary to call on such men to formulate a scholarship scheme, there is no machinery provided here for the purpose. If you take an average county council, the members of that body may not be fitted to go into these matters in great detail, and therefore I suggest some provision should be made here for a scholarship committee.

In Section 7 it is set out that the expenses of carrying a scheme into operation will be a reserved function of the local authority and Section 2 (1) says:

"The corporation of a county borough, or the council of a county may, whenever it so thinks proper, prepare and submit to the Minister a scheme for the provision of scholarships in accordance with this Act."

I am sure the Minister is aware that at present it is not a reserved function of the local authority to prepare such a scheme. The preparation of a scholarship scheme at present is the function of the manager. It seems to me an extraordinary state of affairs that that sort of work, under another Act, is reserved to the county manager, work which ought to belong to the representatives of the people. If they feel it necessary and desirable, they should be in a position to select a scholarship committee which will go carefully into the subjects for the examination test. That is the system that we operated in the past, but since the County Management Act came into operation it is the county manager who now prepares the scheme and sets out what subjects are to be included in the examination test.

I think that position should be cleared up under this Bill. It would appear that the county manager is not brought in except in Section 7 (2), where it is clearly stated that the only thing that is reserved to the local authority is the provision of funds. There are other aspects that might usefully be brought into the scheme, and it would be well to have them embodied in this measure. We could, for instance, ensure that where finances are provided some preference should be given to remote districts. It is true that where there are children from all classes of the community so situated that they are near a good national school and have no difficulty in travelling, it would be hardly fair to put them in examinations against children from the remote or more backward districts. That would be putting the children in the remote districts at a disadvantage. So far as the children of the poorer classes are concerned, their condition ought not to be overlooked.

We should make some effort to ensure that people placed in a disadvantageous position should have their interests looked after, so that they can secure their fair share of whatever public funds are available. I object to the Minister taking such autocratic powers. I do not think the power should be given to one individual in the City of Dublin to determine what are to be the subjects for examination for this scholarship. I think they should be determined by local conditions.

Mr. O'Sullivan

These scholarships play a very important part in our general education system and, in my opinion, any legislation calculated either to extend or to place them on a higher basis is certainly to be welcomed. Like Deputy Hughes I am concerned with the Bill as far as Sections 2 and 7 are concerned. The sections seem to be contradictory. It is true that Section 7 says that the particular function in a county borough is a reserved function as far as the finance end is concerned. That raises the whole question of the County Management Act with which we will probably be dealing in Private Deputies' time at a later stage. It is interesting that we should be up against it in this comparatively small matter. If a corporation or a county council is called upon to pay for scholarships they will obviously do so on a scheme presented by them, but they will have no voice in the matter. I suggest that, in this rather important matter, a county council or a county borough, as the case may be, should be more closely brought into play in relation to scholarships. As far as Dublin is concerned I am glad to say that the city manager has permitted the setting up of a scholarship committee. That committee has done valuable work in so far as the scholarships are concerned. That scheme is working very satisfactorily in the city. I am interested to learn from the Minister if it is intended to make any serious departure in so far as tests are concerned, as set out in Section 5?

There is no such intention.

Mr. O'Sullivan

I am glad to hear that. So far as it has been within the province of a local council to look after that end, all that is necessary, as far as I am aware, was approval of the scheme. May I suggest to the Minister that there is one defect that he might consider in this Bill? In so far as primary scholarships are concerned, they are from primary to secondary schools. They are usually available at secondary colleges while vocational schools are excluded or are to be.

Mr. O'Sullivan

As far as I am aware no facilities have been extended in that direction. I do not know if that is due to the fact that the recipients of scholarships do not desire to go to vocational schools. I understood there was some specific exclusion on that ground. If that is so, having regard to the extension of vocational education, and of the part that these schools play, they should be definitely eligible under these scholarships. As far as university scholarships are concerned they have been most valuable in the city up to a certain point, but economic conditions have cut across their utility. These scholarships are value for £80 in Dublin and less elsewhere. Roughly 12 scholarships were awarded in Dublin to those who had the highest marks in the leaving certificate. Subsequently boys who took scholarships were not able to continue because of economic circumstances and availed of the first opportunity to leave either for the Civil Service or for some commercial examination. A question may arise as to how far the utility of a scholarship has relation to money value. My experience is that, as far as the city is concerned, it was not an exceedingly happy one up to the time that we had to raise the value of these scholarships. Since then there have been better results. I am glad to have an assurance from the Minister that it is not his intention to change the form of the test. In that way there will be a certain amount of local autonomy. I appeal to the Minister to permit a continuance of the unofficial arrangement we have, whereby scholarship committees will be set up to act in conjunction with the manager in matters of this kind.

Mr. Byrne

Has the Minister at any time decided how the means test is applied to parents of children whose teachers say that they should be allowed to enter for these examinations? I have been recently informed —I am sure my colleagues in the corporation are aware of this—of what appeared to be an injustice to parents who want their children to be allowed to sit for these examinations. Is the Minister aware that a man who earns £5 a week and who has two children cannot enter these children for these scholarships? If he has three children and £5 a week they are allowed to compete. If he has a few shillings over £5 a week and three children they are not eligible. I consider that to be an injustice to many parents who because of their frugality have house purchase and other commitments to meet. Parents' means are taken into consideration by local committees on county councils and county boroughs. The award of a scholarship in Dublin is a reserved function of the city manager. I want to say of the Dublin City Manager that while he hears the views of the committees, and is most agreeable in every way, he has to have regard to the fact that the Minister may not sanction a scheme if the income of a parent is limited to £5 a week. I consider the means test to be too severe. Where a parent has to meet house purchase instalments, or insurance, or has to maintain a dependent relative an allowance should be made for each commitment so as to bring the means within the limit. Nobody can say that a man who earns £5 a week and who has-three children is well off. I do not know how such people manage to meet their commitments on that income. I think it is unfair that the child of a man with £5 5/- a week should not be allowed to compete for scholarships. If the Minister would express the view that the amount of the means test should be increased we would all be agreeable.

I welcome this Bill in so far as there is an extension of the powers of councils to provide other than primary education for the mass of our children. I should like the Bill to go further and to apportion a definite sum out of the rates for scholarship purposes. That might be considered by many people an extreme view. I know that it is hard to fix a definite proportion to suit different parts of the country. In some places educational facilities are provided that are almost the equal of scholarships.

If you take children fortunate enough to live beside the Christian Brothers' schools where the education is very cheap, they have not the same necessity as children living in remote places, and certain districts would require proportionately more than other districts just for that reason. But there is a poor public spirit in the matter of scholarships in this country. In other countries, we see successful businessmen and successful industrialists endowing schools and colleges in such a way as to enable them to award scholarships. Unfortunately, that is not the case in this country, and that is why I am glad to see that councils and public bodies are being encouraged to take up this matter to the fullest possible extent.

Now, with regard to the powers of the Minister, so far as his powers have been criticised here to-day, I think the criticism is unfair. I believe there ought to be some over-riding authority outside the council itself in the matter of the subjects chosen and the marks given and the other conditions affecting the awards of scholarships. It is all very well to say that the councils and other authorities pay the piper and should have the right to call the tune, but the great point is that they do not pay the piper out of their own pockets. If they supplied the money directly out of their pockets they would have a perfect right to call the tune, but that is not the case.

Is not that a serious reflection on the integrity and honesty of the county councillors?

It is nothing of the kind.

There is a distinct inference that they treat public money in a different way from their own money—a very grave reflection, I think.

The point I am making, if you give me time to develop it, is that while it is not likely that the award of these scholarships would be very much abused, none of us can deny that the possibility is there, and I have seen people clamouring in various counties—mostly people belonging to the Deputy's own Party—to have the setting of the examination papers taken out of the hands of the local councils. I have seen that done in my own county and, I think, rightly so, because the possibility is there that if the councils have the decision in the matter, it is human nature that they might have, at least, a bias in favour of the child of one of their colleagues.

Have you ever received such representations?

I do not say that it would be on a widespread scale, but so long as the possibility is there, there is a danger and I think there should be an over-riding power in that matter.

Will the Deputy say if he has received such representations as a member of the Dublin Corporation?

I think that very few city managers or county managers would object to the setting up of an advisory committee of the members of the council, and from my knowledge of what is being done throughout the country, I believe that the managers would be perfectly fair and amenable. I have the honour of being the chairman of the scholarships committee of the Dublin Corporation, and we drafted schemes and submitted them to the city manager and they have been accepted and acted upon very fairly. I think it would be a good thing if every council selected from its members a number of people interested in this matter of education and qualified to advise the manager.

It would be a very good thing for every council and I feel quite sure that, when these schemes are drafted, if they are drafted reasonably and well, the Minister will not interfere in the matter beyond ensuring that a proper and right standard is set up. I know it is very difficult to deal with remote districts. It is one of these problems in which it is hard to suggest a remedy. There are children who are tremendously handicapped by not having schools of a good type in their neighbourhood and there are some other children three or four miles away from any sort of school at all. Naturally, the schools are very small in these remote areas. Each teacher has to take three or four classes in the small schools and to provide anything like the education necessary for a boy or girl is a very difficult thing. If something could be done to level up the situation with regard to these children who are anæmic, it would be a very good thing.

On the whole, I approve of this Bill, but I should like to see it go much further—in more than one direction, possibly. For instance, with regard to this question of university scholarships, I am afraid to look at that matter at all, because university scholarships may be awarded to a type of student to whom they should not be awarded. For instance, you have a type of scholarship awarded by the Dublin Corporation at the moment, but that scholarship is confined to people within the particular area. We are tied, in the awarding of such scholarships, to candidates within our own area, and I think it is a pity that that should be so. I think it is a pity that we should not be enabled to accept candidates from any part of the country, but under the present law we are restricted to take candidates from our own area. I foresee that it might be many years before we might get a suitable candidate from Dublin for one of these scholarships, and I do not see why we should not be allowed to award these scholarships to students from other parts of the country. It is quite possible that you might have a suitable candidate from some other part of the country offering himself for this scholarship, the result of whose work might be of wonderful benefit to the country as a whole; and if you can get a proper type of candidate for these scholarships, I do not see why they should be confined to one particular area. I think that the area should be extended.

I am glad to be able to assure the Dáil that the Department of Education has found that the arrangements made by the Dublin Corporation in regard to scholarships have been found to be uniformly satisfactory. The existing scheme provides that, subject to the rules and regulations contained in an approved scheme, scholarships shall be awarded, subject to examination in the following subjects: Irish, English, Arithmetic, History and Geography, Algebra, Geometry, Drawing, Nature Study, and Needlework. Candidates must answer in the first four of these subjects, and, in any two, but no more than two of the remaining subjects. It is pointed out that, subject to these rules and to the regulations contained in an approved scheme, scholarships shall be awarded in the order of merit as determined by examination, and the subjects of examination are set out in the order I have stated already. Certain subjects are optional and others are compulsory, but I must say that in regard to the people marking these papers, they are independent; they do not know what papers they are marking, nor from what county the students come.

Mr. Larkin

Has the Minister any knowledge of what political Party the students belong to?

In the case of anybody who has any more knowledge of the procedure in these cases than Deputy Larkin has, it would be unnecessary to ask that question. We pride ourselves in this country that, so far as markers and examiners appointed by the State are concerned, they are generally beyond reproach. The markers in the case of examination papers are independent; they do not know whose papers they are marking, nor from what county the students come. The scholarships are awarded to those who show that they will benefit by continued education. Now and again, of course, there may be mistakes, but I am glad to say that during my term of office as Minister for Education, I have had no complaint with regard to the examination or marking of papers in connection with these scholarships. It will be understood, of course, that a certain standard must be attained in order to warrant the award of a scholarship, because, otherwise, scholarships might be awarded to candidates who were not of sufficient merit. The examination test is subject to the approval of the Minister for Education, but that does not mean that the local authority concerned may not depart from the particular type of test or examination required. It is obviously a convenience and an economy to have a general test laid down, but we are not tying down local authorities to that one test. The alternative is provided in Section 5, subsection (3) of the Bill, which says that different examination tests, including different qualifying percentages of marks and different age limits, may be prescribed in respect of different scholarships, whether comprised in the same or different schemes.

I take it that the functions of the Minister there would be to see that no unfairness to candidates would occur. It might be a very good thing that the Minister should have nothing to do with a scheme drawn up by a local authority, but a line must be drawn somewhere, in cases where there is question of inequalities or inequities; particularly as there was some doubt as to whether, in the original Act, the Minister had power to approve schemes. Section 17 of the Local Government (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1923, says:—

"The tests of ability to be satisfied by students under that section shall be prescribed in a scheme to be formulated for the purpose of the section by the council of the county or county borough in accordance with rules to be made by the Minister for Education, and that no such scheme shall have any effect unless and until approved by the Minister for Education."

There is no doubt that, as regards the scheme in general, it has to have the previous sanction of the Minister for Education, but whether the Minister for Education, believing that there is a certain inequity or inequality in the scheme, has the power to compel the local authority concerned to amend it, in order to meet the Minister's wishes, is a moot point. Up to the present, we have always proceeded by way of persuasion, and if we felt that certain conditions, laid down by local authorities, were inequitable, we asked them to amend them. The purpose of the present measure, apart from seeing that the money is provided and that the existing schemes will be validated, is to ensure that the Minister will clearly have power and be within his legal rights in asking a local authority to make certain amendments where he is not satisfied, and where he considers that such amendments should be made.

I cannot foresee, nor do I believe, that it will occur that a local authority will seek to impose conditions that would clearly be unworkable or inequitable—conditions to which a Minister would have to refuse sanction. Some local authorities have provided very excellent schemes, and I must say that we have had no trouble where the scheme was properly thought out by people who had had long experience in education. I must say that, since the beginning, where responsible persons were concerned, we have had no trouble, but in other cases we have had it where councils from year to year or the majorities on councils for the time being, have tried to amend the conditions, no doubt believing that it was in the general interest that they should be so amended. It may happen that there is a difficulty in getting a local authority to see eye to eye with the Department of Education in the matter and, as I have already said, the purpose of the measure is to make it clear that if the Minister gives reasons and shows that a particular scheme should be amended, that some of its conditions are not acceptable, there should be no question but that he should have legal authority to ask that the amendments he has suggested be included.

Deputy Byrne has referred to the means test and, of course, that is a very serious and important matter. I cannot deal with it at the moment except by way of saying, with regard to the particular scheme in Dublin, that it is entirely a matter within the discretion of the local authority if they wish to amend it. I could not say in advance what my attitude would be if they should so amend it, but if good reasons are given for amending it, and that it seems clear enough that no serious departure from what would be fair and reasonable is proposed, then the tendency in the Department would be to recommend to me that the scheme should be sanctioned. In general I think the Minister should see to it that, while scholarship money should be distributed so that a reasonable number of persons would benefit, the value of the scholarships should not be reduced in such a way as to make them of little practical use to the recipients. If we are not satisfied that the amount of money or the number of recipients is sufficient, the proper way out, I suggest, is to make additional provision and to give more scholarships but not to cut down on the existing ones.

There have been suggestions of discriminations for one reason or another occasionally. I think it is well recognised that, in some districts, rural schools are at a certain disadvantage as compared with well-staffed city schools or schools in large towns which may be able to make special preparation for examination tests for scholarships. In such cases, there has come into being the custom of putting aside a certain number of the scholarships for candidates from rural areas. I think that is reasonable enough, provided again that it is not carried to excess, that there is not an effort to load the dice completely against the child living in an urban area and that, in general, regard is had to the relative proportions of the population under the jurisdiction of the local authority living in town and country.

In reply to Deputy Byrne's question, I would point out that Section 4 (c) provides for the scheme prescribing a means test and that 4 (d) makes provision for the award of a scholarship with a reduction in the amount, when the means of the parents is somewhat more than the limit laid down. Clause (e) goes further and says that in certain cases, with the approval of the Minister, the local authority may award in special circumstances the whole or part of a scholarship to a person who does not comply with the means test provisions. There may be cases where the amount in question is very little—£1 or perhaps more than £1; I should not like to say at the moment what the amount might be— in excess of the income laid down and yet it would deprive the child of the scholarship, but, of course, we have to draw the line somewhere. While we have that provision there, it is to meet very exceptional circumstances. We cannot assume that local authorities would have a right to seek to evade the provisions they themselves had laid down for a means test or to get over these provisions by recommending——

Mr. A. Byrne

May I interrupt for a moment to say that I think the point I made has been lost sight of? I referred, not to the right of a council to award scholarships, but to the right of a council to permit the children of certain parents to enter for scholarships. At the present moment, the third child of a man in the City of Dublin who is earning £5 2s. 0d. or £5 5s. 0d. per week is not eligible to sit for a scholarship. That is the means test to which I wish to draw attention. Would it not be possible to extend the limit so as to allow the child of a man in receipt of £5 5s. 0d. per week, with three children, to enter for a scholarship, having regard to the fact that the man by his own frugality may have entered on a house purchase scheme or into insurance commitments?

I think it is a matter for the corporation to amend the scheme if it is considered necessary, but if the Deputy has referred by way of parenthesis to the limitations sometimes imposed in schemes upon the number of children from a particular household who may be awarded scholarships, I must say that it is a kind of provision that I do not favour.

Mr. Byrne

I am afraid I have not made myself clear. I know that, in the City of Dublin, the children of a man earning £5 a week and with only two children, are not allowed to enter for scholarships at all because he has £5 a week. If he has three children, the allowance for a third child just brings him within the limits, but if that man is now getting, say £5 5s. 0d. a week his children are immediately disqualified under our scheme. I want to know is it the council that is responsible for fixing the means test which prevents the child of such a man from entering at all for the scholarship?

It is the council that has the right to amend the means test that is in existence and I would not object to any reasonable amendment, for example, in regard to an allowance for the emergency bonus. That is clearly the kind of thing that might be considered a reasonable amendment.

Mr. Byrne

Thank you very much.

I should like to say in reply to Deputy M. O'Sullivan that scholarships may be held in vocational schools. As the first section in the Bill indicates, scholarships may be awarded to holders to be tenable in certain kinds of schools. They are not confined at all to a particular kind of school.

Deputy Hughes referred to the question of committees. As has been stated, this whole question is likely to arise on a motion before the House, but I see by a circular which has been issued by the Department of Local Government and Public Health on the 27th January, dealing with the whole question of the managerial system that as regards committees the appointment of permissive committees by county councils has also given rise to some misunderstanding. The circular goes on to say:—

"Under the Act the functions of the county council may be divided into three classes. There are the reserved functions which are performed directly by the council, and the executive functions which are performed through and by the manager. There is, however, in addition to the reserved functions another group of functions (which might be referred to as the ‘supervisory powers' of the council) to be performed directly by the council. These functions arise partly as a consequence of the council's financial control and partly from the special powers provided in the Act of 1940 which are exercisable by resolution. They include a general power to supervise the performance by the manager of the executive functions, power to examine and revise the estimates, power to obtain information and plans, and power to direct the manager to do specified things.

"The provisions applying to the appointment of committees by county councils are Section 18 of the County Management Act, 1940, and Section 58 of the Local Government Act, 1925. The effect of these sections is to preserve the powers of the council to appoint committees with the sole restriction that no executive function can be delegated to a committee except by the manager."

As far as the executive functions are concerned, arrangements may be made by the manager, I presume, and his staff to work in collaboration with the committee but, as far as the advisory power which, I think, is what is connoted by the powers of a scholarship committee generally, is concerned, I think there is no doubt, judging by that circular, that local authorities have the same powers now as they always have had to appoint scholarship committees and to utilise them as far as may be necessary.

Reference was made to the fact that more should be done to stimulate local aid in the way of providing scholarships. During the 20 odd years in which these schemes have been in operation, local authorities have shown themselves generally very ready and willing to provide money for schemes. In the present year I find there are 1,466 scholarships held, the value of which is £35,000. Last year the amount awarded in the way of new scholarships, of which there were 343, was £8,000. As I said, there is only one local authority which has refused, so far at any rate, to make provision for scholarships. Of course, this measure does not deal with university scholarships. It deals only with scholarships from primary to other schools. I endorse completely what Deputy Butler has said and I hope in the course of time it will be possible, in spite of the difficulties that I know local authorities have and the many calls upon them, to make even greater provision for education in this way. Unfortunately, not so much money is bequeathed for the endowment of education in Ireland as one would expect having regard to our special interest in cultural and spiritual affairs, and to our very distinctive position in the world in that connection. Compared with Scotland, for example, we seem to lag very greatly behind. There is a long tradition of educational endowment in Scotland, going back for hundreds of years, and it is quite usual in the Highland parishes to find good endowments which enable boys to go all the way to the university from the local school. We have not these endowments here. For university education, as for education in general, we have to depend on the taxpayer and the ratepayer to foot the bill. Now that we have a certain lease of self-government and are trying to build up our own institutions, I hope that our citizens who are in a position to endow education from their private resources will do so and that our country will have something worthy to show in that respect as well as in others.

If Deputies fear, from the wording of this measure, that there is some arbitrary attempt to impose upon councils the wishes of the Minister in regard to their schemes, I should like to say that that is not the position. Where you have schemes like those in Dublin or other areas which have been satisfactory, there is no intention whatever of interfering, but where there are cases of certain restrictions being imposed which my advisers and I consider undesirable and where we communicate our view to the local authority there must be finality at some point. Up to the present we have not experienced a great many of these difficulties, but we have come across cases where it seemed as if efforts were being made to discriminate or to impose tests which might not be considered equitable when carefully examined by experts, though they may, on the face of them, appear reasonable to the man in the street. I have no doubt that they may be reasonable in certain conditions, such as the case to which I referred, where a certain proportion of scholarships is kept for children from rural schools. But if, out of ten scholarships, a local authority proposed to keep eight for rural schools, one would naturally ask whether the proportion of the rural population entitled them to such preference in the number of scholarships awarded. It all depends upon the degree, and if conditions are imposed by the local authority, certainly I would not attempt to interfere with their discretion unless I felt that there were very good and sound reasons. What we are really guided by is the example of those areas where we have had no trouble because, as I have said the scholarship schemes were well thought out in the beginning and have given satisfaction. It sometimes happens that parents are not fully acquainted with the details of the schemes, and one of the things that I intend to do when this measure becomes law is to make quite certain that the schemes as a whole and any amendments or changes are published in such a way that everybody interested will have an opportunity of knowing exactly the position.

That is an excellent idea.

Mr. Larkin

Before the Minister concludes, will he give an emphatic denial to the statement made here that the Labour Party have abused their powers, as members of a committee, in giving preference to their sons and daughters?

The Minister has not so stated.

Mr. Larkin

Has the Minister had any complaints that the Labour Party have abused their powers?

I have no recollection of any complaint.

Mr. Larkin

Then I say that the man who made the statement was making a deliberate misstatement, not the first he made.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take the Committee Stage?

I wonder would the House have any objection to letting me have the remaining stages of this Bill to-morrow? I do not think that, if Deputies ponder over what I have said, they will feel that it is a Bill that can be amended very much. Either you are satisfied to give these powers to the Minister or you are not. The whole of the Bill really boils down to the question of whether, as well as having general power to sanction or refuse sanction, the Minister had in fact the further power which we are trying to make clear in this measure that, if he is not satisfied with the details of the scheme, he will have power to interfere and say so, and, if he cannot get the local authority to see reason, the power to ask them to amend the scheme according as he may direct. It would be only in a very extreme case, which I do not anticipate, that sanction to a scheme would be refused, but it may very well happen, as I mentioned more than once in my speech, that conditions which were inequitable were being imposed. There is only a certain time allowed to deal with these questions. Scholarship schemes, like other annual matters, have to be put into operation within a certain space of time, and we cannot afford to give more than a certain period to the discussion of needed changes and amendments.

Would the Minister not consider, then, making specific provision for a scholarship committee? I think it is desirable.

The Deputy was not here when I read from the circular which has been issued by the Department of Local Government, and which, I understand, is public property.

The trouble is that it has been sent only to the executive. Members of local authorities have not got it.

It states specifically:

The provisions applying to the appointment of committes by county councils are Section 18 of the County Management Act, 1940, and Section 58 of the Local Government Act, 1925. The effect of these sections is to preserve the powers of the council to appoint committees, with the sole restriction that no executive function can be delegated to a committee except by the manager. The appointment of a committee to exercise reserved functions or supervisory powers of the councils is accordingly a matter of which the council are the judges....

Will these committees act in an advisory capacity or can they deliberate themselves?

I think the council would have to take the legal responsibility.

I do not mean that the committee should deliberate finally on a matter of this kind, but is this committee set up only to confer with the manager and make certain recommendations to him, or can they go back and recommend that the council should do a certain thing, and can the council then deliberate finally on it without interference by the manager? There is a lot of camouflage about the circular.

The circular says——

The circular is an apology by the Minister for Local Government for the County Management Act.

The circular makes it clear that, subject to some exceptions set out in sub-section (5) Section 29, any council or elective body, at a meeting specially summoned for the purpose, can, by resolution passed in accordance with that section, require the manager to do any particular thing which he can lawfully do as part of his executive functions.

Mr. Larkin

I suggest we should hear where the circular comes from. We challenged the authority of the city manager as manager of the Joint Board of Grangegorman and Portrane. That circular is only an interpretation of what the Minister for Local Government suggests are our powers.

You have your legal advisers.

Mr. Larkin

We will have our remedy later on.

The only objection I have is to Section 6 in which the Minister takes to himself the power to award a scholarship. The Dublin Corporation have adopted a scheme which has given general satisfaction, but the Minister is taking from the corporation the right of nominating, in accordance with the conditions, the awards to be made through an examination. They cannot make an award until the Minister approves.

From our experience, we think it necessary that there should be some such provision. Such a thing has not happened in Dublin, and may never happen in Dublin, but it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that an authority may award a scholarship to somebody to whom they should not award it. Surely the Minister would not interfere and withdraw approval unless he had very good reasons for doing so? I admit that it is unlikely that such a case will occur, but nevertheless we are providing for it.

Is this not a new power which the Minister is taking?

Yes, it is.

Is that the only reason for it?

Lest such a case should occur. We want to make it clear that the Minister has power to act.

If we are to give the Committee Stage to-morrow, I suggest that the Minister should undertake to put in a clause in the Seanad providing for a scholarships committee, because I think it ought to be specifically stated. The circular is very vague about it. The manager may refuse to delegate his powers, and that is the end of it. If the Minister agrees with the House that it is desirable to have a scholarships committee functioning, it ought to be specifically provided for in the Bill, and if the Minister undertakes to insert the necessary provision in the Seanad, we shall have no objection to taking the Committee Stage to-morrow.

The matter goes a little further than that. When a Minister asks for the taking of stages of Bills out of the usual order, the least he ought to do is to make a case for that urgency. The Minister has not made any case at all to show that it is necessary that the remaining stages should be taken to-morrow. So far as we know, it will not make the slightest difference if the remaining stages are not taken for another month.

I will not take the remaining stages to-morrow. In reply to Deputy Doyle, I should like to say that, as well as sanctioning a scheme, I take it to be the function of the Minister to see that a local authority in fact carries out the provisions of its own scheme. He has that function also, and if it should happen that a question arises as to whether they in fact had authority to grant a particular scholarship to a particular individual, I think the Minister's general powers should come in, though, as I have said, it may be very unusual.

Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, March 14th.