HC Deb 15 December 1955 vol 547 cc1389-92
45. Mr. Short

asked the Prime Minister whether the speech made by the Minister of Education at Leamington Spa on 10th December concerning the status of teachers represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

46. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the Prime Minister whether the speech made by the Minister of Education at Learning-ton last Saturday concerning teachers' superannuation represented the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. R. A. Butler)

I have been asked to reply.

The policy of Her Majesty's Government is as set out in the Teachers' (Superannuation) Bill, which the House has read a Second time. In his speech to the Warwickshire teachers my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education said that he desired no less than did the teachers to see better conditions and higher status for the teaching profession, but he questioned whether the attitude of some teachers on this difficult subject was likely in general to help their cause.

Mr. Short

The Minister said a lot more than that. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the speech has caused intense anger among thinking people throughout the country? Does he think it right that in a democracy a responsible Minister should use such threatening and derisory language to any body of workers who are engaged in legitimate opposition? Above all, do the Government agree with and support the quite explicit threat that if the teachers did not stop their "song and dance" they would jeopardise their chances of improving their professional status?

Mr. Butler

From what I have read of the reports and from my conversations with my right hon. Friend, I deny that any threat at all was implied. The view of my right hon. Friend was that, if teachers made a song and dance over the paying of the extra 1 per cent., they might lose public sympathy. The answer to the earlier part of the hon. Gentleman's statement is that my right hon. Friend has done a great deal for education and will do a great deal more for both education and the teachers. I think that in a free country there must be give and take in the language that is used. I have no feeling that the teachers in the country, as I know them, will suffer from any language that is used.

Mr. Hughes

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this unfortunate speech was relayed on the wireless to Scotland and that the report broadcast was that the teachers should not make a song and dance and spoil their chance by making a fuss? Are not teachers entitled to make a fuss when they think they are treated unjustly? Does not the right hon. Gentleman consider that he should ask the Minister of Labour and National Service, who has more tact, to write the Minister of Education's speeches for him?

Mr. Butler

The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) knows quite a lot about the value of making a fuss. As this is a free country, I think everybody is entitled to make a fuss. However, the question is the extent to which that fuss furthers the cause which teachers have in mind.

Mr. Jennings

Will my right hon. Friend consider publishing, in full if possible, the text of Saturday's speech so that we can see exactly what was said and get everything into true perspective?

Mr. Butler

One advantage of such a course of action—I am indebted to my hon. Friend for the suggestion—is that it would give some indication of the material proofs which the Government have given of their desire to improve the education service and to raise the status of teachers. I will certainly discuss the matter with my right hon. Friend.

Mr. M. Stewart

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the impression which he apparently has of the speech is at variance with the reports of it in practically every organ of the Press? Is he also aware that what was resented was not only the matter of the speech but the derisive and contemptuous manner of its wording, and that that does not contribute to good relations between the Government and the teaching profession?

Mr. Butler

It is certainly not the wish of either my right hon. Friend or the Government that there should be any derisive quality in the remarks of my right hon. Friend or of the Government with regard to teachers or education. Therefore, I think it valuable to consider the suggestion that the full speech should be looked at, thereby putting in perspective some of the observations which have been made.

Mr. Shinwell

Will not the right hon. Gentleman give a definite assurance now that the full text of the speech will be made available in the Library to hon. Members? Does that require consideration?

Mr. Butler

It is a great honour to a particular speech to place it in the Library. However, I will consider every suggestion with my right hon. Friend in order that the true facts and the true spirit of his approach to education should be understood by the House.