HC Deb 14 April 1960 vol 621 cc1544-64

3.16 p.m.

Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)

On 23rd March of this year my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education once more rejected the claim of the National Association of Schoolmasters to representation on the Burnham Committee and its associated bodies. I am not what is called an "educationist" in any sense of the word, but I am and have been for a long time very interested and concerned in labour relations, and I am particularly concerned that the Government should set a good example in these matters.

This is another case of what has always been a thorny problem, the problem of what, sometimes in a derogatory sense, is called the break-away union. I do not wish in any way to minimise the difficulty in which employers, such as the Government, and private employers, find themselves on such problems. We have agreed in various international charters which we have signed that everybody shall have the right to join the union of his choice, and we have also agreed—I think that it must be agreed by everybody—that such a right is illusory if, after a certain period of time, that union is not recognised.

Of course, one cannot recognise any union immediately, however small. That would be ridiculous. A union, to achieve recognition, has to go through a fairly hard struggle, and it is right that it should do so; otherwise, the whole of the principles of collective bargaining would break down. It has to show that it keeps for a long period of time substantial numbers of the workers in the trade or profession or industry. In other words, it has to show high survival value, because it is by surviving, in spite of the great difficulties which unrecognised unions have, that it proves to the world that it is fulfilling a need which existing unions apparently are unable to fulfil.

It is by that bitter experience which such unions have to go through that, I suggest, they ought to be judged; and I suggest that the National Association of Schoolmasters, which has increased its membership in spite of being unrecognised over what is now a very long period of years, has, in fact, proved that it is fulfilling a need, and that it should, therefore, be given the recognition which only is of any use, namely, a seat or seats on the Burnham Committee.

I am not saying that because it is right to recognise it now it was necessarily wrong to refuse it recognition in the past. It is part of my thesis relating to survival value that it has to go through the mill for a long period of time. The present representation on the Burnham Committee from the point of view of the teachers' side is, of course, enormously weighted in favour of the National Union of Teachers. That is quite right, because it is by far the largest union. I think it has 16 members on the central committee.

There are, then, other small and somewhat specialised unions which have either two seats or one seat, unions such as the Incorporated Society of Assistant Schoolmasters. None of these has more than four seats. The N.U.T. at any time can, obviously, outvote the others, and, on numbers, it is right that it should, and the National Association of Schoolmasters in no way wishes to prejudice—indeed, could not presume to do so—the absolute majority of the N.U.T. on the Burnham Committee.

What, then, are the reasons given by the Minister for refusing what, on numbers, is an obvious claim for some seats, two or three or perhaps even four, because about 20,000 schoolmasters in England and 1,000 in Scotland are now members of the National Association of Schoolmasters? The first reason given by the Minister in his letter is that representation in the Teachers' Panel should be by types of school. I think that the best answer I can hope to give to that is that given by The Times Educational Supplement on 1st April, which said: The Minister's refusal to allow the National Association of Schoolmasters a place on the Burnham Committee simply will not do. He declares, first, that representation on the Teachers' Panel should be by types of school. This is. of course, a quite arbitrary amplification of the duty laid upon him by the 1944 Act to consult with representatives of the teachers about salaries. Anyone who looks at Section 89 of the 1944 Act will see that there is nowhere laid upon the Minister any statutory obligation of the sort suggested, that representation should be by types of school. The Act is silent on that point. Therefore, it is a requirement laid down by the Minister, who is himself virtually the employer, without statutory authority. It may be right or it may be wrong, but he is not obliged to do that.

That raises the question of the extent to which an employer is entitled to say to employees how they should organise for the purposes of representation. A great many employers do not like the way their employees choose to organise. For example, I do not suppose that any of us would very much care for the way that the employees in Northern Rhodesia organise. They organise themselves on the basis of colour and have white unions and black unions.

That is a far worse type of division than any division suggested in this case, yet I do not think anybody has suggested to the employers in the copper mines that they should refuse to recognise either of those types of union because they do not like the way the men organise. That is a very extreme case. However, I suggest that an employer is not entitled to say to employees how he thinks they should organise even if the employer is right.

The next reason given is that of general demand, which I am sure we would all share, for unity and solidarity at this time among the teachers. As some of my hon. Friends wish to speak about this, I will content myself with a sentence. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and I wonder whether my right hon. Friend thinks that the refusals by himself and his predecessors over the years to recognise this body have promoted the unity and solidarity of the teaching profession. If it has not in the past, why is it likely to do so in the future? It does not promote unity and solidarity to deny to a substantial body of men what is an elementary right. It again raises the question of whether an employer is entitled to say, "No" to a body of workers which he may not like.

That brings me to the vexed question of equal pay. It is Government policy, and is certainly my desire and that of almost the whole of the House, that there should be equal pay in the teaching profession. The question is to what extent the N.A.S. has abandoned the claim that equal pay should not apply in the future. I think that it has abandoned it. I think that its claim, for family allowances for male teachers and that the lower-paid male teacher should not be depressed to the women's standard, but that the women should be raised to the standard of the lower-paid male teacher, shows that it has abandoned it. But even if it has not abandoned it, that, again, is no reason why an employer should say to a substantial body of workers that he will not recognise them because he does not want to hear their claim for a reversal of policy.

We are all entitled to make propaganda for a reversal of policy if we do not agree with it. This is a free country and one is entitled to make that propaganda within one's collective bargaining machinery, if it deals with rates of pay and conditions, as well as outside that machinery. I do not suppose that the Association will have much success because, in any event, it would be in a substantial minority, and I imagine that almost all the other members of the Burnham Committee on the teachers' side are in favour of conditions of equal pay, as I am myself.

I have recently been re-reading debates which took place about ten years ago when much the same problem arose in the Post Office. I have noted very powerful speeches made then by some colleagues of my right hon. Friend, such as the present Lord Privy Seal and the present Minister of Pensions and National Insurance, in which they said that the pretentions of the then Postmaster-General to decide which unions he liked and which he did not like were nothing more than the creation of house or company unions, than which there was no more serious word in the whole of the vocabulary of industrial relations.

I think that the position is becoming, in some ways, like that in this case. The reasons given, of solidarity and unity, are not convincing. We are bound to ask whether there are, behind this, some other unexpressed reasons. Members have received a lot of literature on this subject, not the least a very violent and inflammatory circular from the N.U.T.—a circular which, I think, cannot have done its cause very much good.

Covering that circular was a letter emphasising the gravity of the matter and the serious consequences that might flow from any decision to alter the Teachers' Panel of the Burnham Committee. If that is not something in the nature of a threat I do not know what is. Indeed, locally there has been not merely threats, but action. I instance, on the local level, what happened in Durham in 1954.

The Durham County Council wished to bring on to a consultative committee on educational matters one member of the N.A.S., together with eight members of the N.U.T. The N.U.T. walked out when Durham County Council refused to alter its plan. However, the consultative committee carried on for three years in the absence of the N.U.T., which then capitulated and came back on the original terms.

This circular is something of a threat. I do not myself think that that is necessarily very wicked. In the world of industrial relations, power is a weapon which is almost always used and we must not be too frail or mealy-mouthed about it, but we should recognise it for what it is. This is a threat that the N.U.T. would walk out of the Burnham Committee, and no Minister of Education would like to face that, of course.

I know that my right hon. Friend does not give that as a reason and has expressly declined it as a reason in 1955, unlike one of his predecessors, the late Mr. George Tomlinson, who quite clearly stated that that was one of his reasons in 1950 for rejecting this application. Mr. Tomlinson said that he was clear that the conditions did not exist in which it would be possible for him to present the representation of additional bodies on the Teachers' Panel of the Burnham Committee against the wishes of that panel as at present constituted. In other words, the wishes of the existing members of the Teachers' Panel were paramount in his mind.

In 1955, my right hon. Friend disclaimed that as a proper consideration. He said that he would not let this consideration stand in the way if he thought that a reconstitution of the Committee was called for. I am sure that he is still of that opinion and is not, in fact, submitting to blackmail in this matter.

At the same time, I appeal to the National Union of Teachers. This fight has now become so bitter that it would be an act of generosity on the part of the N.U.T.—since it would retain its majority whatever happened—now to realise that the National Association of Schoolmasters is not to be defeated by these threats, that it has grown in strength under the threats, and that persecution, as in so many cases, makes its determination and its cause even stronger.

If the National Union of Teachers were to walk out, I do not believe that it would do that union any good. It has nothing to fear from a small representation of the N.A.S. and, furthermore, I am not at all convinced that the majority of teachers in the N.U.T. would be behind any such threat or any such action.

In those circumstances, it is now up to the N.U.T. to see whether this hatchet cannot be buried. If that does not happen, I appeal to my right hon. Friend to look at this matter once again. This refusal is a denial of something fundamental. How many members has the N.A.S. to get before it receives recognition?

Mr. L. M. Lever (Manchester, Ardwick)

It has 21,000 now.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

It has 21,000 now, so it is a substantial body. How many more has it to get before it is recognised—30,000, 40,000? Where does the ante begin? The N.A.S. is entitled to know at what target it has to aim. Or is it never to be recognised? Is it the truth of the matter that the Burnham Committee constitution, which is now old, is to be preserved for all time, whatever changes there may be in the structure of education or sentiments of teachers? Is that to be the answer given to the N.A.S.? If that is not the answer, may we know what answer and what comfort it is to get?

3.34 p.m.

Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)

I hope that I shall put a point of view diametrically opposed to that put by the hon. and learned Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) with as much moderation and fairness as he has shown. I believe that the decision which the Minister had to take was largely a matter of judgment, although underneath were involved certain deep principles which I shall refer to in my speech.

Most of my hon. Friends support the Minister on having done in this case what the Economist reproved him for not having done in the Crowther case. He has grasped this nettle instead of sitting on it. I disagreed with the Minister on Crowther. Yet I thought that The Times Educational Supplement was singularly unfair to his great speech on that occasion. I support him on his decision over Burnham, and I hope that this debate will clear some of the air.

I am a member of the National Union of Teachers, but if this were a mere matter of inter-union rivalry I would not have taken part in this debate, nor would the Minister have made the decision he has made. In the more backward days of Toryism, breakaway unionism was encouraged. It paid the employer, or he thought it did, to pit off one group of workers against another in the name of freedom and in the name of the rights of minorities. There is always a specious and attractive case for any fractional group; it can press sectional claims to the disadvantage of the whole body, and this sounds good, very good, to the section. It has the comfortable position advocating policies without responsibility and without having to implement them.

Trade unionists have learnt from long and bitter experience, just as enlightened employers have now learnt and most progressive Conservatives willingly agree, that the fragmentation of a group of workers is, in the long run, and, indeed, in the short run, not good for the health of any body which has to negotiate, and at the end of negotiations to arrive at a settlement.

I believe that the interests both of the employers, in this case the local authorities, and of the teachers—and today there are nearly 300,000 teachers, most of whom are women—will be best served when the profession is united and when men and women speak together with one voice in the name of the profession, not only on their material interests, but on the great question of education itself. No hon. Member would advocate separate salaries for men and women who are hon. Members of this House. No doctor, lawyer or civil servant—and certainly no civil servant in the Ministry of Education —would advocate such a policy.

There are historical reasons why this unity has not been achieved in the teaching profession. Chief of. these is the fifty years battle in which teachers, like civil servants and local government workers, have been engaged over equality between sexes. That battle is over. The hon. and learned Gentleman says that he too believes in equal pay. Many fine men and women have fought for equal pay. I am thinking of the late Ralph Morley, my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) and my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton), among their leaders, of those back benchers who fought the battle in 1944 when this very Burnham Committee was being reorganised in that 1944 Act. That battle has been won, and we have written on to the Statute Book that all employees for whom the Government are responsible shall receive equal pay.

We have by no means achieved complete emancipation of women, but the battle for equality of the sexes marches on in this country and throughout the world. I believe that the way is forward and not backward. The N.A.S. does not accept this view. It is true it accepts the law; it cannot do other in a law abiding country but in contrast to what was said by the hon. and learned Member for Darwen this afternoon, at its last conference its president said: I might believe in equal pay if it were possible in our profession, but all the actions of a Government in the House of Commons, pressed by the naive sentimentality of a popular clamour, all the bawlings of political parties at Hyde Park corner, cannot alter economic law. Men and women will demand for their work different rates of salary. If schoolmasters are to be recruited, the negotiations of their salaries within the limitations imposed by this doctrinaire political slogan must cease. As for co-operating on the Burnham Committee, the president said: Not only must we have representatives on any national negotiating body; there must also be within such a body, every facility for putting forward the case for separate consideration for the schoolmaster … and safeguard of access to independent arbitration … since a policy of separate consideration is likely to be rejected by the other parties represented. As the "other parties" referred to represent over 250,000 million teachers pledged to equal pay, and as the reference is also to local authorities whose instructions from the Government are to honour the national principle of equal pay, and as "separate consideration" means differential sex treatment, the word "likely" is an understatement there.

Behind this there is a great problem. The present inadequate salaries paid to teachers weigh heaviest on young married teachers. Marriage is a financial handicap—Bacon said that children are hostages to fortune. This burden will always be grievous as long as family responsibilities are insufficiently allowed for under Income Tax reliefs and family allowances, and as long as teachers are underpaid. But this is an inequity that separates, not men from women, but men and women with dependants from men and women without dependants. It is not confined to teachers—it is part of life itself. It affects everyone whose income has to support more than one person, and the real solution is an adequate professional salary for teachers.

I believe that to reintroduce into the Burnham Committee, on the grounds of this hardship, the question of sex inequality would be to do a great disservice to that Committee, and a great disservice to the teaching profession, to the law of the land, and to womanhood. Even in the days when this issue of equal pay was a live one, every successive Government took that view. To change now would be to retreat from the principle of equal pay even at the moment when it is being achieved—

Mr. Robert Jenkins (Dulwich)

When the hon. Gentleman refers to equal pay, does he mean that if the National Association of Schoolmasters at some place or at some time were to advocate family allowances for those teachers who had dependants—whether they be men or women—he would consider that submission a bar to entry?

Dr. King

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, and I shall deal with that matter in a moment.

When Lord Hailsham was faced in 1957 with exactly this demand, he said what I have really just now said. His words were: I would be very loath to allow the Burnham Committee to be used as a vehicle for undermining this policy. The policy to which Lord Hailsham there referred was the policy of equal pay, for which he had fought as a backbencher in this House at the time of the 1944 Act.

From the start, the Burnham Committee was never a body whose teacher representation was on a proportional basis. It was built functionally. It was built to include practitioners in the various departments of education so that they could each put their special problems. Accordingly, the Burnham Committee draws its teachers from the primary-secondary complex of schools, on the one hand, and from the grammar and technical schools on the other.

Every kind of teacher is represented on it. This representation has nothing to do with the numbers inside any of the groups there represented. Groups that are numerically small are on the Committee because they represent some special type of school or education. The Minister wants the Burnham Committee to continue to function effectively as it has done for so long. So do the local authorities, so do the teachers and so, I would say, does this House.

The two aims for which the National Association of Schoolmasters exists are, first, that boys should be taught by men teachers—but that is outside the terms of reference of the Burnham Committee and could never be dealt with inside it. The other aim is unequal pay. It is a point of view. If the Minister is to begin to recognise places on the Burnham Committee for policy groups, then once that is conceded for one it will have to be conceded in turn for anyone who wishes to claim it—the National Union of Women Teachers, the National Association of Head Teachers, the Class Teachers' Association—

Mr. Dudley Williams (Exeter)

Why not?

Dr. King

I will come to that in a moment—always provided that the group holds a sectional view strongly enough to demand separation and representation.

Fractionalism encourages fractionalism. A profession has many facets. With the prize of a seat on Burnham as the reward for organising a separate group, the hiving off of other dissident groups might well follow the first break through.

It is no secret, for example, that 100,000 primary teachers are profoundly disappointed at the recent Burnham de- cisions which give them unequal treatment as compared with their secondary teacher colleagues. But such a fragmentation of a union would be as disastrous for any profession, as for any trade union. It would make the Burnham Committee unworkable and would in the end, I believe, harm the great purposes served by the Minister and all who work for education.

Critics of the union have said that it wants a closed shop. The hon. and learned Gentleman referred to Durham. Durham is noteworthy for all sorts of peculiar things in the history of education. It is a matter of simple fact that about the only time when the union threatened direct action was when Durham—thinking that it was doing the profession a good turn—tried to make membership of the union compulsory on all teachers. This was successfully resisted by the very union which stood to benefit. The teachers threatened to go on strike to preserve the right for Durham teachers not to belong to the union but to enjoy all the benefits which the union has gained for its members without being fair enough to join it.

It is one thing, however, to believe in the open shop and another to encourage a policy of fragmenting the employees' side of Burnham. The advances which the profession has made in status, in salaries, in civil liberties, in conditions of work, are due in no small measure to the fact that for 50 years the teachers have built up a union in which men and women members of the same profession have been united. I think it is that unity rather than the unity of any particular organisation, the unity of men and women inside a profession, to which the Minister was referring in his reply to the National Association of Schoolmasters.

The hon. Member for Dulwich (Mr. Robert Jenkins) referred to the question of family allowances. I am anxious not to say anything which will exacerbate relations between my colleagues of the National Association of Schoolmasters and the union. I would say this though: first, that the National Union of Teachers is open to all teachers. There is no bar of colour, creed or views, even on sex equality. It is the National Association itself which bars from membership all teachers who do not accept the principle of unequal pay, and it reaffirmed this ban at its last annual conference, despite attempts to modify it.

Of that conference, the former secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters wrote—and this is the answer to the hon. Member for Dulwich whose difference on this I regret very much because we see eye to eye on so many educational matters—these words: I must however express my concern that there are those who think that the time has come for the Association to revise its policies, to cease its opposition to equal pay and concentrate on palliatives such as family and/or children's allowances. He went on to say: It would be a tragedy for the National Association of Schoolmasters to falter on this fundamental question. The House in my time has faced a number of these problems—the Hants and Dorset bus workers, a section of Post Office engineers and a section of the Amalgamated Engineering Union workers. Each time, although a very attractive case for a sectional group has been put up, the House, whatever party has been in power, has supported Ministers when they came down against fragmentation, against sacrificing the majority to the minority, because it is worth remembering in a democracy that the majority has rights as well as the minority.

Both sides gain from this. Employers know that the negotiations which they can conduct are firm negotiations and employees secure the gains that come from unity at a negotiating table, a unity based on blending and reconciling all the tugs and pushes of the various sectional interests. But this request, I think, is even less attractive than those I have mentioned. It asks for representation on Burnham for a body representing a minority group of men inside the profession and a tiny minority of members of the profession as a whole, and for an opinion which runs counter to the basic principle which Parliament has remitted to every body which has to negotiate salaries for public servants, including the Burnham Committee.

This great teaching profession is a mixed body, one in which men and women work side by side. Their work is equally important. All the great superstructure of secondary education is built, in the last analysis, on the work of women in the infant schools of this country, work which is beyond the capacity of most men. I believe that the work of the men and women in the great profession to which I belong is complementary. As sex differentiation has been abolished by the law of the land I hope that ultimately it will pass from the minds of men in my profession.

I believe that the Minister can help. He has helped by reaffirming the decision of previous Ministers since the office was held by the present Home Secretary in 1944. I think he can help further by encouraging the recognition of the claims of teachers to an adequate professional salary. I share the view expressed by the hon. and learned Member for Darwen that both the unions concerned will reach out to each other in the years ahead, and towards accepting the equal status of the two sexes which comprise our great profession.

3.52 p.m.

Sir Hendrie Oakshott (Bebington)

As time is short I will not detain the House long. I agree wholeheartedly with one thing said by the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King), and that is the inadequacy of salaries in the teaching profession. If I remember rightly, I said something about this subject in my maiden speech in the House about ten years ago.

I support my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke). I believe that there is a good case here. One of the points that he made is, I consider, very sound. To talk of the importance of unity and solidarity in the profession is to refer to something which is vital to it. If there are between one-quarter and one-third of the men teachers in that profession who are dissatisfied and disgruntled I do not think that it is the best way in which to achieve unity and solidarity. The hon. Member for Itchen spoke of the dangers of fragmentation, but that is exactly what we are getting now. The N.A.S. has been pressing all these years for representation on Burnham and failing. In view of this failure, on would have expected the membership of the Association to drop, but it has not, which surely is an indication that they are sincerely convinced that they are not properly represented at the moment. Were that not the case, I believe that membership would have fallen. I do not wish to introduce a note of controversy into the debate, but I think that it is a little unfair, therefore, to dismiss this union as a "dissident" union, with all the rather unpleasant connotations of that word.

In the friendliest way, I would say a word to the N.A.S. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen indicated that in his view the Association has dropped its opposition to equal pay. If that is so, I do not know of it, but if it has why does not the Association say so publicly?

Mr. I. J. Pitman (Bath)

It has publicly said that it has not dropped its opposition to equal pay.

Sir H. Oakshott

I heard what was said by the hon. Member for Itchen about the last conference report. As every hon. Member who has spoken has said, this is a battle which was fought long ago. I remember Ralph Morley and all the others who took part in it. It seems to me that it would be sensible to accept the present situation whether we like it or not. It is something which will not be reversed and the N.A.S. case would be strengthened if it did so.

Having said that, I repeat that I believe that the N.A.S. has a good case. I know how much my right hon. Friend has the welfare of this profession at heart; I hope that he will be able to reconsider this matter, and I add my plea to that of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen to the National Union of Teachers to bury the hatchet.

3.55 p.m.

Mr. Anthony Greenwood (Rossendale)

My neighbour, the hon. and learned Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletch & Cooke), invariably speaks with such moderation that I always hesitate to differ from him except on what are purely party matters. But on this occasion I think it is right that I should intervene briefly to express my general support fox the action which the Minister has taken.

Like all hon. Members who have spoken, I share the dismay felt at the disunity in the profession and at the bitterness which sometimes is shown by the various parties to the dispute. Indeed, I think it quite probable that the profes- sion will not achieve the status to which it is entitled so long as this disunity and disagreement continues.

In my view, the decision as to representation on the Burnham Committee is one which rests firmly on the shoulders of the Minister. The Minister has to decide in the light of the information which is available to him what basis of representation will best serve the interests of the educational system as a whole, and I think the hon. and learned Member was wrong to liken this to a case of ordinary labour relations. The Minister is not in the position of an employer to whom the hon. and learned Member likened him. He is exercising a statutory discretion entrusted to him by this House.

I personally should not feel it right to make his exercise of that discretion a party matter or to question the way in which he is exercising it unless it seemed to me that there was some clear abuse of the power which the House has entrusted to the right hon. Gentleman. Quite obviously there is no abuse of his power in this case. In my view the arguments which the right hon. Gentleman set out in his letter of 23rd March to the National Association of Schoolmasters, to which the hon. and learned Member referred, were perfectly proper.

The Minister has stated his view that representation should be by types of schools and not according to numbers. The hon. and learned Member for Darwen of course was perfectly right in saying that the Minister is not obliged to put that interpretation upon the duty which rests upon him. Nevertheless, although he is not obliged to do so, it seems a perfectly appropriate way for him to interpret the discretion which has been given to him. By accepting this criterion, the right hon. Gentleman is entitled to claim that he is serving the best interests of the educational system as a whole.

In reaching that decision the right hon. Gentleman followed the precedent which was set by the present Home Secretary when he was Minister of Education in 1944 and addressed the first meeting of the newly constituted Burnham Committee. The same view was taken by a very great Labour Minister of Education, Mr. George Tomlinson, and, at a later stage—as my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) has reminded us— by the present Minister for Science.

If one accepts the criterion that the Minister has laid down, the question of numbers does not enter into the case at all, but—

Mr. Peter Kirk (Gravesend)

If that is so—and I accept that criterion—the question of to what union a teacher belongs does not enter into the case for representation on the Burnham Committee.

Mr. Greenwood

The point there is that numbers are irrelevant, but what is relevant is the types of school repre-senented by the organisations the Minister is appointing to the Committee. I do not think there is any cause at all to question the Minister's claim that the large majority of men teachers in the types of school with which the National Association of Schoolmasters is concerned are still otherwise represented on the Burnham Committee.

Mr. Kirk


Mr. Greenwood

Therefore, for the reasons I have advanced, I accept the criterion the Minister has laid down. I think the Minister is right and I think it would be wrong to create a situation in which the controversy over equal pay could be revived under circumstances which I believe could only damage the feducational system as a whole.

3.59 p.m.

The Minister of Education (Sir David Eccles):

The varying opinions on this matter which we have heard moderately but firmly expressed this afternoon demonstrate that this is a case which is very difficult indeed to decide and one on which it is possible to differ with great sincerity. I found it a hard decision to take, because I knew that whichever way the decision went it must cause great disquiet to people whose opinions I very much respect.

I can assure the House that the application of the National Association of Schoolmasters to be represented on the Burnham Committee was most carefully considered and, in accordance with the undertaking given by my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. G. Lloyd), I personally examined all the evidence afresh. I came to the same conclusion as my predecessors—that the National Association of Schoolmasters should not be admitted to the Burnham Committee. The House will wish to know the reasons behind that decision.

I should like to quote the relevant Section of the 1944 Act. This governs the matter which we are discussing. Under that Act the Minister is required to secure That for the purpose of considering the remuneration of teachers there shall be one or more committees approved by him consisting of persons appointed by bodies representing local education authorities and teachers respectively. The point to be noted there, which was referred to by the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Greenwood), is that which bodies should be represented is left entirely to the Minister's discretion. That is not the normal practice in negotiating machinery, where the addition of a new trade union or a new association to the relevant body is a matter for those already represented. What we are discussing is a different case, where recognition is not given by those already on the panel on the staff side but is entirely at the Minister's discretion.

The present constitution of the Burnham Committees was designed in 1945 to meet the changes brought about by the Butler Act. The Burnham Main Committee, which deals with salaries of teachers in primary and secondary schools, took the place of the former elementary and secondary committees. In settling the constitution of this Committee, the aim was to reflect the general interests of the teaching profession by types of school. This was not an arbitrary decision, as one of my hon. Friends suggested. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary had no choice but to reflect the pattern of organisation of teachers at that time, which was by types of school. I consider, as I am sure does the House, that if they are fairly represented by types of school, that is of very great advantage, because the education system is very large, there are many different kinds of school and we want the particular interests of each type of school represented.

In the event, therefore, the sixteen members of the Teachers' Panel of the Burnham Main Committee were appointed by the National Union of Teachers to represent: the teachers in primary and secondary modern schools, and the remaining ten seats on the Teachers' Panel were given to the Joint Four Secondary Associations and the Association of Teachers in Technical Institutions to ensure representation of teachers in secondary grammar and secondary technical schools.

In considering new applications for membership of the Burnham Committee, our guiding principle has always been to see that the Committee continues to give adequate representation to teachers in all types of schools. I believe that it can fairly be claimed to do so today. The grammar and technical secondary schools are represented separately. The question at issue is whether the teachers in the primary and secondary modern schools are properly represented by the N.U.T.

The N.U.T.'s serving membership is 201,000 teachers, of which some 185,000 teachers are, on the best information I can get, serving in primary and all-age and secondary modern schools. Of this 185,000, some 60,000 are men. Then comes the really crucial figure. These 60,000 amount to about 75 per cent. of all men now in primary and secondary modern schools.

In primary and secondary modern schools the number of schoolmasters who are members of the N.U.T. is about three times the total membership of the N.A.S., on the assumption that all members of the N.A.S. are serving teachers and that all of them are serving in primary and secondary modern schools. I do not know if that assumption is correct. Therefore, on the arithmetic— this is the first point—there is no case for saying that schoolmasters in primary and secondary modern schools are not well represented on the Burnham Main Committee today.

There is another side to the question. What in effect I have been asked to do is to introduce a different form of representation according to a particular sectional interest, in this case men. It seems to me, as it has always done to my predecessors, that this would cut right across the well-tried basis upon which the Burnham Main Committee has hitherto been constituted and would lead to an undesirable opposition between the sexes and also between teachers in the same types of school.

Moreover—in many ways, from the point of view of practical politics, this is the more serious point—once the present clear-cut basis of the constitution of the Committee is abandoned, claims are bound to be made by other bodies of teachers who, in the past, have been reasonably content to be represented by the present membership of the Burnham Committee. Indeed, I have already received one such application. Undoubtedly others would come in.

Mr. Robert Jenkins

My right hon. Friend said that, if the National Association of Schoolmasters were admitted, it would mean that he would start bringing in men as men. Among the representatives at present there are associations which solely represent men.

Sir D. Eccles

Yes, but only in the grammar school world, where they have a federation and speak with one voice. That is a very different proposition. There, the Joint Four is precisely the name given to the grammar school representatives and we never have the sex differentiation which we have in the case of the N.A.S.

Mr. Robert Jenkins rose—

Sir D. Eccles

I must continue. I am due to finish in a few minutes.

I was saying that I have already received one application from another body following the application of the N.A.S., and it is quite certain that I shall receive others. I cannot say precisely where that would lead to, but I have a very strong belief that it would be bound to result in serious fragmentation of the profession.

I should like now to say a few words about the question of unity, which was raised by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) in his very moderate and well presented case. Because in the letter which I wrote to the N.A.S. I laid some emphasis on the importance of unity to the interests of the teaching profession as a whole, I have been accused of advocating a closed shop principle and of wanting only one big union.

I can understand how someone could come to that conclusion, but it is quite unfounded. It is perfectly true that I was very anxious, as I shall always be, to avoid doing anything which might prejudice a move towards unity, since I believe that such a development would lend greater strength and prestige to the teaching profession. I accept, as the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) said, that there was a time when employers liked fragmentation, but it is not so today. But the means whereby greater unity can be attained in the teaching profession is a matter for the teachers themselves. For example, at one time the N.A.S. advocated a federal council, but it claimed that in such a body it should have an equal voice with the N.U.T. That proposal did not get much further. The N.U.T. at the moment is considering an association above its own organisation, which others besides itself can join.

I have no doubt that if I had decided for the N.A.S. I should have been accused of deliberately encouraging the fragmentation of the profession. The critics would have been very quick to remind me that I owed it to the teaching profession not, so to speak, to put an official stamp on disunity. At no time has the N.U.T. suggested that if the N.A.S. were given representation on Burnham it—the N.U.T.—would leave the Committee. I am confident that it would do nothing of the kind. On the other hand, I cannot think that the House would wish to see the Minister take a step that would encourage teachers in primary and secondary modern schools to organise themselves into rival unions based on sex.

I should like to record my appreciation of the work done in schools by members of the N.A.S. In many parts of the country schools could not get on without them. I know that the men in the profession come forward and take posts of responsibility, and that if they did not we could not carry on with appointments to headships and posts of special responsibility. It is my hope that in the interests of good relations in the schools the schoolmasters and schoolmistresses will find some way of uniting in order that they may give advice which will carry the maximum weight with the Minister and local authorities, and in order that they may present to us the case for improvements in the service, of which there will always be many, and which we would like to consider.

As Minister I feel that it is not my business to act in any way which would prejudice the alliance between schoolmasters and schoolmistresses. This is a very great service. We are now teaching 7 million children in our schools, and it must be the aim of any Minister of Education—and a Minister of Education is not the employer of teachers; the employer is the local authority. Under the Act, I stand in the position of having the duty to promote the efficiency of the service as a whole—it must be the aim of a Minister of Education to do all he can to build up the best possible relations in the senior commonroom and to further the prestige of the teaching profession and the esteem which the public has for it today.