HC Deb 01 August 1961 vol 645 cc1376-415

3.38 a.m.

Dr. Horace King (Southampton, lichen)

I have learned over the years to appreciate so highly the devotion of the servants of this House to this free Parliament of ours that I would wish to apologise for keeping them so late if it were not for the gravity of the grievance I raise tonight, and the fact that this is one of the most precious occasions of the Parliamentary year.

I think also that hon. Members will agree with me when I say that in the midst of a long sitting like this one it might be an appropriate occasion for a back bencher to tell you, Mr. Speaker, how much we appreciate your own inestimable services to Parliament in the Chair, at whatever hour of the day we choose to keep you sitting.

I also want to say how grateful I am to the Minister of Education for being here, and also to express gratitude to my two hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench, my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) and my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White). I do not like attacking a man behind his back, and as I propose to attack the Minister tonight, it is right that he should be here. The fact that both Front Benches are occupied is some indication of the seriousness of the issue.

Last week, the Minister told the Burnham Committee that he refused to accept its freely negotiated salaries increase for the teaching profession; that the £47½ million which was accepted by both sides must be reduced to £42 million, and that the elaborate system of differentials built up inside that global sum, a system which has been built on years of hard bargaining, experience and especially based on the fight of the teaching profession for a decent basic professional scale, must be swept away and replaced by differentials devised by himself.

Over a quarter of a million teachers in the country, most of them lifelong supporters of the Government, to my regret, are outraged by the right hon. Gentleman's decision. The profession is utterly united, the only differences of opinion among teachers being whether the £47½ million itself was not too low a figure for an adequate professional scale, and also about the way in which their unanimous repudiation of the proposed reduction should be expressed.

I should be failing in my duty to education and to the profession which I had the honour of serving before I came to the House if I did not try to convey to the Minister and to the House the bitter resentment of the teaching profession and the dangers to education itself if the right hon. Gentleman pursues the course that at present he seems to be pursuing. I want to urge him this morning to alter his decision.

The Burnham Committee has functioned effectively for forty-one years. It is one of the excellent instruments set up in this century for public servants, local government workers and Civil Service workers, and, indeed, for all kinds of groups of workers and their employers to negotiate wage and salary agreements. To the Burnham Committee during the last forty years local government has sent some of its most able and enlightened voluntary public servants. The Teachers' Panel, as the Minister knows, is led by an outstanding man with an international reputation in the education world for ability, courage and character.

The Burnham Committee itself consists of representatives in equal numbers of the teaching profession, on the one hand, and the local authorities on the other, presided over by an impartial chairman. Its record over the last forty years has been one of distinguished chairmen. There are three partners in the matter of teachers' salaries—the teachers, the local authorities and the Minister of Education, and the latter two foot the bill in about equal proportions.

I have no doubt that during the forty years' existence of the Burnham Committee Governments have whispered from time to time to the local authorities the kind of maximum figure that the Government would tolerate. But never before in the history of the Burnham Committee have a Government interfered in the present manner. Never has an award been rejected. Never have a Government set themselves up as a body competent to do the detailed work of the Burnham Committee.

I find it difficult to speak temperately of the grave significance of this interference. When the Minister's colleague, an earlier Minister of Health, rejected in December, 1957, a Whitley Council award the Medical World Newsletter of that month said: Of course, the Minister himself is no more responsible than the unfortunate Sputnik dog"— this was the first dog, the one that is still voyaging through space— The day is long past when a Minister of Health carried any real responsibility for his own decisions. He now moves in a fixed orbit pre-determined by his master the Chancellor of the Exchequer. His function is merely to carry the can and be the scapegoat in case of trouble. He has our sympathy. For "Minister of Health" read the present Minister of Education and we have an exact description of the present position.

Some years ago the block grant placed local authorities and the Minister fairly and squarely in the hands of the Minister of Housing and Local Government. Now by this action the process is carried a stage further. The Minister of Education is abdicating to the Treasury the little power he had left to be a good employer. I believe in local local government. This Government are destroying it. By this latest action the Treasury tears up a second negotiated settlement and sets itself up as capable of deciding even the detailed way in which the global sum which it seeks to force on the Burnham Committee shall be shared out. I respect the competence of the Treasury and admire the work of the Ministry of Education, but neither Department is qualified to do the work which local authorities have devoted themselves to, often under great difficulty, during the past forty years. There is a steady depreciating by this Government of the devoted labours of professional and voluntary workers in the local government field. More and more power is being transferred from county hall to the Cabinet, and more and more power is being transferred from members of the Cabinet to the Treasury. This is from a Government who always profess that they want to give greater freedom to local authorities.

This week Education is right when it bitterly says: The days of education as a local government service would appear to be numbered. Does not the Minister share my view that, if this statement is right, it would be a disaster to the great marriage of local and national government that we have built over the past fifty years in education? First, then, in the Minister's action there is a grave challenge to local authorities. Last Wednesday the local authorities decided to stand firm with the teachers. Both sides agreed to the £47½ million negotiated figure and both of them together refused to accept the instruction of the Minister to make the cut of £5½ million which he demanded. I believe that at their meeting this morning, in about six hours' time, they will stand firm again, as the teachers decided to do last Saturday.

The Minister and hon. Members, of whom I am pleased to see so many at this early hour of the morning, may be interested to hear the resolution passed unanimously by the executive of the National Union of Teachers last Saturday morning: The Executive of the National Union of Teachers bitterly regrets the action of the Minister of Education in summarily rejecting the proposals negotiated by the Burnham Committee, and the more so since they fall far short of the teachers' claim and were only accepted with great reluctance in a time of economic crisis. It considers that Sir David Eccles' letter, which limits increases to £42 million and suggests a re-distribution in a different way from that recommended by fifty-two teacher and local authority representatives closely in touch with the needs of the schools, completely denies the principles on which negotiations have been conducted in the Burnham Committee in the forty years of its history. Such action is deeply resented. In these circumstances, the Executive instructs its representatives on the Burnham Committee to inform the Authorities' Panel at next Wednesday's meeting that it can take no part in distributing the £42 million in the manner dictated by the Minister, nor agree to any reduction of the increase previously recommended to the Minister. Let nobody think that this is merely a teachers' battle. Already the civil servants have seen the danger sign. Yesterday's Daily Telegraph carried this statement from the Society of Civil Servants: The Society will take whatever steps are needed to safeguard negotiating machinery. Pay in the public sector lags behind, and the Society sees no justification for penalising public services. I hope that the N.A.L.G.O. will also see the threat, and that all non-Government workers who take part in wage negotiating bodies will rise to challenge this new claim which the Government are making in the action of the Minister of Education; this claim that they can override Whitley Councils, Burnham Committees, and all the elaborate wage negotiating instruments which we have been setting up for the past fifty years. I hope that they will get together in resisting the action of the Government.

I wish to keep party politics out of what I say tonight, but I cannot avoid mentioning one simple fact. Last week one Hampshire gentleman sold land which he bought for £950 thirty years ago for £33,000—one single transaction, probably tax-free, in which a fantastic reward is earned for ownership only, and simply because planning permission has been given to build on that piece of land. That single transaction earned the owner more than almost any teacher, any civil servant, any local Government worker, any miner, any engineer, earns by a lifetime of labour for the community. In reference to correspondence in this week's London evening newspapers, I interpose that the £1,250 teacher who has been the subject of discussion gets by no means the typical wage or salary of a teacher.

When we reward in such fantastic measure the landowner as compared with those who are working for the community, I think that our values are plumb crazy. How can we meet the grave challenge which both sides of the House admit we have to meet today to save Britain's economy when the Government make it vastly profitable for the speculator and the landowner, and at the same time turn to lop off £5½ million from salary increases, freely negotiated, to a profession which everybody in the House, and almost everybody in the country, admits has long been underpaid? We give the greatest rewards in Britain to those who do the least for the nation, and then expect to hold our place in a highly competitive world.

Monday's Daily Mail contained an interesting public opinion poll, certain features of which cannot have given very much satisfaction to Her Majesty's Government. I will not mention those tonight, but this poll showed that when people were asked whether they supported the Government's attack on teachers, only 27 per cent. agreed with the Government, while 66 per cent. disagreed. Public opinion is with the teachers, and if there is to be a struggle —and as one who cherishes education I hope that there will not be a struggle —public opinion will be a vital factor in that struggle.

I appeal to the Minister. He and I differ very deeply on certain basic attitudes to education, as both he and the House know. But his second stay at the Ministry has won him golden opinions from educationists. I would not go so far as Professor Vaizey, who recently wrote of him as a Minister of outstanding ability whose record ranks with Forster and Butler", but his achievements in education are of no mean value.

It is only two years ago that he was cheered to the echo at the annual conference of the National Union of Teachers for an inspiring speech on the work which he and the teachers hand in hand were going to do. I am certain that that spontaneous tribute from the teaching profession must have deeply moved and pleased him. It is no secret to say that he would get no such reception if he attended the extraordinary conference which the teaching profession proposes to hold on 30th September.

I believe that it would be lamentable if this Minister were compelled to go down in history as a Minister who was made to spoil a very fine record of service to education by embittering the teachers in order that the Chancellor, who flung away money to the Surtax payers in his first Budget this year, could clutch that £5,500,000 from members of the teaching profession who will never get into the Surtax-paying range. Or that, as the country is beginning to think of him as a Fisher, he should end his career as Minister of Education as a Geddes, with the difference that at any rate Geddes was not called on to apply the axe to his own great work in education.

Again I put to the Minister a quotation from Education. This week it states: To take it out of the teaching staff is shortsighted and extravagantly mean. Education suffers when the teacher suffers. An attack on the teacher is an attack on education as a whole. In fact the latest developments this week have proved that that is literally true, because the attack on the salary of teachers has been immediately followed by a circular to local authorities announcing economies in the building programme for schools for 1962–63.

I have a feeling that party discipline, quite properly, drove many hon. Members opposite last week regretfully to support the attack on teachers' salaries as part of the Government's general strategy, just as I have a feeling that the Minister must have strained his own loyalty to the Government and to the great educational service when he decided to destroy by a single act the good-will which existed between him and his 250,000 employees, most of them good, simple, foolish Conservatives. I would urge both him and hon. Members opposite to reconsider what they are threatening to do to education, because for the harm done this autumn and winter the Minister will have to accept full responsibility.

The teachers feel that they have already responded to the Chancellor's economy drive. Like other citizens they suffer from the other measures which he has introduced in his £200 million cut in national expenditure. Moreover, the teachers had decided by a majority that the proposed £47½ million was not enough, and until the Chancellor's statement they had determined to insist on more. They accepted the Burnham award only with reluctance at the last minute and only because of the economic crisis.

The teachers have been underpaid all this century. I read with conflicting emotions the words of tribute paid by Member after Member to the teaching profession in the 1918 Second Reading debate on the great Fisher Act. On 13th March, 1918, Sir Henry Craik said: We have, as Scott somewhere said 'treated the schoolmaster as we would treat the deerhound. We have kept him starved that he may be more alert to bring down the quarry'. He went on: I claim for the teacher that it is essential to improve his position if we are to have good education and I submit that discontent among the teachers is a source of serious social danger."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th March, 1918; Vol. 104, c. 364.] But little has been done, in spite of the numerous tributes in words paid in 1918, to improve the professional status and professional well-being of the teachers during the past forty years beyond the improvement in the lot of the citizens which has come from the building up of the nation's economy.

It has been a British custom all my lifetime, whenever there is to be an economy drive, to level the first blow at the teachers and at education, and teachers have fought all through those years for a decent professional salary scale. They have never had one. Even if their original claim, not for the £47½ million which they negotiated, had been conceded, their final position would have been inferior to that of a doctor, a lawyer, a dentist, and a policeman, not to mention the speculator and the property owner and company promoter.

In the 1918 debate, a Scottish Member said, … while I for one, would not for a moment belittle the industry of money-making, I think the industry of man-making is infinitely more important, and those who are engaged in it ought to receive infinitely greater support than they do at the present time. I would like to see the teaching profession so raised in the estimation of the people that to join in it would be regarded as one of the highest privileges that any man or women could enjoy.… We shall never get the best out of the child unless we can get the best out of the teacher."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th March. 1918; Vol. 104. c. 760–61.] I am deeply concerned about the bitter sense of frustration and anger which permeates the teaching profession. It cannot be good for education. It cannot be good for education if the leaders of Burnham, both sides of which have so much to give to education itself, should now be doomed to devote their talents to fighting over salaries and to resisting the Government —talents which they ought to be devoting to the exciting task of educational development and expansion.

I say to the Minister that he cannot run the educational system which the best of both sides want for this nation if the key people in the system—the class teachers, the head teachers—are being turned cynical and bitter by the contrast between the esteem in which society professes to hold them and its willingness to make them the first victims of a new Geddes axe.

I commend to the Minister, who loves good books, the sad, cynical and famous French comedy, "Topaze." I am always anxious about the impact of cheap commercialism in the society in which we live on our children. I shall be even more concerned if the teachers themselves are corrupted, as the schoolmaster Topaze was corrupted in Pagnol's comedy, by the attitude of the Government to what I believe to be one of the key professions of the country.

Yesterday I received from my old school the terminal school magazine, which contained an appeal to all old boys of the school to help the school in its desperate search for science masters for next September. Every two years an old boy of my school whom I taught years ago—now a scientist in America— comes to London to buy for America young British scientific brains. English education needs the best brains that Britain can provide. America is prepared to buy them from us and to deprive our schools of them.

This year there are more over-sized senior classes than there have ever been this century. Next year sees another— I hope the last—crisis in the matter of teacher supply. The profession for which I am pleading has borne the brunt of the burden created by educational advance itself, by the problem of crowded classrooms, by the bulge, followed by a second bulge, to be followed, it is now clear, by a third bulge in the years ahead, and by secondary education for all; and next year many of those who thought that they might now find the size of classes being reduced will find that there will be a crisis again.

In spite of the difficulties, this underpaid profession has achieved great things for Britain, as the Minister not only knows but has generously acknowledged in speech after speech in the House and up and down the country at all times until his unfortunate decision of last week. Most important of all, our teachers are the answer—apart from their pupils, the most important answer—to the long-term aspects of the problem with which the Chancellor is confronted. On the quality of their work both intellectually and morally the whole future of Britain depends. In my judgment, the Chancellor ought not to be allowed to jeopardise the future for an immediate and paltry gain to the Treasury.

I care more for children than for anything else in the world. The months ahead may be fun for them, if there is a spate of strikes, whether the strikes be national, unofficial, sporadic or localised. It may be fun for them to be away from school, but the harm which could be done to the children would be incalculable. I hope that there will be no strikes, but it is difficult to argue with an angry man or with an angry profession which feels itself unjustly treated. There is no teacher worth his salt who does not give in time and in work inside and out of school much more than the law compels him to give. It would be a tragedy if the Government's mean action were to dry up in the teaching profession all that wonderful voluntary work.

Last week, the Minister said that there was an impasse which he hoped that both sides would overcome. But he has created the impasse. He can end it tomorrow. I urge him, for the sake of the great service for which he is responsible, to realise the gravity of the present situation. I urge hon. Members opposite to take note of the representations which they will receive from members of the teaching profession in their constituencies. Unique and unprecedented as this occasion is, the Minister will have to pass an Act of Parliament to carry out his decision if he is determined to reject the Burnham award. That is the measure of what he is doing.

I have before paid tribute to the local authorities for their willingness to undertake financial burdens for education, even though those burdens press heavily on the ratepayers. So far in this matter of the award to the teachers, they are ahead of the Government. There is still time for the Government to line up with the local authorities and to accept, as Governments always have done in the end during the past forty years, the findings of the freely negotiating body, the Burnham Committee. If not, I fear very much that the outlook for education this winter may be grave indeed.

4.8 a.m.

Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)

I also offer my apologies to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the staff for speaking at this early hour of the morning. I always seem to be apologising for that reason. Nevertheless, I felt that this was an occasion on which I should take part in the debate.

After the Chancellor made his economic statement last week, the country having been geared to expect very tough measures, people wondered what had happened. They did not at that time detect in the Chancellor's speech the kind of measures which they had been led to expect. Now, of course, it is quite clear that a great many decisions will have to be taken. I do not complain about that because I fully support the Chancellor in recognising the need for the economic stability which is absolutely essential for this country, but I believe that many people will be involved—unexpectedly, in the light of my right hon. and learned Friend's statement, at any rate—in having to give reluctant acquiescence to measures which will be put forward.

It is extraordinary that when my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education has taken the step that he has—I am not commenting on it at the moment—it has been left to an hon. Member on the Opposition side to raise the issue directly with by right hon. Friend at just after four o'clock in the morning and that this is the first opportunity that Parliament has had to discuss what is, after all, a new and unprecedented decision on the part of my right hon. Friend. That causes me great and deep concern. Whether or not one agrees with my right hon. Friend, I should have thought that it would be in the interests of the Government for him to have been given an opportunity to come before the House at a normal time to put his case.

I have no complaint against my right hon. Friend, because I think that he has been put in a difficult position. If, however, as a Government, we are to give, as, I believe, we are capable of doing, a lead to the country in this economic crisis, we cannot do it when the first important step is being discussed in the way that it must be discussed. But for the fact that we are here with my right hon. Friend ready to reply on an issue raised by the hon. Member for Southamption, Itchen (Dr. King) from the Opposition benches, I would not have taken part in this debate at this hour in the morning. I repeat that I am very sorry for my right hon. Friend.

I cannot understand why the Chancellor of the Exchequer should have made the brief reference that he made in the economic debate to the teaching profession. It would have been much wiser if, immediately following my right hon. and learned Friend's statement, responsible Ministers—not only my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education, but Ministers from other Departments who will be concerned in dealing with this economic crisis—had all been permitted to come and make their observations.

If the Government are being tough with the people, at least they must face them and tell them exactly what they intend to do. The people can either accept or reject. I have been long enough in politics to know that when there is tangible danger, one can obtain the support of the people; but they must be trusted and given leadership.

I am deeply concerned that my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for whom I have great respect and admiration, should have decided to make such a laconic statement —that is, perhaps, the best word to describe it—concerning a Department about which he is not qualified to comment in detail and, at the same time, to deprive my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education of the opportunity of arguing his own case. It was a great pity and a great mistake. At least, those of us who are here tonight appreciate that my right hon. Friend has come himself. I hope that he will be able to put forward his arguments for the decision which he has had to take.

That leads me to another point which I want to make, because if I do not make it now I cannot see when I shall be able to do so. There are other Ministers involved in the matter of negotiating machinery and I think that, in the interests of the country as a whole, we should hear something about what is in the mind of the Treasury. I am glad to see the Financial Secretary to the Treasury in his place, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health. That is tremendously important and I shall say why in a moment.

Right throughout the whole structure of the country there must be hundreds of thousands of people wondering what their future is going to be. We have been given no lead except the decision of the Minister of Education on the Burnham award and we really want to know if Parliament is to rise far the Recess with all these people left in a state of anxiety and conflict—people among whom there are no doubt many who are willing to co-operate with the Government in bringing about economic stability. I have no quarrel about the short-term or the long-term plans, but the Government must let the country know a great deal more about What they have in mind.

My mind goes back to 1931 when the country was very easily led into supporting some very drastic measures. All the people who accepted them are to be commended, but the country did accept those measures in order to reestablish financial and economic stability.

There was a Question and Answer in the House on Monday, and I mention this because there are hundreds of thousands of people involved in the National Health Service who also will be wondering what the future holds for them. The Question was asked by the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. Kenneth Robinson). He asked the Minister of Health … what new instructions he has given or proposes to give to his representatives on the various Whitley Councils in the light of Government policy on wages and salaries in the public service; what action he intends to take on Whitley Council agreements involving increased remuneration submitted for his approval; and whether claims will be allowed to go to arbitration as hitherto in the event of disagreement between the two sides". The Minister of Health answered, I have nothing to add at present to the statement of my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer". That was pretty neat, because my recollection is that in the Chancellor's statement nothing was said about the Health Service, but only about education. But then the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North, said, But is the Minister not aware that within the Health Service there are many of the most under-paid categories of skilled and trained staff? It would be most unfortunate and grossly unfair if they were caught in the wage freeze in the public sector which the Chancellor adumbrated last week". All the Minister of Health then said was I have nothing to add".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st July, 1961; Vol. 645, col. 927.] He may have had nothing to add, but but I have quite a lot. I do not think that, when one has a situation such as we have got in the National Health Service, it should be left at that. I think that people in the Health Service of all grades, of all categories, of all professions, have got a right to know what is going on. I fully recognise the difficulty which my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer was in. It was very difficult in the Parliamentary timetable and in the scene as it was set, with the Budget and Finance Bill, and the economic statement and economic debate, to come out with a full-scale plan involving everybody in the public sector, but I do not think that it is fair to the country—and, of course, the same goes for the private sector as well—for millions of people, as there are if we add the private to the public sector, discussing whether there is an intention of interfering with arbitration, with the industrial courts and the wages boards—for instance, for agricultural wages. All this ought to have been put in some perspective by Ministers to the country and to this House.

I resent it on behalf of those whom I try to represent. One of my most ardent supporters, a very great supporter of the Conservative Party, a very responsible councillor of my own local authority, the County Borough of Tyne-mouth, who has never, so far as I know, even criticised the Government before, said to me what a pity it was that the Chancellor had made that comment about the teachers. Well, as I say, there are other people, too. I know that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education cannot answer for the National Health Service, but I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will convey to their respective Ministers exactly what the position is and what I imagine is the feeling of all Members of the House over this matter.

I want to develop very quickly—I am not going to be much longer—just one or two points about the Health Service. I think that it is very important that we should know what claims are in the pipeline and whether the ones which are in the process of coming out of the pipeline are to be dealt with under the wage freeze and what is going to happen to those sections, of which there are many, in the National Health Service in which shortage of trained staff is having a bad effect on the proper administration and running of the Health Service as a whole. Are we, for instance, in the section of the professions supplementary to medicine, going to say, when we desperately want teachers in psysiotherapy and occupational therapy that we are not going to offer any inducements to try to get recruits either from training or teaching, because of the wage freeze? I may be wrong. It may be in the national interest that we should say we are not going to do a thing about them, but I think it ought to be known. Are we going to let the Health Service in many ways fail to recruit staff or are we going to make exceptions? I give just one example.

I sometimes think that it is all very well for Ministers to talk about the people of this country pulling up their socks and working harder—with which I agree—but I think that if the general public are asked to pull up their socks and to work harder, occasionally Government Departments should do that themselves, before they start lecturing the general public.

It is well known that there is a shortage of teachers of physiotherapy and that it is almost impossible to man new training schools. I understand that for nine months physiotherapists have been looking round the country for sites for new schools, but they cannot establish schools unless there are the trained staffs to run them. I am a member of the Council of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists and I know what is going on and how anxious the Council feels about these matters. A very important conference of senior, high-ranking physiotherapists will be held in October and two tutors have been appointed, one in education and the other on the technical side. Application has been made to the Minister for salaries to be paid in respect of those appointments. One salary has been fixed according to the Society's recommendation but the other salary recommended by the Society is unacceptable.

Can anyone go to appeal against this discrimination? Nobody knows, but I hope that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health will make a note of this and will tell her Minister. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman in turn will see the Chancellor. I hope that it will be noted that the physiotherapists are seriously discussing calling off the conference which I have mentioned unless satisfaction is forthcoming on this issue. To call off the conference would certainly not be in the interest of the Health Service as a whole. It certainly would not be in the interest of trying to train more physiotherapists. If the Parliamentary Secretary went round all the great hospitals she would find that there is a great shortage of staff in the "supplementary to medicine" group. I want to know what is happening about this.

I also want to know what is happening about the Younghusband Report on Local Authority Health and Welfare Services. I would have liked to have seen the Leader of the House, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, present. What are we doing about crime prevention? I understand from what my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health said in the House yesterday that the build- ing of hospitals will not be affected by economy measures, because that is above-the-line expenditure. I suppose that the same must apply to remand homes and detention centres. But what is the use of having these buildings if we do not have the trained staffs to run them? It is extremely disturbing that we have had no leadership in these matters.

I know that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will not be replying to the debate, because that is in the hands of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education. It is his night. I only wish that he could have had a day on the subject.

I want to know from my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is happening about the arbitration machinery in the private sector. People employed in mines and factories and in all the public and semipublic sectors of the nationalised industries want to know what is happening. When will the Chancellor be in a position to tell us? One finds that over a very long period in the industrial courts and the arbitration courts awards have nearly always been made and, though not perhaps in every case, in the main the increases awarded in salaries and wages have been justified. All those people getting higher wages have gone to make up the affluent society of which the Prime Minister and I are very proud. But what is now going to happen? I will not talk about the small fixed income groups tonight, but I mention them so that the Financial Secretary will not forget them.

I do not consider that it represents leadership on an important matter of this kind if we have to discuss the first step in the long-term planning—that is how I interpret this new arrangement with regard to the Burnham Committee — at this time in the morning. Nor do I think that it ought to have been left to the hon. Member to raise the subject. This is a matter which should have been put by the Government, and I am very disappointed that they have not done so.

4.31 a.m.

Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)

I apologise for rising at this hour, but I want to add my voice in appeal to the Minister of Education to reconsider the position that he has arrived at in connection with the agreed Burnham amounts for teachers. I say "reconsider" because I am not sure—here I am in some agreement with the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward)—that the Government yet understand the full implications of what they are doing.

Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)

Nor do the Opposition.

Mr. Loughlin

Does the hon. Gentleman wish to interrupt me?

Mr. Wilson

I was wondering whether some of the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends understand what they are doing.

Mr. Loughlin

That remains to be seen in a moment or so.

I do not know whether the Government appreciate fully that they can be charged with attempting to provoke a head-on clash with the trade unions. We are not here dealing solely with the question of the Burnham Committee; we are not dealing solely with the Whitley Councils or the nationalised industries. Once there is interference of this kind in freely negotiated agreements, it means that the Government are challenging the whole structure of our industrial relations. Take wages councils, for example; they have Government-appointed members. Once there is failure to agree in the administrative committee, the Government-appointed members then become the arbiters and decide whether the application by the trade union shall be agreed to or not.

Once the Government start giving instructions to the independent members of these negotiating bodies, they are placing them in such a position that there can be no question of free negotiations. In the negotiating structure we have built up, once there is failure to agree there are two courses of action open. Either the unions and employers accept a sense of responsibility and refer the matter to arbitration, or the unions take strike action. But if the Government in the first instance have determined that there are to be no wage increases, or give a general direction that there shall not be, what confidence has a union in going to arbitration? None at all.

The only alternative for workers in this position, having failed to establish an agreement with the employers, is to take strike action. Is that what the Government want? If they know beforehand that the Government have given a direction to the independent or Government-appointed members of a negotiating body, what point is there in the unions submitting the case to arbitration? They will know at once that if they do so they have no chance of securing an increase in wages or a reduction in the working week or an improvement in general conditions.

If they know they cannot go to arbitration, then the structure of our industrial relations, built up over a long period, collapses. The only alternative the unions have in such circumstances—whether they represent teachers, or health workers, or engineers or miners— is withdrawal of labour. But there is an additional factor. What about those who, like the teachers, have arrived already at a position where the employers and the unions have reached agreement for an increase in wages? There is no question of taking the matter to arbitration because the Minister has said that he will not countenance an agreement over and above the fixed amount that he states, and there is no question of strike action against the employer because the employer has already conceded the demand made by the workpeople.

Mr. F. V. Corfield (Gloucestershire, South)

What is the hon. Gentleman's definition of an employer? Is not someone who pays 60 per cent. of the wages in part an employer?

Mr. Loughlin

The hon. Gentleman ought to know that the machinery has been in existence for a considerable time. It is a little late in the day to start using that type of argument.

If the employer has agreed to the increase in wages and the only alternative is for the workpeople to go on strike, who do they strike against? They strike against the Government. If we get the situation where the teachers and the health people combine, as they are now suggesting they will, and if we get a multiplicity of people in precisely this position, as we are liable to do, then it becomes a political action, not an industrial action, provoked by the Government.

That is a dangerous position for any Government to place people in. It is indirectly provoking people to revolution. The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield) smiles, but let me tell him that if the Government attempt to persist in a policy of wage restraint during the next six or nine months, or even in the next three to six months, with the applications for wage increases which are already in the pipeline and ready for submission, they will be creating a situation in which work-people from many trades and industries will combine, which may be as dangerous as the 1926 situation.

It is as simple as that. The Government ought to take cognisance of what is going on and what by their actions they are provoking. I am not exaggerating the position. The T.U.C. has made it perfectly clear that the trade unions are not prepared to accept a policy of wage restraint in these circumstances.

We have here a situation where the Government are, in the case of the teachers, adopting a line of action which can as yet, with a bit of good sense, be withdrawn. As I have said on previous occasions from these benches, I can visualise circumstances when in the interests of the nation it may well be very desirable for the trade unions to say to their memberships that a policy of wage restraint is desirable both in the interests of their members and of the nation as a whole. If the Government create the psychosis in which it would be possible for that to be done, even though they have got us in a mess after ten years, it might be possible for the trade union movement to make a substantial contribution to getting them out of the mess. That is desirable because, apart from the general principle and the formation of a policy to be followed, the amount involved here is £5 million. Whilst the Government have got us in a terrible mess, we are not so impoverished as not to be able to stand £5 million.

The Government would be well advised to recognise the damage they are prepared to do to good industrial relations and to the structure of free wage negotiation which we have built up. The only difference between free man and slave is that the free man has the right to withdraw his labour. Many members of the Conservative Party have been tempted in recent months to challenge our right to withdraw our labour. We shall see, because in the next few months we may well find that the Government have ideas about legislating against strikes. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] I shall be glad to see those hon. Members who are now saying "Nonsense" in the Division Lobbies when the occasion arises. If the Government place the trade unions in the position of having to strike against the Government, we shall take that as a challenge. We shall not forgo any of our rights. I know the trade unions well. If strike action against the Government is the only way in which we can defend our rights to be free men, we shall remain free men.

4.47 a.m.

Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)

I have no intention of delaying the House for more than two minutes, but the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) has provoked me. He made several remarks in my direction because I shook my head. When I intervened to point out that I did not think that every hon. Member on his side of the House appreciated what the point was, I was not alluding to any deep, dark plot to smash the trade unions or stop negotiating machinery, or anything of the sort. That is a figment of the hon. Gentleman's imagination and has nothing to do with this case. I will leave it to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education to give the simple explanation of this point, which has nothing whatever to do with those things. Nobody has mentioned the position with regard to Scotland or what the Scottish teachers have been paid. That is probably much more to do with it than some of the deep plots of the hon. Gentleman's imagination. As for some plot on our part to smash the trade union movement, that is a long way from this subject. What we are debating is whether the increase in teachers' salaries should be that for which they have asked or the amount they have been offered.

4.49 a.m.

Mrs. Eirene White (Flint, East)

We do not in these debates usually inflict upon the House a speech from the Opposition Front Bench. This is normally a matter between the back benches on either side and the Government. However, we feel that this occasion is too serious for us to allow this to pass and to allow the House to go into recess without official comment on our part.

I have a great deal of sympathy with the remarks of both my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin), and the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward). This is a very important situation in which we need far greater clarification. As far as I know, there is nothing to prevent either the Parliamentary Secretary from replying to the physiotherapy points, or the Financial Secretary to the Treasury explaining the Government's policy in relation to wages.

It is quite inequitable that teachers should be the guinea pigs for managed wages, if that is to be the Government's policy. For a number of years economists have been accusing people on our side of the House, saying that we cannot have a planned economy unless we are also prepared to have some plan for wages. Are the Government beginning to be converted to long-term planning, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer indicated, and bringing in planned wages by a side door? If they are, we should be told.

We have had one example this year on a minor scale, over the payroll regulator, of ill-digested thought from the Treasury. If the Government fix a global sum for the teachers, why should they not fix a global sum for other industries and professions and say, "This is the amount which we believe can be afforded for this service or industry, and within this you have to sort out your wages policy"?

Something similar has been tried in one or two countries. This would be a very interesting departure for a Conservative Government, but if they have such thoughts they ought to come to the House and have a proper discussion of the principle of the matter and not put it on the teachers, which is what appears to be happening at the moment.

I will say more about the whole matter of teachers and the situation with regard to the Burnham Committee, but there is one point to which my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton Itchen (Dr. King) in his eloquent speech made a passing reference, and that is the circular which has just been issued from the Ministry of Education concerning capital expenditure.

It was only on 8th June that a lengthy administrative memorandum came out of the Ministry of Education on building procedures and so on. It was only quite recently that the Minister of Education addressed the Education Authorities' Conference and told them that they were to have greater freedom in expenditure on minor works, and what we rather lightheartedly call minor works can be of extreme importance in individual schools in promoting the happiness and efficiency of the teachers and pupils in those schools.

As we said in the recent debate on education, one of the ways of raising the efficiency of teachers is to see that there are adequate provisions in the schools to prevent the teachers from having to waste a lot of time in completely unsatisfactory buildings. Having as recently as 8th June sent out an administrative memorandum on this whole question, on 28th July a circular was sent by the Ministry to local authorities telling them that as far as minor works were concerned their new-found freedom was to be whittled away, and there was to be a stop until 1st October.

That may not be very serious, but it is rather alarmist language to say that unless one can show that "the local system of education will break down," one is not to do anything which has not already been contracted for. Subsequent to that date, all the centrally determined works are to be cut by half, and all the locally determined works are to be considerably reduced. The period for which this reduction is to take place is up to March, 1963. In other words, we can fairly ask how long this crisis will last.

On major works, we are told that there is to be a revision and re-organisation in favour of science and so on. We can hardly judge that before we know precisely what is proposed. So far as I know nothing has been said yet about the teacher training colleges, but I should like it firmly on the record from the Minister that there is to be no disturbance whatever in the expansion programme for the colleges.

We have had all this before. There is nothing new about this. I have here one of the little aides-mémoire with which all Parliamentary candidates are familiar, and which we had prepared for the last General Election. It was headed "Stop and Go Policy." There is nothing new about this but it is extremely disturbing to local authorities and their staffs to have this stop and go policy in the building programme. I do not want to weary the House at this hour by retailing the whole story, but we started off in 1951—I may say after the 1951 election, and early in 1952—when the local authorities were told that they must cut down on youth work and the reorganisation of all-age schools and so on. That lasted until 1954 when we got within sight of a General Election.

Then the local authorities were told, "Everything is all right. You can expand again. Our concern for education is revived, and now we are going to put on a good face to the country." Then we had the 1955 election, as we all know. Then we come to the 1957 crisis and the education authorities are told that once more they must cut down on capital expenditure and postpone their plans and so on and so forth. When we get to 1958–59 the authorities are told, in the official language, that greater flexibility will be permitted—in other words, that they can start dressing the window all over again.

Presumably the Government are telling us today that we shall be restricted up to 1963, until we are approaching the next election. The Government say, "After that, of course, we shall have to do some more window dressing and we shall tell you once more that we are concerning ourselves with education and you will be able to go ahead. Meanwhile your minor works are drastically reduced."

I repeat, there is nothing new in this, though it is extremely serious for those of us who are concerned with educational progress in this country. On the other hand, the Burnham situation is new. The Burnham Committee in its present form was established in the 1944 Act by this House. Its principles were laid down and the manner in which negotiations were to be conducted. Therefore, it seems to me that if any changes are to be made, the place where they should be discussed is in this House of Commons. One assumes that the Minister has in mind fresh legislation, because at the present time he is not empowered to intervene in Burnham negotiations. He can accept or reject, but he has no power to intervene, as I understand it. In this case he is in a different position from the Secretary of State for Scotland. Therefore, if he is now saying that we are to have positive Government intervention, not merely in the global sum as a part of a possible national wages policy, but also in the distribution of that global sum, that is something very different from the conception of the Burnham Committee enshrined in the 1944 Act and referred to by his predecessor, the present Home Secretary, in a speech at, I believe, the first meeting of the Burnham Committee. The right hon. Gentleman told the Committee: You are an independent body free to choose what seems to you best. That freedom has been taken away. I repeat that I think we should be told by the Minister that he is going to bring in legislation in the next Session to alter the 1944 Act in this respect, because I do not think that he is entitled otherwise to intervene in the way in which he is suggesting. We ought to have a clear indication of his intentions in this matter of principle.

I do not want to go into the whole question, properly raised by the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) and my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin), of how this may relate to Government policy in other directions. By starting at the side door with the teachers, uncertainty has been caused in many other occupations and professions about the Government's intentions.

It is true that £42 million is a substantial increase and that the amount which is being withheld, £5½ million, is relatively small. There has been a reference to Scottish teachers, and in his letter to the Burnham Committee it seemed that the Minister was thinking in terms of parity with Scottish teachers, but I remind the House that the Scottish teachers are already enjoying such increases as they obtained; they started on 1st July. The increase proposed for teachers in England and Wales is not to take effect until 1st January, 1962. There is a six months' gap. If the Minister were thinking that the increase in England and Wales should take effect from the same date as that on which the increases were paid in Scotland, that would be some improvement. If the Minister said now, "I do not approve of a higher increase than that awarded to the Scottish teachers but it should take effect from the same date", that would be something.

Dr. King

The principle would still be bad.

Mrs. White

The principle would still be bad, but I am suggesting a practical way out of the mess into which the Government have brought us. If we are faced with a deadlock in the teaching profession it will be serious. The Government may say that they have the last word and the whip-hand. The right hon. Gentleman once made an unfortunate remark, "Treat them mean and keep them keen". I do not accuse him of saying it about the teachers because he is too much concerned for the success of his Department to wish to do that, but if the whole teaching profession feels that it has been let down by the Government it is a very serious situation.

It is a very few days since we had a general debate on education in which the Minister referred to educational advance and said, quite rightly, that even with present policies the cost of education will be more year by year. He said: Is the country willing to pay the bill? I think it is provided that we can always show that we are getting value for money".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th July 1961; Vol. 644, c. 905.] These were brave words.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

He has had second thoughts.

Mrs. White

If the Minister believes what he said on 17th July one can only assume that he put up the best fight he could but was beaten by the Treasury. The sum concerned, £5½ million, is not in itself a vast amount. But for £5½ million, is it worth doing what the Minister is doing not merely to the teachers but to the standing of education in this country? The Observer last Sun- day and various other serious commentators made it clear that everyone was coming round to the feeling that education at last would take a foremost place in our national expenditure. It was being recognised as a top service and not as a secondary service, as it has been regarded in the past. Everyone was ready to accept it as such, and the Minister was quite right to say that the country would pay the bill for education. People are appreciating its value.

Psychologically, the Government's attitude has done serious damage to the standing of educational endeavour, and it has aroused the bitter anger and resentment of the teaching profession, especially among the rank-and-file teachers who have to carry the burden in our primary and secondary modern schools, the ones who do not get the headships or the graded posts, the people who have to do the slogging job, day in and day out. They are the ones who feel really bitter because they are being asked to do a responsible job, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) said in the economic debate, for less than any competent shorthand-typist will be paid in the City of London today. I ask the House to compare the sort of work done by a girl who has done nine to twelve months at a secretarial college with the work a teacher has to do in facing a class of forty children in a primary school. If asked the question, "Who should have the more pay?" every hon. Member would, I believe, say that the teacher should. But that is not the conclusion of the Minister.

The hon. Lady the Member for Tyne-mouth spoke of 1931 and said that people accepted sacrifices in the crisis of that time. I hope that we have not quite returned to 1931, and, in any case, people accepted the wrong sacrifices at that time which led the country into years of stagnation and put a brake on our economic progress. I believe that this action of the Government in refusing the teachers what has been agreed between them and the education authorities will have within its own field a similar braking effect upon educational progress. It will deter people from going into teaching. It will make those who are in teaching dissatisfied and frustrated.

5.8 a.m.

The Minister of Education (Sir David Eccles)

My hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) was absolutely right in saying that the Government needed this opportunity to say a few things about this very important question. I agree entirely that it has been something of an embarrassment not to be able to come to the House and explain the facts of the case. The House will appreciate that, during the last few days, the Parliamentary timetable has been extremely full. I know that if my right hon. Friends could have given me the opportunity at a more suitable hour they would have done so. Therefore, I thank the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) for bringing about what I hoped would happen.

Nobody regrets a dispute with the teachers on their salaries more than I do. With the help of many hon. Members, the hon. Member for lichen and many of my hon. Friends, I have tried for a number of years to arouse support among the public for education in this country, because it is clear that, in the scientific and technical world in which we live, education is essential, and for no country in the world more so than it is for Britain.

When one looks at the structure and the standards of our education, again I am on the record as always having put first an adequate supply of properly trained teachers as the pivot on which the whole system turns. The Government have no doubt that more teachers and better qualified teachers are the greatest single requirement of the schools and colleges. I say that once more only in order that hon. Members may not be under any illusion that in approaching this salary question I have not had in mind the gospel I have tried to preach for so long.

At the same time, it is not true that we have unlimited money at our disposal, or ever will have under any Government, to improve the education system. We shall be the prisoners of priorities for as long ahead as we can see. I said that in the debate which the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) has quoted. If I remember aright, I said that I believed the public was willing to pay the rising bills for education provided that we got value for money and provided we got our priorities right. That is the position on which we stand.

It is no less a fact that we are not in equal difficulty over the recuritment of all kinds of teachers or that the salaries of all teachers should on any rational estimate of the needs of the schools be improved equally. Given the number of places in the teacher training colleges, which number we are now in process of doubling, we have had, and we now have, no difficulty in finding suitable applicants for all of them. Indeed, the contrary is true. We are gradually but sensibly raising the entrance qualifications of students. So there is no comparison with the police, who were seriously undermanned with a large number of vacancies that could not be filled.

On the other hand, ever since I have been at the Ministry, I have been seriously perturbed by the level of salaries of the older teachers, of the teachers with special responsibilities, and those with higher qualifications. The hon. Member for Itchen mentioned the acute shortage of science teachers. I am sure that the attraction and the prestige of a profession is to a substantial extent a reflection of the way the higher posts are rewarded: the "plums" at the tap are the world's criterion of a profession's reputation, and we badly need more highly qualified teachers than we are getting today. Therefore, I was glad that the increase which could be offered to the teachers—it turns out to be £42 million—would be the highest ever made in a Burnham review.

Obviously, a sum of this very large size gives considerable scope for improvements, but we must spend the money to the best advantage. Of course, we all want an improvement on the basic scale, and I am particularly concerned that more should be done for the young men when they marry and have children. I welcome very much the Burnham Committee's idea of double increments at the right points in the scale which would benefit these men but will not apply to those young women who leave the schools with less than five years' service.

Many people have written to me to ask how it is that teachers, educationists and writers in the Press, all of whose business it is to instruct other people how to describe accurately what is going on around them and to recognise truth from an error, can call a salary increase of £42 million a cut. We all have hopes that we cannot realise, but we do not call a reduction in unrealised hopes a cut.

I have been accused of interfering unduly with the Burnham machinery. It is, therefore, important that I should give in as clear language as possible the background to our decision that £42 million was the right sum to offer in present circumstances, and why we made the offer when we did and in the manner that we did.

As has been said tonight, an important factor in this matter which has not received much attention is what has happened north of the Border, in Scotland. Last April, the Scottish local authorities and teachers' representatives presented my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State with an agreed proposal for an increase in teachers' salaries amounting to 18 per cent. My right hon. Friend used the powers which he possesses, and which I do not, to reject the 18 per cent., and proposed new scales amounting to a 12½ per cent. increase which, after further consultations, he increased to 14 per cent. This is the size of the increase which was settled for Scotland, early in the summer, before the financial crisis had become acute.

It has been alleged tonight that the Government did give a whisper to Burnham about the size of the increase; but this was no whisper. It was the plainest of plain hints that 14 per cent. was the maximum which could be added in present circumstances. Nevertheless, the Burnham Committee provisionally agreed on an increase of 16¼ per cent., costing £47½ million for the primary and secondary teachers in England and Wales. Now a proposed increase of this size, out of line with Scotland, naturally caused the Government great embarrassment and, furthermore, we noted with concern that at a general conference at Margate, the N.U.T. rejected the 16¼ per cent. increase as totally insufficient.

After this conference, no one could tell what would happen next in Burnham. We therefore had no agreed figure before us when it became necessary for the Chancellor to announce measures to deal with the financial situation. One of the most important of these measures was a pause in salaries and wages in the whole of the public sector, and a call for a similar pause in the private sector. It appeared to the Government, as I am sure it does to the whole House, to be only fair that outstanding claims in the public sector should be cleared up before this pause began. Of these outstanding claims by far the largest were the Burnham proposals for a figure which was then unknown because of the N.U.T. rejection of the provisional agreement, but which obviously was not going to be less than £47½ million. Here, the timetable of the Burnham Committee is very important.

The Committee was not due to consider the situation following the rejection by the N.U.T. of the £47½ million until two days after the Chancellor's statement in this House. Now, it would surely have been wrong to have allowed the Committee to hold its meeting and try to arrive at fresh conclusions after the Government had announced their economic measure's if, in making his announcement, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said nothing about teachers' salaries. In my view it would have been nothing short of dishonourable to have waited till after the Burnham Committee's meeting and Parliament had risen for the Summer Recess to make our decision public. Those are the reasons why teachers' salaries were specially mentioned in the Chancellor's statement and speech and why I told the representatives of the Burnham Committee the day after the statement precisely where the Government stood on the matter.

It is more than a little difficult to understand how anyone can talk about the teachers being singled out, or picked on, when an increase of £42 million, which becomes £53 million when it includes technical colleges and others concerned, is offered at this time. In fact this £42 million represents very substantial improvements on the present scales of salary, at least as good as the average increase in salaries in productive industry Which is 5.8 per cent, a year for 1959–60, the latest year for which I have figures. The offer of £42 million is almost 6½ per cent. a year.

I want to illustrate how good the £42 million offer is by one or two examples which I can produce out of the application of this figure. A non-graduate teacher, two-year trained, aged 26, now gets £685 a year. Under the £42 million offer the figure could be £820. The head teacher of a primary school of 200 to 300 children—a non-graduate head teacher—now gets £1,305: he could get £1,540. A three-year trained graduate with a pass degree at 26 now gets £777 10s.; he could get £920. An honours degree graduate aged 40 who is head of a department in Grade E now gets £1,645: he could get £1,975. These examples, I assure the House, are picked at random; they are not specially favourable. They are calculated on the assumption that the increase in the differentials made in the provisional Burnham agreement is maintained and that the basic scale of two-year trained teachers rises from the present figure of £520 to £1,000, to £570 to £1,170, and that the double increments at the fifth and sixth year are maintained. I think that that does show that to call this offer a mean offer in any sort of way is very very far from the truth.

I have to come to a very serious feature of the present situation which has already been mentioned by the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East, and that is that I have no power to do more than reject an agreed proposal by Burnham which for any reason the Government find unacceptable. Unless, therefore, the Burnham Committee is willing to submit to me salary increases worked out to reach a total of not more than £42 million in a full year nothing can happen and the teachers will get no increase at all. This is the last thing which the Government desire, and I very much hope that we shall not be driven to legislate in the autumn in order to have the authority to pay these very substantial increases represented by the £42 million.

A further consideration much in our minds—and this is nothing new; I have been thinking about it over the whole of the last year—is the embarrassment caused by the present method of conducting the Burnham negotiations. As the House knows, this Committee was established in days when prices were comparatively stable and changes in salaries were infrequent and small. Under such conditions it was unlikely that the Burnham Committee would ever recommend to the Government increases of a size that conflicted with general financial policy, and I subscribe to the tribute paid by the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen to the work which the Burnham Committee did throughout that period.

But now all this has changed, and as a result of full employment and a rapid growth in the economy, which unfortunately has been accompanied from time to time by inflationary pressures, we have a new situation. My right hon. and learned Friend said in his statement to the House last week that we have to face this situation, the solution to which has so far eluded us. We have now to work out a long-term policy for salaries and wages in the public sector based on the proposition, and I am quoting my right hon. and learned Friend's words, that …increases in incomes must follow and not precede or outstrip increases in national productivity."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th July, 1961; Vol, 645, c. 223.] It is perfectly clear that if we are not able to do that we shall have one financial crisis after another.

Yesterday afternoon my right hon. and learned Friend told the local authority associations that during the pause in salaries and wages he would open discussions about the means to implement this long-term policy throughout the public sector, and the authorities told my right hon. and learned Friend that they would be glad to co-operate in these discussions. For my part, I have told the Burnham Committee that it is desirable that the Minister shall in future be associated with salary reviews in such a way that the Government's views on the size and general lines of the distribution of salary increases should be made known to the Committee at an early stage in the negotiations.

Mr. Loughlin

It means that there can be no negotiations.

Sir D. Eccles

This House is responsible to the taxpayers and taxpayers provide something like 12s. in the £ of all teachers' salaries. We cannot be indifferent to the amount which taxpayers are asked to pay or to the distribution of that amount among different classes of teachers.

Mr. Loughlin

If the Government are to make a fixed amount available for wage increases at an early stage—that is before the negotiations begin—on what basis will negotiations take place?

Sir D. Eccles

On a very much better basis than they do now. The hon. Member does not understand the Burnham machinery. The Minister of Education has a statutory power under Section 89 of the Act to reject any agreed award put up to him. Therefore, the Minister already has the power to determine tie sum. What is wrong with the present situation is that he cannot use that power until after an immense amount of work has been done and all the salary scales have been arranged.

Mrs. White

Surely there is some point in what my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) is saying. If the Minister is to determine both the global sum and the method of its allocation, why have the elaborate machinery of Burnham? Why not just present both sides with a statement of what is to happen?

Sir D. Eccles

As I have pointed out, I shall ask the Burnham Committee to receive our views on the general lines of distribution. We want to be able to have discussions with the Burnham Committee in the course of the negotiations. Unless that is done, this House will be wasting public money, because the needs of the schools—this must be clear to hon. Members opposite—are not always the same as those of the Teachers' Panel which is asking for this or that relationship between the basic scale and the differentials.

It is perfectly clear that we have reached a situation now where our real shortages inside the teaching profession are in graduates. It is teachers of science, mathematics and other subjects of which we are really short. The Minister of Education has under the Act an overriding duty to ensure that the schools are efficiently run. How can I carry out that duty if the salary scales proposed will not, in my estimation, provide the kind of teachers that we want? This is a dilemma which has got to be resolved, not by dictatorship from the Minister, but by enabling the Minister's representatives to sit with the Burnham Committee at an early stage and point out what we know about the different shortages of teachers in the schools.

After all, the Minister of Education, with all his H.M.Is. to help him, with the central position of the Ministry, is likely to know something about the real, urgent needs of the schools. At the moment we are not—[Interruption.]—I do not know what the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West is arguing about. I am trying to explain to the House where the Burnham Committee is weak today and where, from the point of view of the public interest, we ought to strengthen it.

I look forward now to a new chapter in salaries policy which will enable us to do two things that we cannot do at present. The first is to ensure that the total increases in any review do not outstrip the growth of the economy. The Chancellor of the Exchequer will have to tell us what he thinks the overall increase can be. The second is to ensure that the increases are well directed to meet the most urgent needs of the schools. This is necessary in order that this vast salary bill, which is now going to be well over £400 million a year, shall be well spent. If we in this House can give a proper account to our constituents to show that we have looked into this matter and got them the right value for money—

Mr. Edward J. Milne (Blyth)

Will the right hon. Gentleman clear up a paint far me about the position which he has raised? He talks about deciding on the merits of Burnham negotiations the channels into which the increases should be diverted—that is, the grades of teachers which should have the increases—and then he talks about the Treasury deciding the sum. What will happen if there is a dispute between the Ministry of Education in giving the country the type of teachers that it needs and the Treasury with which it is battling to get the amount of money necessary to provide those teachers? Cannot the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that if in connection with negotiating machinery of this description he is going to wipe out free negotiations in the early stages he will either run into trouble on the education side or run into a head-on clash between the Treasury and the Ministry of Education?

Sir D. Eccles

Such clashes are nothing new, as the hon. Gentleman knows. Perhaps I have failed to make this point to the House. All the things which the hon. Gentleman fears—and quite rightly—happen now only at the point when the Burnham Committee has gone through all the work and recommended an award and the Minister, for one reason or another, has to reject it. All I am asking is that we should in future be able to talk to the local authorities not by hinting, or whispers round the corner, but as partners in the service, working out what is the best way to spend these immense sums of money which we all know we have to provide for the teachers.

Mrs. White

Before the right hon. Gentleman sits down, will he deal with the two points I raised? The first dealt with the comparison between the time of the Scottish teachers' award and the length of the proposal for the English and Welsh teachers. I understand that both are to terminate at the end of March, 1964, which gives the Scots six months more than the English and Welsh. Would he also please confirm that the training college programme is not to be touched?

Sir D. Eccles

I am afraid that the time comparison is not really very important compared with the comparison of the levels of the salary scale. The hon. Lady will probably know that the three-year non-graduate woman teacher in Scotland, under the new settlement, starts at £560 and goes on to £1,070 a year—very much less than what I can do with my £42 million. Under the £47½ million, however, the gap would be intolerable. For that reason, we must look a little bit across the Border at the relative scales.

Mrs. White

That is one particular scale on the basic scale, but is not it the case that the total increase is of the order of 14 per cent. and a little bit for both, and that the fact that it is for six months less in the agreement period for English teachers means that they get less?

Sir D. Eccles

It means that the two scales were reached together. Very close comparisons cannot be made, and we do not consider that it would be wise to have too large a gap. It would not be wise to take too exact a comparison, because scales are different on either side of the Border.

The hon. Lady also asked me about the training college programme. That stands as it was. Only minor works have been cut, but I believe that, inside the rest of the major works programme, it is right to study—and I have not yet completed my study—whether some reallocation of building projects can be made, so that one or two technical colleges that are very badly needed, some laboratories and some secondary schools, could be pulled forward and embarked upon a little earlier.

5.33 a.m.

Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)

Before the Minister spoke several of my hon. Friends and the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) said that this debate afforded him the opportunity to make a statement. Having heard that statement, I think that it is most unfortunate that he has been afforded that opportunity. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] I think that it is a statement that will only aggravate a very difficult situation.

Before the right hon. Gentleman spoke, it was believed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was mainly responsible for the present difficult position. The right hon. Gentleman has made it clear that he would have intervened in any case, whether there had been an economic crisis or not. By and large, he apparently regards the teachers as overpaid. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] That is certainly the impression he has created.

Sir D. Eccles

The hon. Member is playing politics.

Mr. Willey

The right hon. Gentleman is always playing politics. That is the last quarter from which complaint should come. Let us consider what the right hon. Gentleman said. He said that for twelve months or more he was thinking about the Burnham procedure.

Can anything be more irresponsible than to allow the Burnham Committee to go through all its negotiations when the right hon. Gentleman had previously taken a decision that this procedure had to be altered and that he was not prepared to accept a conclusion that the Committee might reach? That is the effect of what the right hon. Gentleman said. That is precisely what he said, as my hon. Friend reminds me. Nothing can make negotiations more futile and more difficult if the right hon. Gentleman discloses that that was his attitude.

Let us see the further thing which the right hon. Gentleman said. He said in a philosophic sort of way that, of course, we are living in a different era from that envisaged in 1944, that we are living in a period of a steadily rising cost of living. That was his case. But if that is the right hon. Gentleman's case, he has to recognise that it is because in the Burnham procedure there is a considerable time-lag before teachers get any increase to which they are entitled. This is the dilemma which faces the Burnham Committee.

The right hon. Gentleman ought to know well enough that the difficulty that has faced the Whitley Councils has been this very difficulty. In fact, steps have been taken in two directions, one to provide for a regular review and the other to provide machinery for establishing a parity with people doing similar jobs in private industry. This is the dilemma which faces the teachers, but it seems a bit thick for the Government to come to people like the teachers, who have been obliged to face this lag when other people in comparable jobs have been getting increases, and to say that the bill is very high. What one has to consider is parity.

The Government have surely had plenty of warnings about this. All that the right hon. Gentleman has said tonight has been said in previous instances. As the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health knows, it was said about employees in the National Health Service. At the end of the day the Government gave far larger increases than they had envisaged. The hon. Lady knows that the same was said about the doctors, about the police and about the railwaymen.

If the right hon. Gentleman doubts this, I challenge him to set up a Commission to inquire into teachers' salaries. Let him do it if that is his view. But to come to the House and say that this procedure ought to be reviewed when one cannot take account at a sufficiently early stage of a rising cost of living and then to complain of the size of the increase ignoring the long period during which the teachers have been unable to counter this rising cost of living seems to me to be the sort of argument that is going to make the present difficulty much more difficult.

Let us take the other two matters with which the right hon. Gentleman dealt. Value for money. I regard this in the present context as offensive. And, again, I invite the right hon. Gentleman—in fact I challenge him—in view of the selective figures which he gave, to institute an inquiry and to find out what is the parity and what that would entitle the teachers to receive in present circumstances.

We have had the example of the doctors. We have the figures, incidentally, which were provided for the inquiry into doctors' salaries. The right hon. Gentleman said that the teaching profession is not being seriously undermanned. We are told—the political commentators tell us—that the right hon. Gentleman will not remain in office much longer. It will be very unfortunate if this is the last speech he makes as Minister of Education. He can foresee what will happen in the next twelve months or so. We are being faced with an aggravating crisis in teacher supply. He has described the profession as an "in and out profession." We are faced with increasing wastage rates. All these are indications of teaching being seriously under-manned. The right hon. Gentleman seems to be shaking his head. This is the first time I have understood it to be his case that the profession is not seriously under-manned. I thought that was recognised. We have had the figures of the over-sized classes. We have the projection of the demands on teachers to be made in the next few years.

Finally, there is the question of priorities. I concede that the right hon. Gentleman has consistently pleaded the case for education, as he did this morning. He has previously traced our difficulties to past parsimony in regard to education under earlier Conservative Governments. This is the dilemma facing us. This is a service on which we cannot afford to economise. The Minister must be sufficiently tough in his present job to say that we cannot afford to economise in education. In spite of his jauntiness and complacency this morning, he knows that he faces a very real crisis. He knows that he faces a deadlock in the Burnham negotiations. He knows that he has no power to do anything, except to threaten, as he has impliedly threatened this morning that the teachers will not get any increase, unless they give way and accept his dictatorship.

This will not help education. I rose only to make this plea to the Minister. I hope that he will stand firm by what he said about education in the past. I hope that he will be prepared to go back to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Cabinet and say that education remains a top priority, that this deadlock cannot be tolerated, and that there will have to be a further and better offer to the teachers. Only in that way shall we secure the educational service we need.