HC Deb 18 June 1963 vol 679 cc309-30

As from midnight of 31st March 1965, section 89 of the Education Act 1944 shall cease to have effect.—[Mr. Montgomery.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Fergus Montgomery (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East)

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

My reason for moving the new Clause, with which I shall not detain the House long, is that I am perturbed that the Bill contains so little mention of Section 89 of the 1944 Act. This is something which should be clarified in the Bill. My right hon. Friend the Minister is asking Parliament for new powers under the Bill because of the unsatisfactory arrangements made under Section 89 of the 1944 Act. Therefore, it has been demonstrated that that Section has not worked. The special powers sought by the Minister under the Bill are little short of a complete rejection of all forms of negotiation. The only thing that makes them tolerable is that they are not permanent.

If the Burnham arrangements under Section 89 of the 1944 Act have not worked, is it thought that they will work in 1965? I feel, therefore, that they should be scrapped and not left to be tinkered around with. I note that the new power of the Minister is expressly worded as being otherwise than in accordance with Section 89 of the Education Act 1944". I make no secret of the fact that the purpose of the new Clause is to try to force the Government to produce workable arrangements or to cut out some of the statuory provisions. The statutory control of teachers is far more rigid than that of civil servants. I remind my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary that on Second Reading there was a great deal of support for the view that my right hon. Friend the Minister should take part in the salary negotiations but should not have the absolute power of veto.

I believe that my right hon. Friend should be able to put his case in any salary negotiating committee that is built up, but that he should put it alongside the representatives of the teachers' organisations and the representatives of the local authorities. Then, in the event of deadlock between the three bodies, the matter should go to arbitration, but my right hon. Friend must never be given the right to impose his will upon the representatives of the teachers' organisations and of the local authorities.

My right hon. Friend has admitted the concern of teachers' organisations against the Bill. We realise that it is a holding operation until 1965. It would restore a great deal of faith of teachers in the Minister if they felt that they would get a fair deal in salary negotiations. If they went in as equal partners with the local authorities and the Minister, and if the Minister would now agree to renounce his power of veto under Section 89, it would lead to greater cordiality between all sections of the teaching profession and all those who are interested in teachers' salaries.

Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

I have listened to the case which the hon. Member has presented in a very reasonable manner, but I have been wondering why he has chosen 1965 as the date.

Mr. Montgomery

The reason is that I thought 1965 would be more acceptable to the Government. It would be desirable for the Section to be repealed forthwith, but I doubt whether the Government would accept that. I had hoped that no one would ask me that question, but my answer is that I selected 1965 in the hope that the Government would think it more reasonable because it would give them time to think of ways around the situation and to try to reach a satisfactory solution.

Dr. King

I have listened with interest to the hon. Member for New-castle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Montgomery). His speeches are always thoughtful. While I believe that the motive behind the speech may be excellent, I hope that the House will reject the new Clause out of hand.

I should like to take up one or two of the things which the hon. Member said. He asked why the Government should not recognise the position that the arrangements under Section 89 have not worked. The simple fact is that the Burnham Committee and Section 89 of the Education Act, 1944, have worked ever since 1944. Until the present Minister and his two predecessors came along, there was no difficulty at all in applying Section 89.

I suggest to the House and to the hon. Gentleman that it is a very dangerous method of trying to force the hands of the Government by taking from the teaching profession the measure of protection which exists under Section 89. While by repealing Section 89 the hon. Member would remove the Minister's power to veto a Burnham award, he would also remove the Minister's power to approve a Burnham award.

Mr. Montgomery

Will the hon. Gentleman explain to me how Section 89 has helped the teachers in the present dispute?

Dr. King

I am coming to that now. I must confess that it is an attractive argument for a Conservative Member of Parliament to say to a Conservative Minister about Section 89, "Why not be honest about it? Why not take off the Statute Book a Section which we have ignored during the last four months in such a way that we have even had to bring before the House a new Bill in order to legalise what we are doing?".

The date is of great significance, and my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) was perfectly right to ask why 31st March, 1965, was chosen. I note the romantic touch—midnight on the 31st, an appropriate moment for the deed of darkness which the hon. Member is proposing. He is asking the Minister to legislate for the next Government. In the extremely unlikely event of that being a Conservative Government, having in mind what they have managed to do even with this Section in the Act of Parliament, I tremble to think what they would do if there were no such Section. Much more seriously, the next Government will not be a Conservative Government, and if the Minister were to accept the new Clause it would be made nugatory when the next Government came into power.

Seriously, I hope that this is only a temporary aberration on the part of the Conservative Minister of Education. I hope, with the hon. Gentleman, that in the months ahead we shall return to a proper negotiating body; that the Burnham Committee, which the Minister has temporarily slain, will be brought back to life; that the Minister will be able to make his representations to the Committee about the kind of financial coverage which the Government are pre pared to make to any kind of negotiation; and that the Minister himself may even take part in such negotiation. But I hope that the general principle that was formulated by the First Secretary—

Mr. Montgomery

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman again.

Dr. King

Do not apologise.

Mr. Montgomery

If the hon. Gentle man believes that the Minister should be represented on the negotiating body

Dr. King

I did not say that.

Mr. Montgomery

I thought the hon. Gentleman did. He said that he did not disagree with it.

Dr. King

The hon. Gentleman had better read my speech in the Official Report. I have taken a view on this all along. I do not share the view of many of my colleagues. I was going to say when I was interrupted that I stand by the view of the present First Secretary of State when he was Minister of Education in 1944, when he followed the example of the greatest Minister of Education this century has produced, Mr. Fisher, who set up the original Burnham Committee on principles which Ministers have followed ever since. The principle enunciated by the First Secretary of State in this House in 1944 was that the local authorities were the employers of the teachers, and that between them—local authority and teacher, employer and employee—they should negotiate a salary and it should go to the Minister for his approval or disapproval. That has worked very well. All I said was that I saw no reason why the Minister should not indicate to such a Committee his general views from time to time—and this was offered to him, as the hon. Gentleman knows.

I hops that the Minister will not take from the Education Act, 1944, the greatest Act of this century, anything, and certainly not Section 89.

7.45 p.m.

Mr. Cole

Of all the things that we have been discussing today, this is something to which I have especially addressed my mind for many months and something on which I have addressed a letter to the Minister.

I am sorry on this occasion to differ from the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King), because we have agreed on so many things in education. With him, I pay tribute to the success of the Burnham Committee in the past, and in this I would go further back than four years. It is, however, less than right to say that the present matter is the sort of dispute which has arisen because of the findings of the Burnham Committee.

Like the hon. Member, I have been in the House for a good many years, and my recollection is that this is at least the third dispute over the last four or five years. All of them have in one way or another arisen from the same cause, but this is the first time that the views of the Minister, rightly or wrongly, have been implemented in a Bill. I think that the present action being taken by my right hon. Friend is an indication of the gradual decline in the otherwise successful relations with the Burnham Committee in the past.

The hon. Gentleman has just spoken about a recommendation freely negotiated between the employers and the employees or their representatives. I should like to think that, with proper representation of all the teachers and of the local education authorities, and with representatives of, not observers from, the Ministry of Education, a proper solution might well be found at the right time for a new salary award. I should like to think that something much more important than that might be found, that there might be found an amicable state of affairs which would do nothing but enhance the status of the profession. That is what I am concerned about far more than the question of the Government implementing the award or what the actual award is.

I deplore the continual struggles, in which I have participated as a member of this House, of the last four or five years. They have perforce raised the views of many members of the public for or against the teachers or for or against the Minister, with no possible gain either to the profession or to the Minister. The profession inevitably loses, however, whether it deserves to or not, but the Minister goes on as do Governments. A new system should mean a gain for the teachers, and they have nothing to lose by it.

The perpetuation of the present arrangements in Burnham could only be to the disadvantage of the teachers. This would be so even if all the decisions in the last few years had been 100 per cent. perfect and had been finally approved by the Minister, who must provide 30.40 per cent. of the money. The public might still criticise and any criticism would be applied to the profession and not necessarily to the Ministry and the Government.

Moreover, I am not convinced, in these days of arbitration and with the growth that has taken place over the last few years of successful representation by trade unions, that a Burnham Committee which was satisfactory thirty or forty years ago is necessarily satisfactory in the present day and age. I have always thought it peculiar that we had a body consisting of one side providing 60 or 70 per cent. of the money and the other side receiving all the money, finally agree on a settlement after months of negotiation and then have to go to a third party which, by virtue of providing the rest of the money, has the final say.

If I were a member of the Burnham Committee I should feel all the time a possible frustration and waste of time in the knowledge that what I was deciding to do might be nullified in the end because the money would not be forthcoming. That is the history of the dispute of two years ago when the award was cut down by some 40 per cent. Possibly it had to be cut, but there was an air of unreality about it all.

The difference between the final award and the one asked for originally by Burnham was a considerable number of millions of pounds. That seems to be quite fantastic. All parties acted with sincerity and integrity. Therefore, if there was a considerable disparity—the making up of which we are partly doing now—there must be a gap in this negotiating machinery which must be closed.

I want to be practical about this. I have my thoughts on what the new Burnham should look like. I believe that it is shown beyond peradventure that the present set-up of Burnham vis-à-vis the Minister is not producing the answers—and I place no blame on anyone for that. But it is time we gave our thoughts to this problem and evolved a new set up, with the same background but with a new constitution and a new method of working.

First, I do not like the idea of observers—that is a word I do not like in many connotations and certainly not in a matter like this—from the Ministry of Education. However, I see the difficulty. If we have members, representing the Minister, who can cast their vote for or against an award, the Minister having communicated his views to them, and afterwards the matter merely goes to the Minister, who promptly confirms what his representatives have said, we shall get nowhere.

On the other hand, I feel it necessary that the Minister's views should be made clear from the outset. I feel that some of the suggestions made in the past might have had value if we could have gone further with them in this connection. I am brought to the up-to-date solution of this matter by suggesting that the new Burnham should have proper representation of teachers and of local authorities—as it has at the moment—and representatives of the Minister who will have the power not to observe and report back but to speak and vote on the Ministers behalf as regards what he is or is not prepared to agree to. Then, if the Committee cannot come to a decision on the basis of all the facts, views and possibilities before it, the matter should go to arbitration without further reference to the Minister at all. Otherwise, the Minister would be judge and jury in his own case, and that might be worse than the present situation.

I believe that if we had had such a committee as I suggest during the last six or twelve months, and if that committee had felt that it was able to make a final settlement which would be honoured, we should never have had this Bill. I believe the Bill represents a failure of the system.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Robert Grimston)

The hon. Gentleman is now getting a little wide. I am subject to correction by the Parliamentary Secretary, but I understand that Clause 89 deals only with the Minister's veto.

Mr. Chataway

It goes a little wider than that, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. It deals with the power that the Minister has either to accept or reject a proposal by the Burnham Committee.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Nevertheless I do not think that we can go into the whole question of the future constitution of the Burnham Committee, except just in passing.

Mr. Cole

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary for his support. I will endeavour to control my remarks, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but it is impossible to talk about the Minister's power under Clause 89 without referring in some sense to the Burnham Committee. I will endeavour to confine my remarks to the question in passing.

Dr. King

Clause 89 not only gives the Minister power to accept or veto a decision of the Burnham Committee but power to set up a committee and say what its constitution should be.

Mr. Cole

I am grateful. I am getting help from both sides of the House. However, I will bow to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if only for the sake of time, but there are other matters to be dealt with. I said on Second Reading that I, other hon. Members, and I am sure the teachers and their organisations, are all tired of what has been called this "civil war" inside the profession of late—not inside the profession but between it and the Government. Let me say here now that I believe that under the present system this would go on happening even if we had a Minister of different politics. I believe that it is inevitable and inherent in the present set up.

8.0 p.m.

I believe that we have come a long way from the days when this Committee was the right kind of thing for this kind of matter. I have made my suggestions as to what I think will happen. Without trying to be omniscient, I am certain that in a few years something of the kind that I have suggested will be brought in. If it is not, I foresee a repetition of all these matters with which we have had to deal.

I hope that within the next few months the Minister, with the representatives of Burnham, will get together in a spirit of good will and with the intention of trying to find a solution to these difficulties within the ambit of Section 89. We do not wish to abandon that section. We can form a new kind of constitution under the aegis of that Section so that for at least a number of years we shall have peace in this profession.

Let us not overlook the fact that the whole purpose of the Bill, and the larger purpose of the 1944 Act, secondary to the question of the education of our children, was to bring peace and happiness into this great profession and make sure that those who had the responsibility of teaching our children were happy in their jobs. I do not believe that we can carry these disputes on our shoulders indefinitely. I do not know whether the abandonment of Section 89 is the first shot in the battle, but the scheme operated under that Section will have to go. I hope that my hon. Friend will tell us—I do not think he will necessarily accept the Amendment, because, despite this Bill, it would leave him naked for the next two years—that the Minister has been addressing his mind to these things, because I am certain that for the future we want something different from what we have had in the past.

Mr. Willey

The House ought to be told of our difficulty. We have to discuss this in the absence of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Education. We know that he is addressing a public meeting, but we should get our priorities right. The Minister's first responsibility is to the House, and he ought to be here. It is outrageous that these speeches are being made from his side of the House, directly addressed to him, and he is not here to hear them.

I do not, cast any reflections on the right hon. Gentleman. I am sure that he would not have arranged to have an unavoidable engagement to address a public meeting on the day when the Report and Third Reading of a Bill in which he was personally involved were being taken in the House. I am sure that this is an example of the slap-dash, shoddy, inefficiency with which the House is treated by the Government. The Leader of the House could have inquired of the right hon. Gentleman whether he had any engagements today.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir William Anstruther-Gray)

I do not want to interrupt the hon. Member, but I am sure that he will appreciate the difficulty in which I find myself. We are discussing whether this new Clause should be read a second time. It may be in order to make reference to the fact that the Minister is not present, but I do not think that the hon. Member should go too far on that subject.

Mr. Willey

I shall not go too far, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was conscious of the fact that hon. Gentlemen opposite were going to speak at length to protract the proceedings until the right hon. Gentleman returned, and I think that this is an abuse of the House. That is my impression, and that is why the intervention—

Mr. Cole

On a point of order. I hope that the hon. Member for Sunder-land, North (Mr. Willey) is not referring to me. I have no knowledge of my right hon. Friend. As far as I knew, he was having a much-needed dinner.

Mr. Willey

I am conscious of the fact that broad points have been raised about the constitution of the Burnham Committee. Those points hardly arise directly out of the new Clause, which is directed to the repeal of Section 89 of the 1944 Act, but these points, if directed to anyone, should be directed to the Minister who has made this his personal responsibility.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member again. If he is correct in saying that these points scarcely arise out of this new Clause, then we must not pursue them further in the debate on the new Clause.

Mr. Willey

If I said that, I went further than I ought to have done and I retract what I said because that would be a reflection on the Chair.

I am saying that within the ambit of this new Clause matters have been raised which are far-reaching indeed. Reference has been made to the future of the Burnham Committee, and I think that it would be unfair on the Parliamentary Secretary to expect him to reply to the matters which have been raised. I do not complain about the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Cole) raising them, but the House ought to be treated with proper respect. If these matters are to be raised, the right hon. Gentleman ought to be here, and I ask whether I would be in order in moving the adjournment of our proceedings to await the return of the right hon. Gentleman. If he is not present, we are in grave difficulty. We know where he is. The right hon. Gentleman has made an election which ought not to have been forced on him.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Member would be in order in asking leave to move the Adjournment of the House, but, equally, I would be in order in not accepting that Motion. I think that we should get on with the debate on the new Clause

Mr. Ede

For the sake of greater accuracy I have obtained a copy of Section 89 of the Education Act, 1944. I think that the definition given by the Parliamentary Secretary was rather too narrow, and I hope that I might be allowed to read what I regard as the relevant portions of the Section. I had the advantage of being Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education at the time when this Act was before the House as a Bill, and Section 89, which started as Clause 82 of the Bill, gave us more trouble than the rest of the Sections of this Act put together.

This is what it enacts: The Minister shall 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, and it shall be the duty of any such committee to submit to the Minister, whenever they think fit or whenever they may be required by him so to do, such scales of remuneration for teachers as they consider suitable; and whenever a scale of remuneration so submitted is approved by the Minister, he may by Order make such provision as appears to him to be desirable for the purpose of securing that the remuneration paid by local education authorities to teachers is in accordance therewith. That is subsection (1), and subsection (2) says: The Minister shall nominate the person who is to be the chairman of any committee approved by him for the purposes of this section. What the new Clause proposes to do is to repeal all the words that I have read, and as far as I can follow makes no proposal for what is to be substituted for them. It is a purely destructive new Clause. It wipes out something which has existed and which has worked like all human institutions do, sometimes very well, and sometimes very badly. Human nature being what it is, anything that takes the place of Section 89 will do exactly the same thing. We have no proposal before us this evening for anything in substitution of the section which I have read.

There have been hints about what people would like to see in a new Clause, and I have a few ideas myself, but I am not going to spend much time on them this evening. I did not utter a single word in the House, or during the very long Committee stage of the Bill in 1954, when this Section was going through. It was the one Section on which I said nothing. The right hon. Member who is now the First Secretary undertook sole responsibility for getting that Section through the House.

As I said earlier, there was a time when I was first negotiating the problem of teachers' salaries, as a teacher, when we had 317 local education authorities, each with a different scale. The teachers employed by each local education authority went to their authority to negotiate, and these negotiations were carried out without much regard to what was being paid elsewhere. This was not a system which was likely to bring about a properly settled education service, because local education authorities were always finding little extra bits that they could put on to a salary scale in order to attract people from other local education authority areas. Then, Mr. Fisher, after he was appointed Minister of Education during the First World War, instituted a committee which consisted of representatives of local education authorities and of teachers, which first negotiated four scales. Scale 4, for London, was the most remunerative scale. The Rhondda Valley astounded everybody by also asking for Scale 4. Scale 3 applied to areas which were pretty well urbanised, Scale 2 to less urbanised areas, and Scale 1 to areas that were almost purely rural.

This led to exactly the same kind of poaching arrangement that had existed before. In those days there were separate committees for elementary schools, as they were called, and schools other than elementary schools—the old endowed grammar schools that drew money from public funds under the Act of 1902, and the municipal grammar schools which were the main result of the Act of 1902. The former complicated arrangement was thus steadily altered, until we had one scale for elementary schools and another for schools other than elementary.

In those days many people found it very difficult to understand the difference between an elementary school and a school other than an elementary school, but it was always possible to tell when one went into a school, because, if it was an elementary school, the conscience clause had to be displayed, whereas if it was not an elementary school the clause did not apply. In that kind of haphazard arrangement the negotiations concerning teachers' salaries were carried on for elementary schools by 317 local education authorities and for schools other than elementary schools by county councils and county borough councils.

In spite of the difficulties and complexities the system worked reasonably well. Lord Burnham became chairman of one of the first of the committees, and as he was chairman he gave his name to the committee. This has persisted ever since, although it has long been removed from any connection with the Burnham family.

The Act of 1944 had as its main purpose the unifying of our education. One thing that it did was to abolish elementary schools. It established a progressive system of education.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I am reluctant to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but only Section 89 of the 1944 Act is relevant to a discussion of the new Clause.

8.15 p.m.

Mr. Ede

I am not disputing your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but Section 89 provided for the creation of committees. It is a duty placed on the Minister to establish these committees, and I was trying to show how the original complex system of committees was gradually reduced until we had one committee which dealt with all grades of schools maintained by local education authorities. I do not want to say any more about it than that. We had one committee which dealt with the whole question, and that committee got down to one scale of salaries.

That does not mean that the committee, or the panels on the committees, were ever unanimous. Today, in many industries, we have two panels, one representing the employers and the other the employees. They meet separately and decide what their policy will be, and then the two panels come together, and there is an argument, in the course of which each side tries to move the other from its original position. In the course of negotiations of this kind it is not unknown for differences to arise. Those of my hon. Friends who are skilled in trade union negotiations will know that that is true in respect of many industries.

Mr. Ellis Smith

Collective bargaining.

Mr. Ede

Yes—collective bargaining. On the whole the system has worked well, until the last three Ministers, including the present one, experienced some difficulties. Prior to that there was no serious dispute about the working of Section 89. But for the interference of Ministers there would have been little to complain of up to the present time.

It is true that certain organisations on both sides wished to come in. Some teachers' organisations which were not included when the first committee was set up in 1944 resented the fact, and some local education authority associations objected to the more powerful position in which the Association of Education Committees found itself. [Interruption.] When my hon. Friends who represent Welsh constituencies have settled their differences, perhaps I can be allowed to continue my speech. I am sorry to have to interrupt my hon. Friends.

Mr. Cole

The right hon. Gentleman has kindly read out parts of the original Section 89.

Mr. Ede

I read the whole of it.

Mr. Cole

It includes the words "approved by the Minister". Will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to address his mind to the point that I have made, that all the time—sofrequently as to become more than a coincidence—those words are made part of the paying authority in respect of recommendations of the Burnham Committee? Does the right hon. Gentleman believe that the system can go on working even as satisfactorily as in the past under those circumstances?

Mr. Ede

I think that it would go on working. It is astonishing how vitality remains in the most dilapidated sort of structure. I have no doubt that it could go on working. Whether it would work well is another matter. But, clearly, at some stage the approval of the Minister has to be obtained, because this Clause would place on the Minister the duty of making an order when he has approved the scale, and from that moment every teacher employed in a maintained school would have to receive the salary which the Minister approved.

I recollect as long ago as 1913, at a conference of the National Union of Teachers, I moved an amendment that there should be a national scale of salaries and that it should be enforced on local authorities by what was then the Board of Education. When I carried that amendment to an Executive motion and the officers left the platform, the then senior president of the union said to me, "That was a damned good speech and a damned silly amendment". But I have lived long enough to see the spirit of that amendment included in the law of the land in the form of Section 89.

Sooner or later, we shall pass out of the present twilight system in which Section 89 is virtually superseded and this Bill will take its place for the time being. The Minister will construct the scales and enforce them. I want to see what will follow the present twilight arrangement. What is the new day to be like? I have no doubt that between now and 31st March, 1965, a new Clause will have to be devised in which there will be arrangements for the future remuneration of teachers. What is common ground on this side of the House is that all these things should be settled by collective bargaining between employers and employed. Effective steps should be provided by which an agreement, when reached, could be enforced.

I do not object to the need for Ministerial approval. I take it that the right hon. Gentleman might disapprove after the collective bargaining has taken place. That is inherent in the present system. But I do not want to see Section 89 repealed, as is proposed in the new Clause, until we know the shape of things to come and what will be the new machinery. What arrangement will be made to enforce a decision which has been reached? I agree that a discussion on that aspect would not be in order in a debate on this Clause. But I think we are entitled to say that we do not want a new Clause which merely wipes out the existing Section 89 before we know what is to be put in its place.

I will not express any views of my own on the matter. I believe that all parties will have to face the difficulties which have arisen in the last three or four years, and the removal of the party opposite from power—its Ministers have created those difficulties—would be one of the best ways of getting on with the job properly. I should be sorry to see the new arrangement built up under the present Government. But a new scheme will have to be brought into being.

I believe that thought should be given to the way in which this can be done. The local authorities, as employers, the teachers, as employees, and the Minister, as the person who will probably have to enforce any agreement which is finally reached, should all be thinking about what the shape of the new structure should be. I implore the House not to destroy Section 89 until we have created something to take its place. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to tell us the way in which the Minister's mind is working.

Mr. Chataway

The hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) has criticised my right hon. Friend in the past for speaking too much and, by inference, for delegating too little, so it seems strange to me that the right hon. Gentleman should be outraged this evening when my right hon. Friend, who has gone to a meeting for an hour or so, delegates to me the task of replying to this Amendment.

When he put down this new Clause, my hon. Friend the Member for New-castle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Montgomery) probably did not envisage that the discussion would go quite so wide on Section 89. I suggested to the Chair that Section 89 did go rather wider than the power of veto, and I also had not considered that we should have quite so wide-ranging a debate. But without question it has been an interesting and a useful debate.

Here, of course, is the major task that will face us when this Bill is passed. The effect of this new Clause would be that after 31st March, 1965, if there were not further legislation, there would be no statutory provision for committees to recommend salary scales for approval as the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) pointed out, and no provision for making new salary scales effective.

I think that there is wide agreement that the events of this year, following upon those of 1961, have shown that some changes are required in the machinery and procedures for determining teachers' salaries for the future. In that connection, I was particularly interested in what the right hon. Member said. My right hon. Friend proposed in his letter of 12th March to the chairman of the Burnham Committee that all the parties concerned should have a full opportunity to discuss with him and with each other what these changes should be.

I remind my hon. Friends, particularly, of a passage in the Minister's speech on Second Reading. He said: I am willing to see every issue, including the Minister's statutory powers, in these matters, fully and frankly examined. The Government have no intention of avoiding the controversial questions that will arise and and I should like to mention some of them to the House."—[Official Report, 25th April, 1963; Vol. 676. c. 445.) He then listed a number of the undoubtedly controversial questions which will come up in the discussions to which some reference has been made this evening.

I agree to some extent with my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle, East that the difficulties in which we find ourselves have been due in part to the procedures which Section 89 of the Education Act has obliged us to follow. For example, under that Section the Minister had no standing to act until the proposed scales of remuneration had been formally submitted to him, whereas it might on occasion have been more helpful to the Burnham Committee to have known at an early stage in its proceedings what views the Minister held on matters on which it was about to negotiate.

Mr. Lubbock

There is nothing in Section 89 which debars the Minister conveying his views to the Burnham Committee.

8.30 p.m.

Mr. Chataway

This is the practice that has been followed under Section 89. I am coming in a moment to the point which perhaps is in the mind of the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) as to whether it may be that satisfactory arrangements could be found without amendments to Section 89. Section 89 is so drafted—and this is a question of drafting—that new salary scales can be introduced only if the three parties, the teachers, the employers and the Minister, can all reach agreement. Yet it makes no provision for resolving the deadlock which must follow if any one of the three parties is unable to agree with the other two.

For all these reasons, and for others, there may be a presumption in the minds of some hon. Members that amendment of Section 89 is inescapable. It may be that time will prove them right, but I think that we should be wrong to jump to that conclusion and agree upon it now in advance of a discussion in the manner proposed by this new Clause. I realise that one of the parties which will be negotiating in these discussions, the National Association of Schoolmasters, has made no secret of its dislike of the existing Burnham negotiating machinery and would like to see it swept away and replaced by new arrangements which, among other things, would give greater prominence to the views of minor organisations. I have no doubt that this matter will be thoroughly aired during the course of the forthcoming discussions.

Even taking account of these strongly held views, I do not think that we can leave out the possibility that the necessary changes in the machinery for determining teachers' salaries might be brought about without the entire repeal of Section 89, as my hon. Friend proposes. I got the impression from his speech that it is some part of his intention to ensure by these drastic means that discussions about future machinery shall both begin very soon and proceed quickly with the aim of completing their work and bringing new arrangements in force within the period, which is now rather under two years, before the powers of this Bill expire on 31st March, 1965. If so, I have considerable sympathy with that motive. It is certainly my right hon. Friend's intention that no time should be wasted over it. He has already arranged to see all the parties involved before the Summer Recess.

As I am sure the House will appreciate, the matters to be discussed are both complex and delicate and there are many interests to be considered. If the discussions were still incomplete as 31st March, 1965, approached, and this new Clause had been adopted, the parties would be faced with entering an indefinite period when there would be no legal means of introducing revised salary scales, even agreed ones. They would be under great pressure to con- clude their discussions in time to avoid such a situation, with the risk that important decisions might be taken prematurely and in haste through the imposition of this kind of rigid timetable.

I hope therefore, that in view of what I have said my hon. Friend will feel able to withdraw his new Clause.

Mr. Willey

I want to raise two points to which the Parliamentary Secretary referred. One is the absence of his right hon. Friend the Minister.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. I am in a difficulty. We are on Report and I do not think that the hon. Member is entitled to speak twice on Report.

Mr. Willey

Before the Minister sits down?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Before the Minister sits down, by all means.

Mr. Willey

I should like to put to the Parliamentary Secretary two questions. First, is he aware that I was raising the question of the absence of his right hon. Friend to answer this discussion relating to him not with any purpose of it reflecting upon the hon. Gentleman, but in order that it should reflect upon the Chief Patronage Secretary. This ought to have been borne in mind when the business for this week was agreed and announced to the House. I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary appreciates that this is a matter on which we would have wished to hear the right hon. Gentleman.

I want to refer to another question which the Parliamentary Secretary has raised and which peculiarly relates to the right hon. Gentleman. This is the question—because this is still very obscure: what is the position about the standing invitation which Sir William Alexander says was conveyed to the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor and to his Department? After the debate that we had yesterday we cannot go on having replies such as we have had in this case, where the reply, apparently, is, "Yes, the information was conveyed to my predecessor, but he did not convey it to me," and "Yes, the information was conveyed to my Department, but my Department did not convey it to me." We should get this cleared up, because it is a question which reflects upon the credibility of Sir William Alexander and the right hon. Gentleman the Minister.

Mr. Chataway

I am a little puzzled how this exactly ties in with the repeal of Section 89, but I will do my best to answer the hon. Gentleman. I do not wish to impugn Sir William Alexander in any way, but no doubt this arises as a result of a misunderstanding. I wish to make that absolutely clear; but it is equally the case that we do not have in the Department any recollection or record of a firm invitation of that kind.

Mr. Short

The Parliamentary Secretary indicated that there was a possibility that a change in the Government's design could be effected without repealing this Section. So far as I can judge, the only suggestion that he made for a change in the Burnham machinery was that there should be some means of making the Minister's views known during the negotiations. Supposing that there is a deadlock after that, has the Minister any ideas about what might happen then?

Mr. Chataway

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that I do not wish to be drawn very far into this discussion. I know that my right hon. Friend equally would not wish at this stage to commit himself to a series of views in this respect, for this, after all, is a matter for negotiation, and my right hon. Friend is most anxious that we should enter into these discussions, which he is to begin within the next month or two, without prior commitments. I think that it would be wrong of me to commit my right hon. Friend on the matter that the hon. Gentleman has raised.

Mr. Short

We need not beat about the bush. We all know that everyone would agree to sensible changes in the Burnham machinery provided that there is proper machinery, at the end of the story, where the Minister is not responsible for settling disputes. The Minister has never committed himself on this at all. Cannot the Parliamentary Secretary say something about it?

Mr. Chataway

My right hon. Friend has never said, "I do not want the power of veto". He has never said, "I enter these negotiations determined to retain the power of veto". His words are on the record, that he is prepared to see these matters, including the statutory powers of the Minister, fully and frankly examined during these discussions.

Mr. Short

But answer the question.

Mr. Chataway

The hon. Member can put up five or six alternatives if he wishes, but I do not propose to be pinned down to any one of them because I am sure that my right hon. Friend must discuss this matter with his partners in the education service. It would be wrong for him, at this stage, to make up his mind whether he wants a ministerial veto or a Pilkington-type commission or arbitration. There are a number of alternatives. The hon. Member will agree that it would be wrong for my right hon. Friend to prejudge the discussions which he is to have.

Mr. Montgomery

We have had an interesting and useful debate. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Clause.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.