HC Deb 26 March 1964 vol 692 cc657-60

12.1 p.m.

The Lord President of the Council and the Minister for Science (Mr. Quintin Hogg)

With permission, I wish to make a statement about the Report of the National Incomes Commission on the remuneration of Academic Staff in Universities and Colleges of Advanced Technology, which was published yesterday.

I do so in view of the importance which the Government attach to progress with university expansion and the recommendation of the Commission that the salary rates it proposes should come into operation from 1st April next. Certain points in the Report will need to be pursued in detail, which will take time, but the Government wish to make their attitude to the main issues clear at once.

The Commission reaffirms that the fundamental principle of an incomes policy is to keep the rate of increase in aggregate money incomes within the long-term rate of increase of national production. It recognises, however, that, within this principle, particular cases may be established where a long-term change in the relativities of remuneration is desirable on economic grounds. It is satisfied that over the years there has been a decline in the relative position of university salaries, and that this decline is having undesirable consequences and should be corrected. The Commission has accordingly recom- mended new salary rates for non-medical and pre-clinical staff to take effect from 1st April this year.

The Government, for their part, accept in principle the findings of the Commission. In particular, after consultation with the University Grants Committee, they accept the recommendations in respect of salary rates and allowances. They agree with the Commission that this is a genuine case for special treatment in terms of income policy. For the reasons given in the Report, therefore, this decision should not be regarded as having any bearing on other occupations.

So far as universities are concerned, the implementation of the recommendations on salaries and allowances is a matter for the institutions in consultation with the University Grants Committee. For colleges of advanced technology, assimilation to the university grading structure and salary rates will be the subject of early discussions between the Ministry of Education, the University Grants Committee, the colleges and their staffs, within the broad principles recommended by the Commission.

The Government will ask Parliament to provide additions to the recurrent grants for universities for the rest of the quinquennium and to the grants to colleges of advanced technology to enable the new rates to operate from 1st April, 1964. Supplementary funds provisionally estimated at £7 million will be required for the coming financial year.

The Government and, I am sure, the whole House, are grateful to the Commission for the work it has done and for its lucid and authoritative Report.

Mr. Crossman

We welcome the Government's decision to accept the Commission's findings and gladly join the right hon. and learned Gentleman in congratulating the Commission on its lucid Report. May I put two questions to the Minister? First, will he tell us how the new amounts conceded compare with what was turned down in 1962 when the Government turned down the requirements of the University Grants Committee? Secondly, will he amplify his statement that the decision should not be regarded as having any bearing on other occupations? Would he include among those other occupations, for instance, the teaching profession?

Would it not be slightly unrealistic to do that, unless he regards this as restoring a proper differential between university staffs and teachers? Would he let us know whether he thinks that is true, or does he think that the teachers could legitimately consider this in preparing their claim which they are now doing?

Mr. Hogg

I could not, without notice, say what relationship the findings of the Commission have to the 1962 figures. I am not even sure that the 1962 figures have ever been published.

As regards the teaching profession, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not expect me to go behind the Burnham machinery.

Hon. Members

The Government did.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

I very much welcome the announcement that my right hon. and learned Friend has made. Would he say whether the aim now is that the institutions should try to aim at uniform increases or at uniform total amounts? Does he visualise there being a clear distinction between the increases to colleges of advanced technology and those to universities?

Mr. Hogg

I must apologise to my hon. Friend. I am not absolutely sure that I caught the bearing of his question. I think that the point about colleges of advanced technology is covered by my statement and by the proposals in the Robbins Report. I do not think that I sufficiently understood what my hon. Friend was referring to to enable me to answer the first part of his question.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

May I try again? Is my right hon. and learned Friend aiming at uniform increases or at a uniform amount for each type of increase?

Mr. Hogg

I think that the new rates are published at the end of the Report, but within them there is a certain element of flexibility.

Dr. King

Is the Minister aware that the whole country will welcome not only the announcement he has made, but his recognition of the importance of education in the national economy? In view of what he has said, may I suggest that it would be a very good thing if he followed this announcement by restoring to the Burnham Committee's negotiated salaries for teachers the cuts which his right hon. Friend the Minister recently made?

Mr. Hogg

I thank the hon. Gentleman very much for the first part of his question. Questions regarding the Burnham Committee are still for my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Dudley Smith

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that these new grades compare very favourably with those in operation in many other democratic countries?

Mr. Hogg

Yes, I think so.

Mr. Shinwell

I am sure that nobody in the House would wish to deprive those associated with university education of reasonable salaries and improved remuneration, but does not this proposal make a farce of what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has described as a national incomes policy if there is to be a reservation which provides for a differential which is applicable to only one section of society? What about all those differentials that exist among other classes in the community—teachers, nurses, and the general body of workers? Are we to understand that this is to be the new conception of a national incomes policy?

Mr. Hogg

If the right hon. Gentleman will read the Report he will see that that kind of argument is very fully dealt with, but I must remind the House that one of the main purposes of the National Incomes Commission—as the Commission recalls in the Report—was to deal with cases of revaluation where a particular occupation required it.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. We must not too much compact our programme of Adjournment debates.