HC Deb 15 June 1966 vol 729 cc1438-40
19. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he now expects to receive the Report of the National Board for Prices and Incomes on teachers' salaries in Scotland.

49. Sir J. Gilmour

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what action he proposes to take as a result of the National Board for Prices and Incomes Report on Scottish teachers' salaries; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Ross

I would refer the hon. Gentlemen to the Answer which I gave on 26th May to my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. John Robertson). I met representatives of the Scottish Joint Council for Teachers' Salaries on 7th June and I shall make salaries regulations in final form as soon as possible.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain why he chose to shelter behind a Written Answer to a Question before the Recess instead of making a statement to the House? Could it be because the Prices and Incomes Board delivered a stinging rebuke to him for the terms of reference of this exercise?

Mr. Ross

If the hon. Gentleman knew me and my reputation in the House a little better he would know that I do not require to shelter behind any form of procedure or anything else. On that occasion we were within a day or so of rising for the Recess. Parliamentary time was already fully occupied. Indeed, on the day in question, when I might have made a statement, it was nearly four o'clock before we got to the Orders of the Day. There was considerable urgency upon me to make known the Government's point of view, and I thought it essential that this should be done. I gave my Answer in the way described for that reason.

Sir J. Gilmour

Since the Prices and Incomes Board said that it was not necessary or right to fix salaries on a comparable basis between England and Scotland, would the right hon. Gentleman agree that, knowing the circumstances and the Scottish teachers, he has done a great disservice to education by referring this matter to the Prices and Incomes Board?

Mr. Ross

I do not think so. There was an element of doubt, and we must remember the injustice of the historic business concerning the Scottish teachers three years ago and the English teachers two years ago, in addition to the assessment of 13 per cent. for English teachers some time ago as against 13 per cent. this year for Scottish teachers. I think that it was right to get an independent assessment on this whole matter. I do not agree that it was a waste and the Report helps us to clarify some of the issues which are involved.

Mr. MacArthur

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he could have given all the information much more frankly on the day in question had he made an oral statement to the House, as we asked him to do? Is he further aware that people in Scotland, particularly the teachers, and many hon. Members are sick to death at the way in which the right hon. Gentleman hides behind the Prices and Incomes Board? Will he not now at least arrange for a debate to take place in Government time so that we may question him and discuss the many problems which arise out of his mishandling of the whole situation?

Mr. Ross

The hon. Gentleman's memory is sadly amiss. We have already had a debate since the matter went to the Prices and Incomes Board. He may not yet be fully acquainted with the procedures of the House in his new duties on the benches opposite, but he may like to know that he will have an opportunity of debating this issue when the regulations come before the House.

Mr. Noble

Does the right hon. Gentleman perhaps not realise that when he was in opposition his degree of irresponsibility was totally unsheltered and that since he has become Secretary of State he has become very much more coy about making statements to the House? Is he aware that this is not the first ocassion on which he has tried to dodge the issue?

Mr. Ross

That is not true, and the right hon. Gentleman should know that because the last time he asked me to make a statement I appeared and made one. That was in connection with the Highlands and Islands and the seamen's strike.

Mr. Buchan

Would my right hon. Friend keep in mind the fact that the teachers of Scotland are concerned not so much with how and when the Report was issued but with what is says? Will he keep in mind the possibility, which seems to be emerging from the Report, that negotiations should take place from the point of view of a revision in 1967?

Mr. Ross

I am conscious of exactly how the teachers feel about this because I met some of their representatives on the Scottish Joint Council for Teachers' Salaries. I am well aware of their feelings about how we should proceed in future in relation to negotiating teachers' salaries.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the Minister's reply, I beg to give notice that I will raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible opportunity.