HC Deb 01 May 1969 vol 782 cc1645-50

4.25 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mrs. Shirley Williams)

With permission, I wish to make a statement on the remuneration of academic staff at universities.

On 18th December last in a Written reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science said that the Government accepted those recommendations in Report No. 98 of the National Board for Prices and Incomes which most directly affected the salary levels of individual members of staff, to take effect from 1st October, 1968; and that the Board's other recommendations would be further considered in the light of the advice of the University Grants Committee, which would consult the interested parties as appropriate.

The Government have now made further decisions in the light of this advice and of the recommendations of the Tenth Report of the Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration. The Supplementary Estimate made necessary by these decisions will, of course, be submitted in due time for the approval of Parliament.

The Government accept the Board's proposal that there should be a system of discretionary payments for individual merit to grades below professor, but with the modification that only one-third of the money recommended by the Board will be used for this purpose, the other two-thirds being distributed as a further general pay increase for these grades.

They accept the Board's proposal that there should be a system of distinction awards to professors for outstanding merit, particularly in the establishment and running of teaching departments. The payments will be allocated by individual universities, whose permissible average salary for professors will be increased by 4 per cent. for the purpose.

The further general increase, for grades up to but not including professor will, like the earlier one, be payable from 1st October, 1968. It will cost £1.2 million in a full year. The discretionary payments and distinction awards will be effective from 1st April, 1969, rather than 1st October, 1969, as recommended by the Board; the cost of these will be £1 million in a full year.

London allowance will continue for the present to be paid in respect of new as well as existing appointments, pending further studies by the Board.

The University Grants Committee, the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, and the Association of University Teachers will be collaborating with the Board in the collection of evidence for the next review. The University Grants Committee has also submitted to my right hon. Friend on behalf of these three bodies joint proposals for the establishment of pay negotiating machinery, to which the Government will give careful consideration.

What I have said so far, Mr. Speaker, refers to non-clinical salaries. Clinical salaries are being revised from 1st January, 1969, following the Tenth Report of the Kindersley Review Body, which I have already mentioned.

Sir E. Boyle

The hon. Lady will recall that in our debate at the end of January last, I expressed concern from this side of the House that the Prices and Incomes Board award amounted to a cut in the real incomes of university teachers. Therefore, is the hon. Lady aware that, in general, the statement she has made today will, I am sure, receive a wide welcome from those who want justice for university lecturers and professors?

May I ask two short questions? First, what was meant by the hon. Lady when in her statement, she singled out professors for awards for outstanding merit, particularly in the establishment and running of teaching departments? Does not the Lady recall the real anxiety expressed by many universities about drawing too sharp a distinction between teaching and research?

Secondly, is the hon. Lady aware that one of the most welcome parts of her statement concerns what she said about the University Grants Committee submitting proposals for the establishment of pay-negotiating machinery? Is she also aware that there is a widespread feeling in this House that university salaries ought to be negotiated, like all other salaries in our education service?

Mrs. Williams

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his first remark. I share his view. The advice of the University Grants Committee has been very helpful.

The establishment and running of teaching departments simply reflects the Prices and Incomes Board's own concern with recognising teaching merit. I stress that it will be for individual universities to decide the way in which these payments shall be allocated, and not for the Government.

On the question of future negotiating machinery, I have only just seen the University Grant Committee's proposals and will keep the House informed of the Government's view on what ought to be done.

Mr. Christopher Price

What criteria does the Ministry intend that universities should use in allocating these discretionary awards? Does the Ministry accept any of the criteria in the Prices and Incomes Report and does it not intend to ask the University Grants Committee to give general advice about this? Could my hon. Friend give any indication of the University Grants Committee's plan for negotiating machinery at this point?

Mrs. Williams

The Government hope that in allocating these discretionary awards the universities will have solely in mind the advice of the Prices and Incomes Board, as set out in its report, drawing attention to the importance of teaching and of staff-student relationships.

I have had virtually no time at all to consider these recommendations, which I saw only two days ago. I hope that the House will forgive me if, at this stage, I feel unable to say more.

Mr. Pardoe

Could the hon. Lady make clear whether both discretionary payments—to grades below professor and the distinction awards to professors—are to be allocated by individual universities? Her statement does not make that clear.

On criteria, could the hon. Lady say whether if the payments are to be allocated by individual universities, in particular, the reaction of students to teachers will be taken into account? Could she also say why there is a distinction between 4 per cent. on salary bill being given in distinction awards to professors and what I calculate to be one-third of 4 per cent.—1.3 per cent.—in discretionary payments?

Mrs. Williams

I take, first, the hon. Gentleman's question on the distinction between the proportion being spent on discretionary awards. As he may be aware, this is because the whole of the 4 per cent. is to be paid in discretionary awards to professors, but two-thirds will be paid as a general increase to grades below that of professor.

The hon. Gentleman implied that he would like to know more about this. I would make it clear that this distinction is because of the strong feeling of those involved about the university lecturer career grade. It has enabled us to give to lecturers the extra increment which would otherwise not have been possible.

I would underline that discretionary payments are to be made by the universities and that a fund will be put at their disposal for this purpose. But, again, I would emphasise that the recommendations of the Prices and Incomes Board with regard to the recognition of excellence in teaching will, we hope, be closely borne in mind.

The hon. Gentleman will know that the Government have rejected direct student participation in the allocation of salaries, but we believe that part of being a good teacher is the establishment of the best possible relationship with one's students.

Mr. Julius Silverman

May I ask my hon. Friend whether the Board's recommendations to the Government on staff salaries at universities include any provision for university technicians, who are an important, indeed, essential, part of the scientific and technical staff at universities, and whose claim for an increase in salary is long outstanding?

Mrs. Williams

My hon. Friend is a wily Parliamentarian, but, as he well knows, this does not arise from my statement.

Mr. Lane

While there may be some satisfaction in the universities at the Minister's statement, as far as she has been able to go, particularly over what she has said about the discussions for alternative negotiating machinery, may I ask what she could tell us whether she hopes that it will be possible, before the Summer Adjournment, to announce a final outcome to these discussions?

Mrs. Williams

I understand that the proposals put to the Government have been agreed between the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, the Association of University Teachers and the University Grants Committee. They will have to be considered in the light of the general review of incomes policy which my right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State referred to in the debate of last February. I would not, therefore, be able to make a statement to the House which is unrelated to that wider review.

Mr. Emery

Does the hon. Lady recall that there was criticism in the P.I.B. Report in that nothing was done to attract the right sort of person from industry into teaching at management schools, which was related to the wage structure? There was the problem of getting people to teach at an adequate salary. Does she believe that her statement has done anything to rectify that situation?

Mrs. Williams

The hon. Member will appreciate that there are very different comparisons to be made at different stages in the university scale. I hope that at the very top of the scale, where the discrepancy is probably greatest, the additional opportunity to recognise outstanding merit will make it the case that the universities can attract people whom they need in such schools as the hon. Gentleman has in mind.

Sir E. Boyle

May I ask the hon. Lady to reaffirm what she said to me, that in distributing these discretionary awards it will definitely be a matter for the universities, and not in any sense for the Government or the U.G.C.?

Mrs. Williams

I am pleased to repeat that. I would also repeat that we hope that the recommendations of the Board will be borne in mind.