HC Deb 13 November 1969 vol 791 cc590-2
9. Mr. Biffen

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the current position regarding the claim by teachers for salary increases; what is the estimated annual cost to public funds in meeting the claim in full; and if he will make a statement.

39. Mr. Kenneth Lewis

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what estimate he has made of the amount needed in a General Grant (Increase) Order to cover the present claim of the teachers for a salary increase.

Mr. Edward Short

I estimate that the teachers' claim of a flat-rate increase of £135 from 1st April, 1970, would add approximately £44 million or 8½ per cent to the salaries bill in 1970–71 for full-time qualified teachers in maintained primary and secondary schools. This would be in addition to the £33 million which was the cost of the 7⅛per cent. award on 1st April this year. Negotiations on the claim are still in progress in the Burnham Committee.

The question of a Rate Support Gram (Increase) Order will be for consideration in the light of whatever settlement is eventually reached. For 1970–71 the appropriate grant percentage is 57 per cent.

Mr. Biffen

In respect of the initiatives which the right hon. Gentleman himself is able to take in this very unhappy situation, would he reflect upon the fact that emphasis on a flat-rate increase will do nothing to bring about a more satisfactory career structure in the teaching profession?

Mr. Short

The structure of the salary scales is for the Burnham Committee, of course, and not for me.

Mr. Marks

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some of us who strongly support the need for a pay increase for teachers, especially at the younger end, nevertheless strongly disapprove of the unions' encouragement of wildcat half-day and one-day strikes, because we think that this is harmful to the teachers' case, to the children and particularly to working mothers? Will he take note of that?

Mr. Short

I take note of what my hon. Friend says, although he will not expect me to comment on it. I am, of course, a party to the negotiations which are still going on. All I would point out is that, on 1st April this year, the teachers signed an agreement, freely negotiated, which gave them 7⅛ per cent. increase. They were recently offered very nearly 3½ per cent. increase, so this will have been almost an 11 per cent. increase in one year. I should not have called that derisory. However, I do not want to comment on what is going on at the moment.

Mrs. Thatcher

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman two quick points? First, has he yet indicated to the management panel of Burnham a global sum within which negotiations must continue? I am not asking him what the sum is but only whether he has indicated a global sum. Second, will he condemn, in the strongest possible terms, any sudden strike which puts the safety of the children in jeopardy because parents have not been able to make alternative arrangements?

Mr. Short

First of all, may I congratulate the hon. Lady on her appointment and hope that we will have many passages across this Table? I am sure that she would not expect me to comment on the first point which she raised. On the second, I would very much deprecate any strike which put any children in danger or caused difficulty for parents of the kind she mentioned.

Mr. Shinwell

Would my right hon. Friend be surprised to learn that some of us, myself in particular, deplore the fact that—apart from teachers going on strike —the general body of teachers who are qualified and undergo extensive training are underpaid? When dustmen and others, because they go on strike, can obtain substantial increases, why should not teachers receive salary increases consistent with their qualifications?

Mr. Short

As I have said, if the teachers had accepted the initial offer of the management panel of the Burnham Committee, they would have had nearly an 11 per cent. increase this year.

Mr. Montgomery

Does not the right hon. Gentleman feel that someone's attention should be directed to the need to change the salary structure and to try to ensure that those who stay in the profession for a very long time get the rewards to which they are entitled?

Mr. Short

Salary structure is a matter for the Burnham Committee and it is examined every two years when they negotiate new scales