HC Deb 05 February 1970 vol 795 cc597-601
2. Mr. Lane

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will now institute an inquiry into the salary structure of teachers.

59. Mr. Longden

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will now undertake a full re-examination of the career structure for teachers in primary and secondary schools outside the Burnham Committee.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Edward Short)

I have no doubt of the need for a thorough examination of the structure of school teachers' salaries. The management panel of the Burnham Committee have more than once proposed a review either by a working party of the Committee itself or by an independent inquiry. The teachers' panel have not yet accepted this proposal. It is to be discussed again tomorrow and I think we should await the outcome.

Mr. Lane

One of the lessons of the present unhappy dispute is that such an inquiry is more than ever needed. If and when the Government are able to take some initiative or get it going, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that special attention is paid to the position and prospects of long-serving career teachers?

Mr. Short

I hope that the teachers themselves at the Burnham Committee tomorrow will agree to undertake a review. If they refuse to do so, we shall have to see how a review in some other way can be set up.

Mr. Crawshaw

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that, while the present structure remains uncorrected, the current negotiations are rather irrelevant? Does not he further agree that, whatever awards are given, the discontent with the structure will continue?

Mr. Short

There are a number of questions on the Order Paper about the general salary position.

Mr. Longden

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider having the review of the salary structure outside the Burnham Committee rather than inside it?

Mr. Short

As I said, the Management Panel is, I understand, proposing tomorrow that the Burnham Committee itself should undertake the review. I would rather wait and see what happens to that, before committing myself further.

11. Mr. Christopher Price

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science, if he will make a further statement about teachers' pay.

55. Mr. Willey

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science, whether he will make a further statement on the negotiations regarding the claim by teachers for salary increases.

66. Mr. Dickens

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on the teachers' pay dispute.

67. Mr. Kenneth Lewis

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will make a statement on the discussions which he has held on teachers' pay.

73. Mr. Arthur Lewis

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether, as a means of resolving the teachers' pay dispute, he will offer to the teachers a 35 per cent. salary increase, retrospective to November, 1967.

Mr. Edward Short

At the meeting of the Burnham Committee on 5th January the chairman ruled that there should be a reference to arbitration. The teachers' Panel has refused to provide nominations for the appointment of one of the three arbitrators as the arrangements made under the Remuneration of Teachers Act require. On 23rd January my right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State and I gave the teachers' representatives a number of very advantageous assurances about the arbitration procedure in an attempt to overcome their objections. The teachers' representatives still refused to co-operate at this stage but undertook to consider what my right hon. Friend and I had said. They also expressed the view that there should be a further discussion in the Burnham Committee. I understand that this will take place tomorrow.

Mr. Price

While paying tribute to the efforts of my right hon. Friend and his right hon. Friend in trying to solve this dispute, may I ask whether he will say what new initiatives can be taken in the Burnham Committee? Does he accept that the teachers' views on arbitration are such that whatever arbitration procedure he suggests simply will not be accepted and that a solution must somehow be found through the Burnham Committee?

Mr. Short

I must make it quite clear that unless agreement can be reached in Burnham or unless the teachers are prepared to go to arbitration, nothing can happen and there will be no interim increase on 1st April.

Mr. Dickens

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that school teachers have been scandalously underpaid by successive Governments for generations? Is it not time that he stopped this? Would he comment upon the unique circumstances in which teachers find themselves, in that the incomes policy is applied to them and to them alone in our society?

Mr. Short

I do not know what my hon. Friend means by the last part of his supplementary question. If we look upon the policy as a set of principles, certainly it does not apply to them alone. Young teachers have been offered an interim increase of 11.6 per cent. That should be borne in mind. The first point is a matter for the Burnham Committee.

Mr. Lane

Would the right hon. Gentleman make doubly clear that the latest arbitration procedure which he proposed will have absolute discretion in the award it recommends?

Mr. Short

The arbitration body, if it is set up, will have complete discretion, and, rather unusually, my right hon. Friend the First Secretary and I, have given an undertaking that in this case we shall not use our powers under the Act to set it aside, in any circumstances.

Mr. Newens

Despite the Answer to a previous Question, would my right hon. Friend recognise that local authorities attempted to limit their offer at a previous meeting of the Burnham Committee to a norm established in the prices and incomes policy? Does he realise that that is regarded by the teachers, rightly in my opinion, as an act which makes negotiations farcical? Will he therefore make it clear that in future negotiations of this sort no such limits must be imposed, particularly as the teachers cannot take advantage of productivity deals—"phoney" or genuine?

Mr. Short

The first point that my hon. Friend ought to bear in mind is that this is an interim claim. Last year the teachers signed an agreement which was to run for two years, ending on 31st March next year. However, the Management Panel agreed to enter into negotiations about an interim award. The latest offer was for 11.6 per cent. for young teachers and 5 per cent. for teachers on their maximum.

Mr. Pardoe

Will the right hon. Gentleman recognise that the present mess has come about as a result of the uselessness of the Burnham Committee? Will he sign its death certificate? Will he also consider whether it is not time that the Government took over the payment of teachers' salaries, removing it entirely from local authority hands?

Mr. Short

The second point goes very much wider. On the first point, I have told the Teachers' Panel that once this is settled I am quite prepared to enter into discussions on the whole machinery Inspectors or to my hon. Friend the of Burnham and on the arrangements Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. under it, without barring anything at all.