HC Deb 13 November 1973 vol 864 cc231-2
10. Mr. Harold Walker

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will issue a circular to local authorities recommending them to bring the teachers' superannuation scheme into line with that of the National Health Service in respect of employees' contributions.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

No, Sir.

Mr. Walker

How can the hon. Gentleman remain so insensitive to the bitterness of the teachers, which has arisen from the mathematics of their pension scheme and has resulted in the disruption of education services in some areas? There is great sympathy for the teachers, who, it is felt, have been cheated by the mathematics of the scheme and been treated particularly inequitably compared with what we believe to be an analogous situation in the National Health Service. Surely it is wrong that the benefits of the reassessment of the contributions to the scheme should accrue to one side only, namely the employers. In the light of this, will the hon. Gentleman consider the matter more urgently, sympathetically and understandingly than hitherto?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

It is true that the teachers feel bitter about this, but their feeling is not justified by the facts. The employee's contribution is a proportion of the new entrant contribution which is higher for the teachers' scheme than for the National Health Service scheme because different factors are involved. Although the levels of benefit are much the same in both schemes, different occupational factors produce different costs. These include the average age of retirement, the rate at which salaries progress, and the number of scheme members who withdraw contributions.

Sir D. Renton

Can my hon. Friend say why teachers pay a higher contribution than civil servants who, as I understand it, make a 6 per cent. contribution compared with a 6¾ per cent. contribution by teachers?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

It is precisely because of the variable factors which I have just mentioned. It is fair to point out that at an earlier period teachers paid less. In the National Health Service scheme from 1948 to 1972 the employee's contribution was 6 per cent. and the employer's 8 per cent. Under the teachers' scheme the contributions were 5 per cent. and 5 per cent. until 1956, 6 per cent. and 6 per cent. from then until 1966, and 6 per cent. and 8½ per cent. following that until 1972. There was no request for equivalence in the last period.

Mr. Barry Jones

Is it not possible that the teachers may be driven to take some form of industrial action because they feel that in this matter they have been gazumped? What urgent measures does the hon. Gentleman propose to take, bearing in mind the anger and bitterness of all the teachers in England and Wales?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I hope that they will not resort to those extreme measures. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would be the last to encourage teachers to take such action. What is important is that it should be explained to teachers as well as to their representatives exactly what are the facts involved in this situation.

Mr. Freud

Will the hon. Gentleman explain why our pension contribution as Members of the House is 5 per cent., and will he tell us the difference between our occupation and that of teachers who are paying 6¾ per cent.?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Our probation is liable suddenly to be interrupted.