HC Deb 11 December 1974 vol 883 cc507-8
21. Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether the Houghton Committee has yet made recommendations or interim proposals; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. William Ross

As the hon. Member will recall from my statement in the House on 2nd December, the £100 lump sum payment on account recommended by the Houghton Committee on 28th November was rejected by the teachers' side of the Scottish Teachers Salaries Committee. When I met the teachers' side on 6th December and urged it to accept the interim payment and call off further strike action, it refused to alter its position.

As the Houghton Report is expected before Christmas and no payment on account can now be included in teachers' December salaries, the strike action now taking place is pointless. I hope the House will join me in condemning this further disruption to children's education, which is wholly unnecessary and unjustified.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

What contingency arrangements does the Secretary of State have in mind to ensure that schoolchildren in Scotland can sit their forthcoming public examinations?

Mr. Ross

We are looking into this point in so far as it affects the exams which come very much later in the session, and we intend to ensure that the children are given every chance.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

In view of the serious disruption in the schools and the damage being done to the children's education, will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the moment the Houghton Report is made available the teachers' salaries committee will be reconvened to review the size of the interim payment? In view of what the Secretary of State has done today, will he reconsider his own position in his dealings with the teachers? Is he aware that his dour, unhelpful, and, at times, insulting answers to reasonable questions today provide us with a reasonable clue to the reason why all the meetings with the teachers have ended in total disaster?

Mr. Ross

We are accustomed to the incantations from Cathcart. The hon. Gentleman is not in Mozambique now. The matter to which he referred is one of those that I discussed with the teachers last Friday. I said that we could look quickly at the possibility of a further interim payment in January. The teachers turned that down. Despite that, I assure the hon. Gentleman that we intend to waste no time once we receive the Houghton Committee's report.

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