HC Deb 19 November 1974 vol 881 cc1075-7
1. Mr. Bryan Davies

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he expects the report of the Houghton Committee on teachers' pay to be completed.

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)

Lord Houghton and his colleagues expect to complete their report before Christmas.

Mr. Davies

I thank my hon. Friend for that somewhat optimistic reply. Is he aware of the anxiety expressed in the teaching profession about the delay? Is he prepared at this stage to give a categorical assurance that he would reject any recommendation from the Houghton Committee which would have the effect of separating the salary scales for further education from those operated in higher education, a move which would cause great opposition on the Labour benches?

Mr. Armstrong

It is not for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to accept or reject. When the report comes it will be sent to the negotiating committees so that they might express their view on the recommendations made.

Sir A. Meyer

What part, if any, has the Union of Women Teachers played or will be allowed to play in future discussions on teachers' salaries?

Mr. Armstrong

As I understand it the Houghton Committee, which is conducting an independent inquiry, has taken representations from all those who wished to make them.


Will the Minister offer any guarantee that, as a result of the Houghton recommendations, wage differentials between Scottish and English teachers will be eradicated? Will he now offer an apology to Scottish teachers whom he called cheats when they asked for an interim award?

Mr. Armstrong

When the report is made the recommendations will go to both the committees for Scotland and the committees for England and Wales, which will express their views on them.

Mr. Duffy

Quite apart from the urgent need to do justice to the teachers' pay claim, the financial position of local authorities is now so serious that the true gravity of the situation cannot be revealed and the budgeting of education for next year cannot be undertaken until Houghton reports.

Mr. Armstrong

I thank my hon. Friend for drawing attention to that fact, but we are well aware of it. It will be taken care of. As he knows, the rate support grant negotiations are now taking place. The difficulty is that the Government had to do something because the teachers had fallen behind under the previous administration.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Is it Government policy to implement the recommendations of the Houghton Committee and to backdate them to May? If so, the Government will certainly have the support of the Opposition. Has the Minister made any estimate of the likely cost? Estimates that have been made range from £150 million to £200 million. How is that extra cost to be met on the rates and yet be compatible with the Chancellor's statement that local authority expenditure must remain stable, or are the Government to adopt Conservative policy by removing teachers' salaries from the rates?

Mr. Armstrong

The hon. Gentleman would not expect me to give an estimate. This is an independent inquiry and it is for the committee to consider carefully, as it is doing, and very urgently the situation facing teachers. Teachers' salaries have fallen well behind the average increase over the last few years and the Government will take steps to see that the money is forthcoming.

On the hon. Gentleman's other point, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said repeatedly both inside and outside the House that we shall refer the whole matter to the negotiating committees, and we have indicated that we are prepared to back date any award to 24th May.