HC Deb 25 October 1976 vol 918 cc52-99

Order for Second Reading read.

4.27 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Bruce Millan)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The main purpose of the Bill, by providing different arrangements for the retirement of teachers, is to make jobs available for newly qualified teachers who otherwise would be unemployed. The Bill is therefore part of the Government's effort to reduce teacher unemployment. I shall explain the clauses of the Bill in more detail later.

The main effect of the Bill will be first to reduce the upper age of retirement of unpromoted teachers from 70 to 65 and, secondly, to withdraw the discretion at present in the hands of employers under the 1969 Act to continue to employ a promoted teacher for more than three months after he has passed the age of 65. The Bill reduces the length of time for which such a teacher can be employed to no more than three months. Thirdly, the Bill ensures that contracts offered to teachers after they have passed their 65th birthday are not for more than one year at a time.

It is difficult to obtain precise figures for the number of teachers likely to be affected by the Bill. Apart from anything else, we are dealing with a commencing date of 1st January 1977, and a certain number of teachers will retire before then. Secondly, we normally take a survey of this sort only in September and the September 1976 survey is not yet available. Thirdly, there is a particular difficulty this year, because, in anticipation of the Bill, there may have been a number of retirements of teachers who would otherwise have stayed on beyond 1st January. However, I believe that on 1st January about 400 teachers in Scottish schools will be affected by the Bill in one way or another. That is the extent to which, by making room in the schools, we could be making jobs available for newly qualified teachers who at present find it difficult to obtain jobs.

Mr. Malcolm Rifkind (Edinburgh, Pentlands)

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how many of those 400 jobs will be in departments where there is a shortage of teachers for the subjects concerned?

Mr. Millan

I cannot, but I was going to say that the exact numbers likely to be asked to retire will depend on how the local authorities use the discretionary powers given by the Bill in regard to unpromoted teachers. We are removing from the unpromoted teacher the discretion about his retirement date up to the age of 70 and putting it in the hands of the local authority. 'That seems to us essential in the present teacher employment situation. The background to the Bill is the concern that was felt in the summer, and is still felt, about teacher unemployment.

Mr. Teddy Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart) rose

Mr. Millan

It would help if I could explain some of the background and the provisions of the Bill before giving way. I am always willing to give way, but I hope that my doing so will not unnecessarily lengthen my speech.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

The Secretary of State referred to the September 1976 survey. It was to the September 1975 survey that Lord Kirkhill referred in the other place. Will the September 1976 figures be available before the Committee stage?

Mr. Millan

I hope that it goes without saying that I shall make available all the figures that I can. As I have already explained, we cannot be precise, because even now some teachers may voluntarily retire before the end of the year. Without the Bill about 500 teachers might have been involved. The Bill and other measures have probably reduced that number to about 400. The numbers going will depend on how the authorities exercise their discretion.

I was saying that the background to the Bill was our concern about the extent of teacher unemployment. In the summer it was estimated that about 2,000 newly-qualified teachers might not obtain teaching jobs at the beginning of the current session. The latest figures, those for September, show 625 teachers registered as unemployed in Scotland. That is 625 too many, but the number is not nearly as big as some of us once feared. It compares with 143 in September 1975. There has always been a small number of teachers on the unemployed register.

Although there has been a considerable increase in teacher unemployment, it has been affected by the fact that about 1,000 teachers are now employed in jobs under the Job Creation Programme, which has made a tremendous difference. However, those jobs are short term. We must take that into account as, part of the background to the Bill and to the figures for entry to colleges next year, about which I shall be issuing a consultative document—I hope within the next few weeks, but certainly before the end of the year.

I am anxious to do everything open to me to reduce teacher unemployment, but I cannot do it by increasing the rate support grant or asking education authorities to employ more teachers than are needed generally to meet the staffing standards which they agreed with me last year. Those standards have already given us a better position in the schools than we have ever had. In September 1975 staffing ratios were 22.4 to 1 for the primary schools and 15.1 to 1 for the secondary schools, considerable improvements on the 1974 figures of 23.4 and 15.7 respectively. Incidentally, the September 1975 ratios were much better than the corresponding English ratios in January this year. It is difficult to make exact comparisons, but the respective English figures were 23.6 and 17—substantially higher.

In the current session I have had no part-time education reported to me. Those of us who come from the Strathclyde Region will be aware of what a considerable improvement that is. In confirmation of the fact that our staffing is better than it has ever been, I was interested to see a report in last Thursday's Glasgow Herald of a statement by the Deputy Director of Education for the Strathclyde Region. He said that the region, which is the one that has had the most intractable teacher shortages, had a full complement of primary teachers and a shortage of fewer than 20 in secondary schools in the current session.

That small shortage is a reflection of the fact that there are still particular subjects for which we should like to have more teachers available in the schools. But overall we have a better staffing position in the schools than ever, despite the fact that we have had to ask authorities not to go beyond teaching standards which we agreed with them last year.

Against that background, it is important to do everything we can to take care of the young teacher who entered training at a time when there was a teacher shortage and now finds, at the end of his training, that there is a changed recruitment position. That is the reason for this modest Bill.

The existing legislation on the retirement of teachers is contained in Section 16 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1969, under which a promoted teacher must normally retire at 65—though he can be offered re-employment in an unpromoted post—and a non-promoted teacher must retire at 70. In both these cases the retirement ages apply unless the employer otherwise determines", so that an employer may keep people on after the specified retirement age. We all know that until very recently there have been examples of teachers working on even beyond 70 years of age.

The provision in the 1969 Act was perfectly understandable—I remember taking the Act through, and we did it with the co-operation of the teachers' associations—at a time of teacher shortage, but it is no longer relevant to a time of teacher surplus. In any case, most teachers retire before they reach the age of 65. In 1975, for example, 90 per cent. of all teachers who retired were aged 65 or under. Under the teachers' superannuation scheme, a teacher may choose to retire at or after the age of 60 and draw his accumulated pension benefits immediately. The Bill does not affect that. It simply deals with the situation post-65.

In considering the Bill, and, I hope, in passing it, the House will in no way be criticising teachers who have chosen to stay on in the past beyond the age of 65. In many circumstances, without their help schools would have found considerable difficulty in continuing. I wish to put that on record. We are simply taking account of the present changing situation.

I had consultations on the proposals in the Bill in June this year with both the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the teachers' associations. COSLA said then, and this is its current view, that it is very much in favour of the Bill but wishes to make clear that in individual cases when a teacher may ask to be kept on beyond age 65 for reasons which he considers important to him—perhaps pension circumstances—it will look at such cases sympathetically. I have no reason to doubt that it will do so. Directors of education are well aware of the service which many over-65s have given in our schools, and I do not think that they will approach such individual cases in any unsympathetic way.

I met the three main teachers' associations in June this year. There were not then any serious objections raised to what the Government were proposing, although there were reservations expressed quite strongly by one of the teachers' associations, the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association. The other two associations did not raise any serious objections, as the Educational Institute of Scotland reported in its publication EIS News. I think that they took the view that, at a time when we have many qualified teachers unable to find work, this was a modest step which ought to be taken by the Government and be supported by the teachers' associations.

Since then, the EIS and the SSA—if I may give it its old name—have confirmed that they support the Bill. The SSTA has criticised it on the ground that there could be potential hardship for individual teachers with a relatively short period of service who wished to go on beyond the age of 65 so that they could earn a better pension.

Mr. Richard Buchanan (Glasgow, Springburn)

On the front page of The Times Educational Supplement of 10th September 1976 the General Secretary of the EIS was reported as saying, in one of his forays into the country, that the EIS did not oppose the Bill in principle but the local associations would have to argue with their local authorities individual cases of hardship which arose. Therefore, it is not wholeheartedly in favour of the Bill, as my right hon. Friend seemed to suggest.

Mr. Millan

I do not think that I tried to convey more than that. My hon. Friend has simply confirmed what I said, that the EIS supports the Bill in principle, and today we are discussing the principle of the Bill. I believe that the point made by the SSTA relates to circumstances in individual cases which can be dealt with between a teacher, or a teacher and his association, on the one hand, and the local education authority, on the other. I have heard nothing from the education authorities to lead me to believe that individual cases of difficulty cannot be solved in a sympathetic way at local level.

To some extent—I admit this frankly, and the House has to make up its mind about it—we are inevitably by the Bill setting aside the interests of people over 65 in the interests of younger members of the profession. I believe that to be sensible at this time. We are not making it compulsory that everybody shall go at 65. We are giving the discretion to the authority rather than to the individual teacher, but, inevitably, we are setting aside some interests of older teachers in the interests of younger members of the profession. I repeat that I believe that to be sensible.

Mrs. Bargaret Bain (Dunbartonshire, East)

Many of the older teachers now being asked to retire were themselves at one stage unemployed young teachers during the 1930s. Will special consideration be given to them since both ends of their careers have been affected by Government policy?

Mr. Millan

Again, I am sure that individual education authorities will take all these circumstances into account. I think that the only substantial point of difficulty is the question of pensions, where, in an individual case, a teacher has a certain pension expectation and that expectation becomes rather less than the normal because he or she does not have the full length of service. I am sure that these cases can be dealt with by the individual authority.

I come now to the clauses of the Bill. Clause 1 gives us the new substituted Section 16, removing Section 16 of the 1969 Act. The main effect of subsection (1) is to reduce the age of retirement for an unpromoted teacher from 70 to 65. The new retiring age will come into effect on 1st January 1977 and will affect teachers already 65 or becoming 65 after that date.

The new subsection (2) introduces an element of flexibility which can meet the needs of individual teachers and education authorities. Paragraph (a) enables an employer to re-employ a retired teacher but only in an unpromoted post and on a year-to-year basis. This will enable teachers to be dealt with sympathetically by local education authorities. It will also take care of teachers who are teaching in shortage subjects in secondary schools.

Paragraph (b) allows an employer to, re-employ for up to three months a promoted teacher in the post from which he retired, again to give a certain element of flexibility and avoid an unnecessary retirement at a difficult time during the school session.

Subsection (3) defines a post of special responsibility. This is a promoted post above the basic grades. About 35 per cent. of the 60,000 teachers in Scottish schools and further education colleges occupy such posts.

Clause 2 is basically the citation clause and again includes the commencement date of 1st January 1977, which we have chosen as the earliest date on which the new provisions could reasonably come into force.

This is a modest Bill which has been generally welcomed as a useful contribution in a difficult situation of teacher surplus. This situation will have to be dealt with also in a more fundamental way by the proposals which I have already made for the 1976 entry, which are now operative, and the proposals which I shall be making in due course for entry to the colleges of education in 1977 and subsequently.

I took the action available to me in the current year to reduce entry considerably so that we did not have teachers taken into colleges without reasonable expectation of employment at the end of their training. I shall take whatever steps are necessary to achieve a similar objective in 1977 and subsequent years. That must be the main thrust of our policy in these difficult financial times when we cannot afford to keep improving the pupil-teacher ratio. We must get teacher supply and demand reasonably in balance.

The Bill represents a modest but useful contribution towards that end. It has been generally welcomed and I gather from the Shadow Leader of the House that the Opposition wish it well. I commend the Bill to hon. Members.

4.51 p.m.

Mr. Teddy Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)

It is rather unusual to have a Bill of this importance presented at this stage of a Session. The Bill deprives individual teachers of rights which were available to them when they joined the profession. However, we accept that the circumstances of Scottish education are unusual and tragic and that, for the first time in decades, we have in Scotland a serious problem of teacher unemployment which seems almost certain to get worse.

In these circumstances it would be difficult for the Opposition to vote against the principle of a Bill which is at least aimed at providing more jobs for teachers. However, by the time the debate is finished the Secretary of State will be aware that many of us are unhappy about aspects of the Bill and that there are many questions for the Government to answer before we give the Bill a Second Reading.

There is no doubt that this is a panic Bill. I am in sympathy with the General Secretary of the SSTA, Mr. Docherty, who said in a circular to all hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies that the proper retirement age for members of any profession should be a matter for objective study, based on considerations of the efficiency of the service and justice to those who have devoted themselves to the service. This Bill is based on no such considerations. It has been introduced simply because of the problem of teacher unemployment in Scotland.

Some people regard the Bill as a cosmetic measure, which will have no real effect. Others regard it as a rather nasty and spiteful Bill to deprive elderly teachers of rights that were promised to them when they entered or re-entered teaching.

There are a number of questions which I hope the Secretary of State or the Under-Secretary will answer. What effect will the Bill have on the employment of teachers? Authority is being given to local education authorities to make up their own minds on the employment of teachers over the age of 65. Presumably it would be possible for the Bill to have no effect if an authority decided to continue to employ all its teachers who are over 65.

The Secretary of State has indicated that he hopes that local authorities will use sympathetically and not harshly, their new powers to dismiss teachers over the age of 65. Does the right hon. Gentleman intend to issue any guidance to local authorities about the criteria which they should bear in mind when using their new discretion? The hon. Members for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Buchanan) and Dunbartonshire, East (Mrs. Bain) have pointed out the kind of people for whom we think there should be special consideration.

What will be the effect of the date of 1st January in the Bill in the light of changes in the Contracts of Employment Act, stemming from the Employment Protection Act? The latter Act has considerably affected the Contracts of Employment Act and has greatly extended the period of notice which must be given to teachers on dismissal.

Will the "one week for one year of service" provision apply to teachers over the age of 65 and, if so, will notice be given on 1st January or will this be one of the periods that might result in a teacher losing his job?

What assurances can the Secretary of State give us that the Bill will provide new jobs and ensure a reduction in teacher unemployment? There have been some horrifying reports in the Press and elsewhere recently about the prospect of a substantial number of teachers becoming unemployed because of the spending cuts that the Government have imposed on local authorities.

A report in the Scotsman on 21st August said that cuts in spending in Lothian could lead to a reduction in teaching staff of 700 if the council were to achieve a reduction of £9.5 million in its 1977–78 budget. There was also a, horrifying story on the front page of the Sunday Mail about secret discussions at a remote hotel in the West of Scotland where the policy resources committee of the Strathclyde Regional Council met to discuss the consequences of cuts demanded by the Government.

It is acutely embarrassing for Opposition Members to be so badly briefed on the discussions with in this authority, but the Strathclyde Council runs its affairs in such a way that only Labour councillors may be members of the policy resources committee. As a result, the substantial minority of Conservatives and Scottish nationalists in the West of Scotland have no knowledge of what goes on behind locked doors in flash hotels when Labour members of the policy resources committee decide who to sack in which departments.

Do the Government believe that the jobs that will be made available when older teachers are dismissed will be taken up? All the indications from reports of local authority discussions are that many councils will be faced with the prospect of dismissing teachers because of the cuts on which the Government are insisting.

Some of my colleagues feel bitter and resentful because, while local authorities are being exhorted by the Scottish Office to reduce the number of staff in key areas, the number of staff at the Scottish Office has increased by 800 since the Government came to power. I hope that Ministers will bear this fact in mind when discussing the problem of teacher unemployment.

May we have more information and an assurance that the Government have done their sums right in the calculations about recruitment and the intake of student teachers? Projections about the reduced number of pupils have been clear for about two years and I was sttaggered when, in October 1975, the Government increased the number of students going into the colleges by 11.6 per cent.

I know that the Secretary of State must be ashamed of his record in this respect. No doubt that is why he is pretending not to listen to me on this point. He knows that in October 1975 he deliberately increased the number of students entering colleges of education and that many of them are now unemployed. It is because the right hon. Gentleman made a mistake that we now have this panic reaction, with the unfortunate effect that many youngsters who were hoping to take up teaching as a profession will not be able to do so. I hope that the Secretary of State will give us more information and a reassurance that he has got his sums right.

I hope that in reply the Under-Secretary of State will give us more information on the question of consultation. The Secretary of State said that, as always, he consulted the teachers' associations involved. That is not the information that has been given to us by at least one of the teachers' associations. Mr. Docherty, of the SSTA, with whom I had a meeting last week, said that on 6th July the teachers' associations received the outline proposals from the Government and were told that submissions on those proposals had to be at the Scottish Office by 12th July, so that the Secretary of State could give them the careful consideration that he assures us he always gives to the teachers' associations' recommendations.

Those submissions were in by 12th July, but the Secretary of State was able to give them his careful consideration very speedily, because the Bill was introduced in the House of Lords on 13th July—24 hours after the date set for the submission of representations. Does the Secretary of State consider that fair and reasonable? Is it not insulting the teachers' associations to tell them to hand in their submissions by 12th July and then to present the Bill in the House of Lords on 13th July? I consider that to be a most shameful example of lack of consultation and almost an insult to the teachers' associations.

I see that the Secretary of State is carrying on another important conversation. Again, he must be feeling very guilty, as he should be. I am sure that the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan), who should be in another place, as he knows, will be interested in protecting workers and their rights.

Since people have come back to the teaching profession at the request of the Government and on the assurance that they would be able to go on working until the age of 70 and thereby improve their pension entitlement, is the Secretary of State entirely happy that he is supporting a Bill that will deprive them of those rights? Does he not think that there might be a case for compensation for those whose rights are being taken away in that way?

We are not talking about peanuts or pennies; the amounts involved are considerable. A teacher with 15 years' service at the age of 65 now has a salary of £3,354. He would be entitled to retire with a pension entitlement of fifteen-eightieths of his current salary. If we do not oppose the Bill and he is allowed to go on working for another five years, his salary would increase to £4,149 and he would be entitled to twenty-eightieths on retirement at 70 years of age. That makes a difference of about £8 a week, according to my calculations. That is the kind of money that we are talking about.

We are talking about a teacher being deprived of the right to work for five years and losing a pension entitlement of about £8 a week. That is a considerable change. Will the Under-Secretary indicate whether he thinks that compensation is justified in such a situation? I am sure that if this happened to dockers, miners, or anyone else, there would be loud protests from the hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey) and others about the need for compensation for those who were being deprived of employment through legislation. I hope that the Minister will give some thought to that question and indicate whether a move can be made in that direction.

Mr. James Dempsey (Coatbridge and Airdrie)

Will the hon. Gentleman tell me who assured those persons that they would be employed until they were 70 years of age?

Mr. Taylor

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that, under present conditions of employment, teachers are entitled to be employed until they reach 70 years of age. They have the right now to stay on, but not in a promoted post. This Bill changes the situation. It provides that teachers will have that right only if the local authority wishes them to have it. Hon. Members should be aware of what is going on. Having got that information, the hon. Gentleman will no doubt take an even greater interest than he was taking before I mentioned that point. As I said, it makes a big difference. It can mean a difference of five years' employment and £8 per week in pension. Therefore, I hope that hon. Members will pay special attention to the rights of employment.

I should like the Under-Secretary of State to give a better explanation than was given by Lord Kirkhill, in another place, why the date of 1st January was selected? The hon. Gentleman will be aware that if a teacher retires at the end of a term, the normal practice is for him to be paid until the end of the holiday period after his retirement. That has been the practice of Strathclyde and other regions. I am not sure whether it is a legal right, but it always happens. By taking 1st January as the cut-off late, teachers are being deprived of 10 days' salary immediately.

More important, however, is the effect on the pension. It is almost certain that a teacher retiring or being forced to retire on 1st January will receive a smaller pension increase on 1st December 1977 than someone who voluntarily retires on 31st December. Will the Minister tell us whether he thinks that it was entirely appropriate for the date of 1st January to be selected? Mr. Docherty and other teachers to whom I have spoken think that if one date had to be chosen, the date of 1st January was the worst possible from the teachers' point of view.

I was disappointed that, in justifying the Bill, the Secretary of State made no reference to the educational effects of this change. If we are to make this change, which will have the effect of removing from schools between 300 and 400 dedicated teachers of advanced years, we should give a passing thought to the effect on the educational standards and character of our schools.

There are many reasons why we are not happy about our schools. We are not happy about standards of attainment; we are far from happy about standards of literacy and numeracy; and we are certainly far from happy about examination results. We are also extremely unhappy about discipline in schools, as has been said by many hon. Members. Have the Government given any thought to the change that will take place in the character of schools by removing these teachers of advanced years who have made such considerable contribution to them?

The Secretary of State made clear that the sole intention in introducing the Bill was to deal with the unemployment of teachers coming from the colleges. Is it fair for the Government to bring forward this Bill instead of a package of measures that might provide other employment opportunities?

We feel that the Government have got their priorities wrong. Recently we were told that expenditure of an extra £1 million was the cost of providing another 700 teachers in Scotland if we took into account the unemployment benefit that they would otherwise get. Yet the Government recently introduced a Bill in the Scottish Grand Committee which would allow an extra £1 million for the provision of school milk. That shows the extent of the Government's priorities. They certainly are not concentrating on providing confidence in schools and an adequate supply of teachers, bearing in mind the special problems in Scottish schools.

In the present serious unemployment situation it would be irresponsible of the Opposition to oppose the Bill. However, for the reasons that I have indicated, we should not be put in the position of having to take panic measures. This is a panic measure. Having heard the panic reaction of the Secretary of State to this matter, the panic reaction of the Chancellor a few hours ago to the position of sterling, and the panic reaction of Ministers as a whole to the general situation in this country, I am sure that people are simply waiting for the day when a Conservative Government come back to office and they can again look to the future with confidence and hope.

5.10 p.m.

Mr. Richard Buchanan (Glasgow, Springburn)

I agree with much of what the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) said. That is not surprising, as much of our source material is taken from the same place. How can he reconcile what he said today with his party's defined attitude on public expenditure? The Conservative Party wants to cut public expenditure even more, but here we are proposing an increase in public expenditure. In trying to employ-more teachers and compensating those who leave at 65, we seek to increase public expenditure.

I declare an interest. I try to advise the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association in an honorary capacity. The association does not oppose the principle of retiral at 65. That principle permeates industry. In the railways, where I was once employed, the docks the mines and most of the professions 65 is the retirement age. People who enter these professions know the score before they go in. They know when they will retire. My criticism of the Government is that under the Bill they are changing the rules in the middle of the game. Teachers' retiral age has been used like a barometer. When there is a surplus of teachers, the retiral age is lowered, and when there is a shortage it is raised. That is not the way to deal with an honourable profession like the teaching profession.

As the hon. Member for Cathcart said, we must establish a rational retirement system for the whole profession, including those who came in under the special recruitment scheme. My right hon. Friend said that the object of the Bill was to create jobs for newly qualified unemployed teachers. Lord Kirkhill said the same thing in another place. My right hon. Friend may have stumbled on a solution to the national malaise. He should toddle along to our right hon. Friend at No. 10, give him this solution—the one my right hon. Friend is applying to teachers—and ask, why not make it compulsory for people in industry to retire at 65? If unemployment still persisted, the age could be lowered by 10 years. That is not the way to deal with unemployment, and it is not the way to deal with teachers.

There should have been no need for this measure. Employment should have been found for the newly trained teachers. We made promises to those teachers and gave them the prospectus of a stable career, and we are breaking our promise. Twelve months ago we were advertising nationally to bring more teachers into the profession. The intake to the colleges was increased. Even today, in The Times Educational Supplement and the Scottish Educational Journal, local authorities advertise for teachers throughout Scotland. Strathclyde and Midlothian are advertising for teachers. According to my right hon. Friend, Strathclyde is only 20 secondary teachers short. In my constituency there is a shortage of at least 20 technical and maths teachers.

There may be plenty of teachers, but there are some departments which are very short. Will the Bill do what its sponsors hope it will do? Will the young teachers replace the retired teachers or will the local authorities save the money in the present squeeze?

My right hon. Friend said that he did not know precisely how many teachers would be affected by the Bill. On 3rd June he said there were 400. In the other place, Lord Kirkhill on 27th July said there were 300 teachers in this category. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State in an answer to me on Wednesday said that there were 500 teachers in this category. Which figure are we to believe?

I can understand the Secretary of State's being unable to get the figures before the reorganisation of local government when it was necessary to approach hundreds of local education authorities, but that excuse does not apply now. In Scotland there are only 12 education authorities and he should at least have been able to give approximately correct figures. If there is this difficulty in getting such statistics, it is not surprising that we made such a blunder over the intake to teacher training colleges.

There are certain categories with which I am particularly concerned. My hon. Friend asked local authorities to do everything possible to recruit members of the public to go through the Special Recruitment Scheme and become teachers. Those teachers may have come into the profession with 10 years to go, perhaps hoping for 15 years, and now they are to be compulsorily retired. They were coaxed into the profession and came in with the highest ideals. They wanted to do a job, and they have done a job. Most of them have been teaching in schools where there has been a shortage of teachers and over-sized classes, and they have had to deal with the present-day vandalism and indiscipline which occurs in schools.

Another category with which I am concerned is women who responded to the Government appeal to come back to teaching. These include widows who were forced by economic circumstances to reenter the profession. I am not trying to make a case for teachers who have served for 25 or 30 years and have earned a good pension. I ask the Secretary of State to give consideration to those who came in under the Special Recruitment Scheme to help him out over the hump of teacher shortage. Those are the people who will be penalised by the Bill.

I am informed that teachers will shortly be included in a scheme for improved redundancy and compensation payments if they retire between 55 and 65. I entirely support that. A teacher who has served 25 years and retires at 55 or 60 voluntarily with a reasonable pension will be given redundancy and compensation payments plus an enhanced pension. Negotiations are going on about this scheme. Yet the people who came into the profession to help us out will be compulsorily retired, without compensation, and without credit being given for the years that they hoped to serve. That is paradoxical.

As has been outlined by the hon. Member for Cathcart, there are two dates in the year which are for teachers, the worst possible dates for retiral. One is 1st January and the other is 30th June. A teacher who retires on 1st January instead of 31st December loses 11 per cent. of his pension. That is unfair as well as unjust.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will make the necessary adjustments to the Bill in Committee to permit a modicum of justice to be done to the teachers who came into the profession at the behest of both Governments. Justice is all I ask.

5.18 p.m.

Mr. Michael Clark Hutchison (Edinburgh, South)

I well remember the time when there was much concern about the shortage of teachers and we were all engaged in thinking out methods of getting people into the profession and, once in, keeping them there. Now the picture is entirely changed and we are engaged in discouraging teachers and inducing them to retire early. Why has there been this complete reversal in a comparatively short time? What has gone wrong with the forecasts and calculations in the Government Departments?

Can the Minister explain to me—[Interruption] I doubt that he will be able to if he does not damn well listen. Can the Minister explain and tell me what arrangements are being made to get more accurate forecasts for the future? This is important in view of the colossal sums we are spending on education and the necessity to avoid waste.

I think that it is probably right not to vote against the Bill, but personally I am not greatly enamoured of it. It seems to me that cut-backs in local authority expenditure could well lead to cut-backs in respect of teachers over 65 with no corresponding increase in employment for new teachers.

Secondly, like my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor), I believe that the Bill could lead to a reduction of pension for some non-promoted teachers. That could be unfair. In addition, the Bill could make it compulsory to retire early at short notice, and there might be some injustice in that. It is not clear to me how many newly qualified teachers will not find jobs this year, but I have heard a figure of 2,000 bandied about. Is that figure correct? It has also been calculated that the expenditure of £1 million covers the cost of 700 teachers provided we take into account the savings on social security. Is that right?

It does not seem an entirely impossible task to employ those 2,000 teachers In doing so we would go a long way in helping the deprived areas to reduce the sizes of classes by giving added strength in certain departments where there are shortages, such as science and mathematics. The way in which I would deal with this problem is to scrap any idea of a Scottish Assembly. That absurd piece of nonsensical machinery is—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)

Order. The Bill relates to the retirement of teachers and not to the retirement of a Scottish Assembly.

Mr. Hutchison

Yes, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I am giving my solution to deal with the teacher shortage and avoiding injustice. This Assembly will cost £10 million a year. Is that the top priority or is good schooling?

5.23 p.m.

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) was his usual spiteful carping self when he spoke a few minutes ago. The hon. Member has so much bile in him that when he is presenting a compassionate case to help people who have to retire early, he sounds like the prosecuting attorney in a murder trial. I would certainly be the last person to ask him to put my case if I were seeking compassion from any hon. Member in the House.

We know perfectly well why the hon. Gentleman has to take this blustering attitude. It is to cover up the fact that he wants greater cuts in public expenditure, which would produce more teacher unemployment. There would be more unemployed nurses, social and housing workers.

Mr. Teddy Taylor rose

Mr. Hughes

The hon. Gentleman had no case to make when he was making his speech and was reduced to trying to bait Labour Members. I shall not be taken in by him.

I was particularly pleased to hear the Secretary of State's statement about the number of teachers in employment this year, especially in the Strathclyde area. He will know more than most, since he has been in the Scottish Office previously, that the problem of teacher unemployment in Strathclyde was particularly difficult. I know the efforts made by previous Governments to encourage recruits into the profession in Strathclyde.

I should be glad if the Minister would tell us exactly on what basis the Strathclyde returns are made, because he said there was a full complement of teachers in Strathclyde. Can he say something about the geographical distribution?

He will remember the very difficult time we had with the Scottish teaching profession about designation payments and the way of attracting teachers into schools which badly needed them but could not get them. In some parts of the area there is an excess of staff over complement in certain schools, and that might be because Strathclyde has now taken over the eduction for virtually the whole of the West of Scotland and has been able to help in the redistribution of teaching staff within the global numbers available.

Like many other hon. Members from Scottish constituencies, I have had approaches from people who misunderstand the purpose of the Bill and, indeed, misunderstand the flexibility in it. I believe that among certain teachers, especially those over 65, there is a feeling that the Bill makes it mandatory on local authorities to compel teachers to retire at 65 and that, as soon as the Bill is passed, such teachers will automatically be out of a job.

As I understand the Bill, that is not the position. The position is that the retiring age will normally be 65, but even in unpromoted posts—I think this is an advance—the teacher, at the discretion of the local authority, may be employed on a year-to-year basis. As I understand it, that is open ended. There is no age limit which restricts the temporary retirement. Teachers can still go on to 75 on a year-to-year basis.

I understand that although promoted teachers may be employed for a period of up to three months, I can see nothing in the Bill to prevent a promoted teacher from retiring from his promoted post and then taking up a position as an unpromoted teacher. If that is the case, there is certainly a little concern about how many jobs will be free for unpromoted teachers. It does not seem right that someone can come out of a promoted post and go into an unpromoted post, because that will take up the slack. I hope that the Secretary of State will say something about how the discretion will be applied and whether in the circumstances it will be permissible to keep on in this temporary capacity teachers qualified for employment.

The point has been made often enough that former teachers—particularly women—have come back into teaching at a later age having had to leave the profession, for instance, to raise a family. Once the family has grown up, she has returned to teaching, but her cumulative pension is affected. It is true that teachers have the facility of taking account of past service, but there is some anxiety about the effect of the Houghton Report on pensions.

My right hon. Friend said that he had had consultations with COSLA about what criteria may be applied in employing teachers beyond the age of 65. COSLA gave assurances that its individual members would take hardship into consideration when looking at those falling into this category. I do not doubt the word of COSLA but I am not so certain that individual members will carry out COSLA's agreement. I wonder how many individual members of COSLA were behind this idea to deal with hardship. I ask the Minister whether he will send out a circular giving the criteria and of other assistance and guidance to individual local education authorities.

Has he considered for a limited period crediting teachers over 65, or teachers approaching 65 in the next few years, with, say, two years of increments in relation to pensions in order that they can get the benefit from the increased pension? This idea is perhaps worth considering, because it would help people in hardship.

It might make more economic and educational sense to give the credits and allow teachers to give up teaching and let new people in at the bottom of the scale than to keep teachers on for longer. If at the moment only 400 teachers are involved—the figure would obviously rise if the concession were extended for five years—the economic cost might be worth while. I hope that my hon. Friend can tell us how he has looked at this and whether any estimate of the cost is possible.

I had representations from my constituents when this proposal was first discussed. The measures seemed much harder on those over 65 and those about to reach that age than I at first thought. I am satisfied that my hon. Friend has gone a long way to introduce flexibility and protect individual teachers, but I hope that he will consider the alternatives with an open mind and be willing to go further in Committee.

5.31 p.m.

Mr. George Younger (Ayr)

It is very sad that we have come to this pass tonight, although I agree that the Bill should not be opposed. It is the result of the failure of the Government's economic policy. For the first time in the lifetime of any of us, the Government have run out of money to the extent that they cannot, even if there is a shortage of teachers, make use of all the teachers available to them, whom they have put through training college at public expense.

I hope that all those concerned in education—whether parents or teachers— will now be aware of the results of financial incompetence at the top on their own lives and service and on the education of their children. That is what we are discussing.

The Secretary of State, I am sure unintentionally, made the misleading assertion that only 625 young teachers were registered as unemployed—after the concern we had all been expressing during the summer about figures of more than 2,000. A few sentences later, almost in an aside, he referred to the 1,000 young teachers involved in the job creation scheme.

That is a useful scheme, which those taking part find much better than hanging around doing nothing, but we must be careful to avoid the error of categorising them as not unemployed. Although they are occupied, they are emphatically unemployed. The young teachers involved in the scheme will be most upset if they think that the House of Commons is writing them off as if their problems were over and they were now settled in a career, because they are not.

So the true figure of young teachers who still do not have jobs, even after being trained to the pitch, is still 1,600, according to the Secretary of State. It is the Government's failure to provide money which is so tragic. It is the more so since all our political lives we have all been concerned about shortage of teachers and very large classes. Whereever this subject comes up, we have had to explain that the Government of the day would do their best to raise the numbers of teachers and that then class sizes would be reduced and teaching standards improved, particularly in deprived areas.

Now we have a sufficiency of supply of teachers and, because of falling birth rates some time ago, a gradual decrease in the number of pupils. The tragic coincidence of circumstances is that now of all times the Government have failed to provide the money to make the improvements. I am sure that they also will agree that that is desperately sad.

I hope that Ministers do not think that they are simply the victims of the incompetence of their colleagues on the financial side of the Government. They should also bear in mind the Government's priorities in the use of available funds. In his speech at Oxford a week ago, the Prime Minister said: The challenge to education is to exercise its priorities and to secure as high efficiency as possible by the skilful use of the £6,000 million of resources which are available. Those are very telling words. But in the opinion of many people, even within the money they have, which of course is too little, the Government themselves seem to have produced the strangest priorities. It is not as if the sum required to employ about 1,600 teachers is vast in relation to education spending, which in the United Kingdom, according to the Prime Minister, is £6,000 million and in Scotland is about £500 million. Only a tiny fraction of that would be required.

My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Hutchison) referred to a report in The Scotsman which estimated that only £1 million would be required to employ 700 teachers if the consequent social security savings were taken into account. That may be a little optimistic, but even so the sums are not large in the total education budget.

Educational spending in Scotland is running at about £101 per head per year. If the estimate in The Scotsman is right, we could employ nearly all those out of work for about £2 million or so—40p a year per head, or less than 1p a week. Put another way, since there are about 1 million pupils in Scottish primary and secondary schools, the cost would be £2 per pupil per year. That means 4p per week throughout the year or, if one cares to concentrate it on the school year, the weeks during which children are at school, little more than 5p a week per pupil would enable us to employ all these teachers.

The Government's other expenditure priorities in education, which they seem to regard as sacrosanct in many ways, should be borne in mind. No one has addressed himself to the changing of priorities within the expenditure that we have already.

The Under-Secretary will remember that we had long discussions in the summer about expenditure when we discussed the Education Bill in Committee. I draw his attention again to the fact that in the education budget he spends just over £23 million a year on school meals. Of course it is important to have school meals, and that they should be good and sufficient. However, all of us hear suggestions now and again—certainly I often do—that in some respects school meals are over-extravagantly produced. Be that as it may, that is what we spend.

Of course it is important, but is it the Government's view that it is more important to keep down the cost of school meals than to have enough teachers? Is it more important to reduce the cost of school meals by 5p than to have an extra teacher in a deprived area? Is it more important to reduce the cost of school meals by 5p, for example, than to have a smaller class and, thereby, better tuition for children, particularly difficult children or children in their last year at school?

The Government have a wrong priority. I agree with anyone who feels that school meals are very important, but I cannot find it in me to see that they are more important than having enough teachers and more important than employing 1,600 young people the beginnings of whose careers are being blighted by their not being able to practise their profession.

Does the Under-Secretary feel that it is more important to keep down the cost of school meals than to have more teachers—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I have allowed the hon. Gentleman far too much latitude. We are still discussing the question of the retirement of teachers, not the employment of young teachers who are unemployed. The hon. Gentleman has developed that argument fairly fully.

Mr. Younger

I shall try to obey your advice, Mr. Deputy Speaker. However, the purpose of the Bill was stated by the Secretary of State to be purely in order to give employment to young teachers. He said that in so many words. I have nearly finished my speech. Perhaps I may finish the last part, which is relevant.

If the Under-Secretary will answer my question, I shall be happy. Perhaps he will go further and try another alternative. I make these points because some Labour Members have taken my hon. Friends to task and have accused the Opposiiton of always wanting cuts in Government spending while not being prepared to say where we would reduce it. I hope that I may be acquitted of that, if of nothing else. I am being perfectly open about where I think the money ought to come from to employ these teachers. I have given one example. I shall give another.

We have the provision for the giving of free school milk to children in primary schools. It is not given in secondary schools because a previous Labour Government withdrew it. However, there is a proposal for allocating a further £1 million—which has now been done—for extending that free milk provision to children at primary schools who are beyond the age of 7. That is what the Government have thought a proper priority for which to lay aside £1 million. They have laid £1 million aside for that while refusing to put that sum aside for employing young teachers. They have decided that it is more important to extend the provision of school milk to more pupils—many of whose parents are well paid—than to give jobs to young teachers.

Will the Minister please answer straightforwardly why he thinks it is more important to extend free milk provision than to give these young teachers jobs, to have smaller class sizes and to have more teachers teaching in deprived areas, where teaching is difficult? No one on the Government side of the House has ever answered that question.

I am sad about the Bill. However, it must be supported, because if we have to choose between allowing people at the end of their careers to carry on beyond what many of us regard as retiring age or giving young teachers who have never had the chance of putting their professional skills into practice the opportunity to start careers, we must come down on the side on which the Government have come down.

This is a sad situation. It is a bad situation for education and an unhappy situation for many distinguished elderly teachers who could still have much to give to schools. It is all the result of the total failure of the Government's economic policies, which have made them run out of money. I hope to goodness that the Government will realise it.

5.46 p.m.

Mr. Dennis Canavan (West Stirlingshire)

The Secretary of State admitted in his opening remarks that the background to the Bill is the unemployment situation among young teachers. It is a particularly tragic situation in Scotland today. Earlier in the summer it was estimated that about 2,000 student teachers had left Scottish colleges of education and were unable to find jobs teaching. The Secretary of State said that 625 were registered as unemployed in September. That is the latest figure. However, about another 1,000 are in job creation programmes. Many of these programmes do not exactly involve jobs in which teachers are using their teaching skills to the fullest degree.

Of course, there are many others who are in other types of employment. I know several student teachers who have been forced to take jobs on building sites because they cannot get jobs teaching. Therefore, by anyone's measure, the total of student teachers who left the colleges in Scotland this summer and who have so far been unable to find jobs teaching is nearer 2,000 than 1,000.

We have had several suggestions over the past few months about how these teachers can be employed and how we can alleviate the problem. I have made suggestions for smaller classes and for remedial classes and to compensate children who have in the past been receiving part-time education. Many of these children come from areas of multiple deprivation. We have heard suggestions that extra teachers could be used to cover for teachers who are absent through illness or who are on in-service courses. One disturbing feature is the growing number of composite classes. They are not always composite for educational reasons. There is concealment of the teacher supply situation by the abuse of composite classes in some circumstances. I also believe that adult literacy programmes would be helped a lot by a more adequate supply of teachers.

So far, the Government's reactions have been, basically, to put forward three measures. The first is job creation. Although I recognise that 1,000 students have been found jobs by job creation programmes when they might not have found jobs otherwise at all—to that extent we are grateful for small mercies—nevertheless, the Secretary of State admitted that the Job Creation Scheme, essentially, is a stop-gap, temporary measure.

I was partly responsible for initiating a job creation programme using student teachers in Lennox Castle Hospital in my constituency, where they are in fact using their teaching skills. Lennox Castle Hospital is one of the largest hospitals in Scotland dealing with mentally handicapped patients, both children and adults. The education of the mentally handicapped is a very important feature of Scottish education, particularly since the new legislation came into operation in May 1975. However, it appears rather a pity that the General Teaching Council does not recognise the period of service that these young people are giving in the hospital schools under the job creation programmes as qualifying service for their probationary period.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will try to keep in order.

Mr. Canavan

I shall move on to deal with another point. The Secretary of State said that measures had been taken to reduce the intake to colleges this session, and that further reductions would take place thereafter. But that will cause even more unemployment within the staffs of colleges of education. Now we have the third measure, namely this Bill.

I am in favour of early retirement opportunities not just for teachers but for all workers, manual, skilled or semiskilled, and indeed for professional people, provided that there are adequate safeguards to maintain pension rights. It is not good enough to say in this instance that local authorities have discretionary powers to deal with hardship cases. Something should be written into the Bill to provide adequate compensation for teachers with less than, say, 25 years' service. Some of those teachers may be widows or married women who gave early service to the profession, who left for a period of time to bring up their family, and who returned to teaching on the understanding that they would be able to work until the age of 70, if they desired to do so, thereby qualifying for a good pension. That right now appears to be somewhat eroded. I should like to see more measures for adequate compensation written into the Bill and not left merely to a local authority's discretion.

The date of operation of the Bill presents some difficulties. I understand that 1st January 1977 is also the date of qualification for pension increases. This will mean a considerable difference for somebody who retires on 31st December 1976 compared with a person who retires on 1st January 1977—indeed, as I am informed, a difference of up to 10 per cent. in pension terms. I would welcome the Minister's comments on that matter. Perhaps he will be able to say whether it will be better to postpone the date of operation of the Bill, possibly to March 1977. I hope that there will be more consultation with the teachers' union on this and other matters.

In his opening remarks the Secretary of State said that about 400 teachers would be affected initially by the Bill, but he was unable to say whether they were teachers of subjects in which there is still a shortage, such as mathematics and technical subjects, and whether the vacancies thus created by teachers leaving could be filled by young teachers who are looking for jobs. It will not help the situation if, for example, too many modern language or science teachers are leaving when at the same time it is discovered that most of the teachers on the dole have qualifications in English or modern studies. What efforts have the Scottish Education Department made to match the resulting vacancies that will be caused by the Bill with the qualification of teachers who are now unemployed? The job would not be particularly difficult.

Reference was made to a figure of 800 extra civil servants employed at the Scottish Office. We know that Her Majesty's inspectors are wandering all over Scotland looking at schools and we also know that their advice and comments are often not highly respected by the teaching profession. Many inspectors have been refugees from the classroom with little in the way of actual classroom teaching experience. But surely they can at least count up to 400. Can we not use these inspectors or those extra civil servants to obtain adequate statistics about the effects of the Bill?

Many teachers doubt whether the Bill will have any far-reaching effect in creating more vacancies for young teachers. I estimate that the effect will be minimal. I do not think that we shall see any radical change in the number of teachers employed, or in any other forms of employment in the public sector, unless there is a radical change in the Government economic strategy in a more Socialist direction.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) made one of the most hypocritical contributions that I have heard for a long time. I do not know whether he was present in the Chamber this afternoon to hear the Conservative Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe), call for even more savage cuts in public expenditure—cuts that would make even the Chancellor of the Exchequer look like Santa Claus. It is not good enough for the hon. Member for Cathcart to say that he supports further savage cuts in public spending while at the same time appearing to disown the inevitable results of those cuts. The results undoubtedly would be fewer teachers and social workers, less housing and so on, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) made clear.

I have a little more respect for the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger), apart from the fact that he is a constituent of mine. But he was being a little simplistic when he said that the solution to the problem was less milk and more teachers. The inevitable consequences of Conservative economic policy would be less milk, or indeed no milk at all, and very many fewer teachers. The hon. Member for Cathcart said that he looked forward to the return of a Conservative Government. Has he forgotten that on the last occasion when we had the misfortune to have such a Government even he himself resigned from it?

I conclude by saying that I sincerely hope that this small measure will be accompanied by more important measures to provide more jobs for teachers and certainly better standards of education for the children of Scotland.

5.57 p.m.

Mrs. Margaret Bain (Dunbartonshire, East)

It is clear from the debate that there is little antagonism in the House towards this Bill. Most people accept its underlying philosophy, but everybody seems to have some reservations. We in the SNP are no different in that respect.

Before I go on to make my specific reservations about the Bill, I wish to take up one or two points made by the Secretary of State for Scotland in opening the debate. I, too, welcome the ending of part-time education in Strathclyde. I have a particular interest since I trained in Glasgow and spent several years teaching in the Strathclyde region. I remember the crowded classrooms and the dreadful conditions.

I felt that there was a hint of complacency in the Secretary of State's remarks. We should not accept the situation that the Red Book and the Circular 819 standards should be the only ones that exist within our schools. We wish to see a reduction in class sizes and a general improvement in standards throughout our schools. I appreciate that this would involve extra expenditure. My party believes that it has an alternative solution to offer to the Scottish people, and we hope that they will opt for it.

I am concerned about the slight atmosphere of complacency, particularly in regard to the Strathclyde area. I would refer the right hon. Gentleman to the first annual report of the Strathclyde Regional Council. Dealing with educational deprivation, the report stated that 85 per cent. of the population within the region had no recognised educational qualification. We must not perpetuate such a situation. The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland in an article in the Glasgow Herald of 22nd September admitted … we have a new scourge: schools which have become the new ghettoes of education. I hope that he will not forget the commitment to try to eradicate those ghettos.

Another worrying aspect for the whole of Scottish education lies in the decline in the number of working-class children going through university. The main sufferers are working-class males. I refer the Government to an article in New Society on 21st October this year which, referring to working-class males in Scotland, said: … whereas they formed 24.6 per cent. of the univirsity student body in the earlier period, ten years later this had fallen to 18 per cent. This change affected both the ancient and new technological universities equally". There is no cause for complacency in these figures.

I was struck by the Secretary of State's definition of the numbers of young unemployed teachers and how many were likely to be employed as a result of the Bill. I cannot accept that job creation schemes are a creative and useful way of employing highly skilled and qualified people whose talents could be so well used in these areas to which I have referred. I accept that the job creation scheme is a temporary measure, but it seems a terrible waste of resources. I do not see how many of these youngsters employed in this way will be taken out of the job creation schemes into education as a result of this measure. There appears to be no guarantee that any substantial number of young unemployed teachers will gain employment. I feel that we are tinkering with the situation.

What will happen next year? Shall we see a continuation in the reduction of the retirement age? Anyone who goes into a school at 4 o'clock on a Friday afternoon anywhere in Scotland will find most teachers willing to say "Let's retire at 40, as long as we can have our pensions" What are we planning to ensure that next year teachers find the opportunities within the school system? The Secretary of State made great play on this question of the discretion of local authorities in individual cases. I have no reason to doubt what COSLA was saying but I wonder how much freedom there will be for a local authority, given the current public expenditure background.

The people who will be asked to retire under this measure will be higher up the scale in educational terms and will therefore be receiving higher salaries. It would seem to be one way of saving some money—not a great deal—to retire people who are on a higher scale and to employ younger teachers lower down the scale. I feel that this is a subtle pressure which may be put upon local authorities and which will militate against discretion being exercised in all cases. The local authorities will have to set against the employment of teachers the demands of social work departments and the pressures which they are facing.

Since I am the only woman who has remained here through the debate I hope that the Under-Secretary will not think that I am speaking as a "Women's Libber" if I say that I feel that the Bill will adversely affect women teachers in schools. Many married women and widows came back to teaching through the special recruitment scheme. Many women were away from teaching for 10 or 15 years, for obvious reasons. They want to use the extra four or five years at the end of their career to guarantee them an additional pension right. What kind of guarantee will be given to these women that they will have the pension they deserve when they retire? We must bear in mind that these are the women who most often did not seek promotion within the school system. They were the people who kept the schools going as assistant teachers and on whom our education system is totally dependent.

Like others who have spoken, I have reservations about the dates that have been chosen. I will not reiterate the points that have already been made. The Under-Secretary is aware of the brief from which these comments came and of the arguments against the dates. Perhaps, in replying, he can give a commitment to the effect that he will look again at the dates and perhaps opt for a more sensible date, such as the end of February, which I understand is one which the teachers' unions seem to like. Can he tell us whether he will consider the question of compensation for those who will lose out on what they would have received for, say, five years' service? Will some kind of compensation for these people be accepted in Committee? Many of them would like to retire but they are worried about their pension level, and that is understandable with current inflation rates.

6.4 p.m.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)

I shall confine myself to one factual question. It arises from a discussion I had at an excellent concert given by the Lothian School Orchestra, which played a Dvorak Symphony in the Music Hall in Edinburgh—following coaching at the West Linton Centre and many weeks of work by music teachers in the Lothian Region. How does this Bill affect music, in which subject in a number of schools there are still acute shortages?

I realise that it would be awkward to pick out one subject and to say that the regulations cannot apply to it for certain reasons but I do ask my hon. Friend whether consideration has been given to how the Bill affects the supply of music teachers.

6.5 p.m.

Mr. Malcolm Rifkind (Edinburgh, Pentlands)

I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) and in particular his remarks about refugees from the classroom and the various posts they were occupying in the public interest at present. I share entirely his view that the quicker these refugees get back to the classroom the better it will be for the public, although I can understand that there may be some doubts whether it would be in the interests of the children as a whole so far as certain of these gentlemen are concerned.

I agree with the general view that it is important that all should be done that can be done to promote the interests or teacher employment hi Scotland. What is extraordinary about the Bill is that the only measure which the Government seem interested in bringing forward aims at helping teachers at one end of the spectrum by making those at the other end unemployed. A system of compulsory redundancy or compulsory retirement is not the most appropriate or sensible way of pursuing the interests of teacher employment, even if it were to make a major contribution towards solving that problem, which all of us concede is not the case.

Not simply in the sphere of education, but generally, I have great reservations about—indeed I am quite hostile to—the whole principle of compulsory retirement for all persons, irrespective of their individual desire to continue with their work and irrespective of the desire of their employers to continue with their services.

I entirely accept the view of the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire that in general it is desirable that we should move towards a society where people can retire earlier. However, I add the rider—"If they want to". In many occupations people will be delighted to retire at the earliest date that will guarantee their pensions. But there are other cases, and teaching is one of them, where many persons find that they are at the height of their capabilities, thoroughly enjoying their work and making a major contribution, when they reach the age of 65 or even 70.

That emphasis should be on compulsory entitlement to retire rather than an obligation to retire irrespective of the circumstances prevailing at a particular time. What worries me about the Bill is that it insists that teachers—irrespective of their ability and the contribution they are able to make towards the good running of schools and irrespective of the desires of teachers, pupils and the public—will be forced to retire at a specific age. This will certainly apply to those in promoted posts. There may be a substantial net damage done to educational interests as a result of this compulsory measure.

All Governments over the years have been guilty of using the age of retirement as an artificial way of boosting the employment figures for teachers in Scotland. If we look back over the past 20 years we see that in 1956, at a time when there was a shortage of teachers, the retiral age for promoted and non-promoted teachers was raised from 65 to 70. This was not because of what it might achieve in itself but simply because of the contribution it might make towards the retirement situation.

In 1970 there was a relative increase in the problem of unemployed teachers. So the age of retiral for promoted teachers was brought down to 65 while for non-promoted teachers it remained at 70. Now the age of retiral for non-promoted teachers is also to be brought down to 65. There seems to be a rather arbitrary juggling with age of retiral. What we should be concerned with are the more substantial reasons why unemployment exists in the profession and what can be done to guarantee the livelihood of teachers.

Another point relates to the problems to be faced by the 400 and more teachers to be affected by the Bill. Many of them will have been working, saving and planning on the assumption of at least another five years of employment—and a major factor, when approaching retiral age, is the length of time one can expect to continue in employment on full salary. Now, under the Bill, come 1st January next, unless the local authority wishes them to continue, they will find themselves on the street, with their pension entitlement reduced but without the benefit of the full salary which they had every reason to expect to be receiving for another five years if their health justified it.

This is a dangerous precedent. Many of these people came into the profession, or back into it, only because of enticement by the Government, urging them in the public interest to respond to such blandishments. Now, with the minimum of notice, they will find themselves unemployed without further prospect of employment. These are important problems and reservations about the Bill.

One can say that these problems and reservations have to be accepted in return for the major benefits which the Bill will have. But what are the benefits? The maximum number of jobs which could be created as a result of the Bill is about 400. But we do not know how many of these 400 teachers are in departments where there is a shortage of jobs. I asked the Secretary of State earlier whether that had been taken into account, and what proportion of the 400 were in departments where there were job shortages. I was astonished when he replied that he was unable to give the information because, he said, it was not available, and that it would be up to the local authorities to decide whether they wished to continue with the employment of teachers because of shortages in, say, mathematics.

Before they put forward the measure for compulsory retirement, the Government should have made some effort to establish how many teachers in areas where there were job shortages—in subjects and departments where there were people ready and willing to take these jobs—would continue as a result of the Bill. Surely the Government with all their facilities, should have been able to provide such information. If it turns out that a large proportion of the 400 will be asked to continue by the local authorities, we shall have been wasting our time with the Bill. All it will have achieved is to put into unemployment a small number of individuals without significant benefit in return.

Finally, there is the question of flexibility in the Bill. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) pointed out that in non-promoted posts teachers could continue indefinitely, if the local authority wished, for a year at a time, whereas in promoted posts, teachers could continue only for a maximum of three months. I have a letter on this aspect from Dundee High School. I am not sure why it wrote to me, but it is a matter of general interest.

The school has a rector who reaches his 65th birthday in November. It wishes him to continue as rector, because it employed him on that basis, until June 1977. He agreed to do so in advance of the Bill's publication. As a result of his agreement to continue until June, a programme of internal reorganisation of the departments was put in hand, to be organised by the rector in his final year to be handed over to a new rector as a completed project. The school informs me: It will be extremely difficult for us to complete this particular project if the rector is forced to retire on 31st March 1977. The school authorities press for some flexibility which would allow, instead of the three months which the Bill provides, a period of six months, which is the term which would be required in this case in order to enable the present rector to complete the internal reorganisation which only he is capable of carrying out. The school and the pupils will suffer as a result of the unnecessary urgency in the Bill.

However, when I wrote to the Under-Secretary of State, he replied: To go beyond the period of three months would, in my view, tend to undermine the primary object of the Bill. That is an unfortunate answer. He is saying, in effect, that if there were discretion in the Bill for the authorities in very special cases, such as that of the Dundee High School, to allow, in the overwhelming interest of school and pupils, a certain individual to remain at his post for a mere 12 or 13 weeks longer, it would destroy the purpose of the Bill.

I shall move an amendment accordingly in Committee, and I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will reconsider his answer and will be able to give a more comprehensive reply to these points and, if possible, allow greater flexibility to enable us not only to meet such cases but to welcome the Bill with slightly greater enthusiasm.

6.16 p.m.

Mr. J. M. Craigen (Glasgow, Maryhill)

There seems to be general agreement on the principle of the Bill, which will allow for older teachers over the age of 65 to make way for younger men and women to obtain employment in the teaching profession. However, so many figures have been bandied about that it strikes me that hon. Members are right to have some misgivings about certain of its practical effects.

For example, in June, the Secretary of State advised me that the latest date for which information then available had been analysed was September 1974, when there were 264 and 126 full-time teachers in education authority primary and secondary schools respectively who, by 31st December 1974, would have reached their 65th birthday. He pointed out that information about the number of teachers who had reached their 75th birthday was not readily available. Yet many hon. Members have heard examples of people who are over that age and still teaching.

A genuine problem seems to exist over the matching of subjects in our schools My right hon. Friend, in opening the debate, told us that the problem of the maldistribution of teachers throughout Scotland on a geographical basis has been largely overcome in recent years, but we still have a problem over the supply of teachers for specific subjects. How seriously is this problem being tackled by the Scottish Education Department? We have a shortage of mathematics teachers in our schools, and perhaps we could do with one or two more mathematicians in the Scottish Education Department to sort out some of these figures.

My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Buchanan) said that special consideration should be given to those who came into the profession as a result of the Special Recruitment Scheme. I think that he is right. We have a duty towards those who very often left other employment in order to enter the teaching profession. They should be very sympathetically dealt with by the Scottish Education Department. At the same time, we are going to throw quite a burden on the local authorities, which will have to assess the future requirements. One of the things worrying many people, including those serving on local authorities who have to bear the brunt, is that natural wastage may be used instead of filling vacant posts with the younger men and women we would like to see gaining employment in the profession.

I hope that the Minister, in his reply to the debate, will give us some assurances that the effort now being made by this small measure will result in more jobs becoming available for younger entrants to the profession. Certainly the local authorities will be involved in a good deal of individual case work in ironing out some of the personal difficulties of teachers over 65 who for one reason or another feel that they are being unjustly treated.

With regard to the problem of deprived areas, I was one who argued that the job creation scheme funds should be used for the employment of teachers. However, it was not in my mind that the funds should be used simply as a means of providing short-term employment. Rather I had argued, as the Minister well knows, that the funds, which at that time were available to the job creation scheme in Scotland, should simply be transferred to the Scottish Education Department for the purpose of providing additional jobs.

I am bound to say that many of us at times despair about seeing any real improvements in some of our deprived areas. They are always at the end of the queue at the best of times, and in these lean days we should, if at all possible, be making many more efforts to ensure that at least they can nudge their way a little higher up the queue.

6.22 p.m.

Mr. Hector Monro (Dumfries)

I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen) because a number of the points that I wished to make are very similar to his.

I am, like my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger), supporting the Bill because of the position we are now in, but the reason we are in this position is basically the fault of the present Government. Had the Government's economic policies not been such a miserable failure, and had we not to cut back expenditure in order to survive at all, we should not be introducing a Bill of this nature today, because the local authorities would be able to employ the vast majority of the teachers who have not a job at the present time. This argument applies to teachers themselves, school building, education services generally, and to the auxiliary staff which could be employed. I feel particularly strongly about the fact that under the present Government we have never got off the ground at all with nursery education.

As the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill said, very poor resources have been made available for the deprived areas. But the Government are at the same time perfectly happy to increase expenditure on school milk and school meals. Therefore, while accepting the Bill, I emphasise that it is a culmination of the policies of the present Government.

I hope that the Minister, in winding up the debate, will say something about the inclusion in the Bill of the grant-aided schools. The Minister is busily trying to phase out and abolish the grant-aided schools—an infamous policy, if ever there were one—yet he is including the grant-aided school teachers in the Bill. When will he complete the phasing out of the grant-aided schools? These schools would, of course, much rather have the substantial grants that they would be getting if there were a Conservative Government in power at the present moment.

I should love to know what has gone wrong with the statistical department of the Scottish Education Department. I know that the computer was singularly unreliable and broke down at the first sight of a student grant or allowance, but why cannot we have simple statistics on the number of teachers either in employment or unemployed? Now that there are so few education authorities, surely it is not so difficult to produce the facts that all hon. Members would like to have when dealing with a Bill such as this.

The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State indicated that the number of unemployed was about 450. There are also 1,000 teachers employed on a temporary basis, of course, under the job creation scheme, which we welcome. Some actions taken under the scheme are particularly valuable. But these must be regarded as only temporary jobs, and perhaps the Minister in winding up the debate will tell us whether in general he thinks that this position will continue for a few years to come. This in itself, of course, is a further condemnation of his Government's economic policy, but it would be useful to know that 1,000 teachers are doing something worth while at the present time.

The Government hope that some 400 teachers will retire under the Bill. I do not know whether this is possible for him without a calculator, but, in relation to the 400 teachers, will this retirement work out by subject? I am under the impression that a substantial number of the 400 are in mathematics and science, and that among the unemployed there are not very many in mathematics and science. Shall we, because of the Bill, end up with a shortage of teachers of mathematics and science?

I am sure we all agree that many teachers in the latter stages of their professional life have done most excellent work in a period of great difficulty, when teachers have been in short supply. I feel particularly sad in regard to those teachers who were late starters and came in under the Special Recruitment Scheme. As mature students, they have been particularly valuable to education. Many of them had had experience of life in the professions or in business, and were able to add something to teaching in joining at 35 or 40 years of age. They will now find, unfortunately, that their careers have been shortened by the Bill, and no doubt their pensions have been reduced substantially.

The Minister cannot dodge this issue, and I am sure that he will explain the reason for 1st January as the retirement date. It has been made abundantly clear by the teaching associations that 1st January is the worst possible date in the year. Had 2nd January been chosen, teachers would have had a better pension. Did the Department pluck 1st January out of the blue, or did the draftsmen do this? There seems to be some reason for the Minister going out of his way to cut the pension of these teachers, who are also having their employment terminated.

I hope, too, that the Minister will explain whether he now has time, under the Employment Protection Act, to give the statutory notice to the teachers who will be unemployed on 1st January. As I read it, the teachers are entitled to so many weeks' notice for so many years' service. I am not at all sure that the Minister will be able to fulfil his duty under the Act in respect of those teachers who will leave on 1st January. For the life of me, I do not know why he did not give them their pay at least until the end of the holiday. Each of these cases may well be a personal tragedy to the individual teacher concerned. I hope that the SED and the education authorities will be as sympathetic as possible over the coming months.

I, too, feel that many of the teachers who will be retired compulsorily are those who have given extremely good service in single-teacher rural schools—posts which are supposedly difficult to fill, or so education authorities believe. However, with the number of unemployed teachers at present, I doubt whether that is strictly true. In any event, I feel extremely disturbed about the willy-nilly closure of rural schools despite the protests coming from parents.

Will the Minister also say a little about whether this proposal affects List D schools? It is not clear from the Bill. We are extremely concerned about what the Minister is doing to the List D schools and the action that he proposes in the face of the Mitchell Report which is still not yet before the House—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

We are not discussing List D schools.

Mr. Monro

I appreciate that we are not, Mr. Deputy Speaker. However, teachers in List D schools may be retired compulsorily, and this is very important.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That is a different point. The hon. Gentleman was asking the Minister what he proposed to do about the running of the List D schools.

Mr. Monro

I shall not pursue the matter, of course, but I am sure that the Minister has taken the point that we are gravely concerned about the position of teachers in List D schools now and if he carries out his threat to hand the schools over to the local authorities.

I welcome the improvement in pupil-teacher ratios, both in primary and in secondary schools, which has in effect caused the surplus of teachers. However, as I have explained, this is also due in large part to economic circumstances. Looking back at the 1972 White Paper, we are very much on course in terms of pupil-teacher ratios, teachers in post and pupils in school. Therefore, we must ask the Minister whether the real error here is not the number of students who have been taken into colleges of education, whether as primary students or as graduates. I take responsibility for those who went into colleges in 1973 on three-year courses. They came out qualified this year. However, thereafter it is the responsibility of the present Government, and I want to know why, in the face of the improving situation and in the face of the figures available in the White Paper and in the SED, the Minister apparently continued to allow an increase in the number of entrants to colleges of education, both of primary and of graduate students.

The Minister must look at this position very seriously from the standpoint of graduates. Why was it that in 1975 he allowed in 300 more than 1974–75? Surely, 12 months ago, he could see what was happening. He must have been able to. I cannot believe that he was so remiss as not to look at the figures. Why did he allow in that substantial additional number? Was it the result of pressure from the teachers association or from the colleges, or was it that he did not know when to put on the brake? I am talking about secondary entrants a year ago—

Mr. Teddy Taylor

It was the computer.

Mr. Monro

It is very important that the Minister should answer this question. There is no doubt that the 1973 entrants who are coming out now would have had jobs had we not been in the chronic economic situation that we have today.

Here is a Bill which we have to accept because of Government failure at a time when standards seem to be static and when we should be looking towards an improvement in education rather than a deterioration. Whether it be in discipline, in moral and religious education, in nursery education or even in sport and recreation, we do not seem to be keeping up our standards. All in all, we feel sad that such a Bill is necessary. It is because of the Government's failure to understand the economic facts of life that it is before us. However, in view of what has happened and in order to help the very large number of teachers who are without work, we must support the Bill.

6.35 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Frank McElhone)

If I were to attempt to reply to all the matters raised in this short debate, I should be speaking for an hour—

Mr. Teddy Taylor

There is plenty of time.

Mr. McElhone

As the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) says, there is plenty of time. However, a number of Opposition Members have made positive contributions to the debate and have now left the Chamber. I am surprised that they have not had the courtesy to return in order to listen to the ministerial reply. However, they may yet come in. Time will tell.

It is only fair that I should begin by thanking hon. Members for the interest that they have shown in the debate and for their many positive contributions to it. Of course, I do not agree with all that they have said. But they have shown a lively interest in the Bill and in Scottish education as a whole.

There were a number of accusations made during the debate to the effect that we were forcing teachers out of schools and making life very difficult for them. That is quite untrue.

Let me respond to the main points put forward in the debate. It has been suggested that the Bill discriminates against poorly paid teachers, widows, and others entering late who have short service. This criticism comes mainly from the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association. Of course, the Government recognise that there are bound to be instances when teachers will need to stay in employment for personal reasons. That is why we have an element of flexibility in the Bill. If I may restate the main principles, a promoted teacher retires at 65 and may carry on for three months so as not to disturb a period within a term, and a teacher who is not promoted could go on to 70 prior to this Bill.

The reorganisation of local Government, put forward by the Conservative Party following the Wheatley recommendations, stressed the need to give more and more responsibility and more and more decision making to local authorities. That is what we are doing. We are following the process of Wheatley and local government reorganisation. We are saying to the local authorities that if for any reason they feel that a teacher who should now retire at 65 wishes to go on, he may be allowed to do so at the discretion of the local authority on a year-to-year basis. This will also apply to positions of subject shortage. Although we are glad to see the tremendous increase in teacher supply, we realise that there is a shortage in such subjects as technical education, science, physics and music.

My right hon. Friend made the point that he had been given an assurance by COSLA that it would look at every case in a sympathetic fashion. Those of us who have spent some time in local government and have heard the word given by the local authority chairman of COSLA can be assured by that. The Government think that this is an assurance of great importance and are sure that they can rely on the good will and humanity of education authorities.

There has been more than one reference to the Special Recruitment Scheme. The scheme was intended for applicants under 45 years of age, which means that those retiring now at the age of 65 will have at least 20 years' service. The booklet issued to those interested in the scheme indicated that a teacher could retire at any age after 60 and draw his accrued pension rights. Nowhere does it say that a teacher must stay on until 70 years of age. More than half of those affected will have more than 20 years' service on 1st January. They are those who came in under the late entry scheme.

Mr. Dalyell

Is it correct to say that the Bill will not disadvantage teachers of music?

Mr. McElhone

I regard music as an important part of the curriculum. It is as important as many other subjects. We are thinking about it and all I can promise is that music will get the same treatment as other subject in which there is a shortage.

Mr. Iain MacConnick (Argyll)

In the present economic crisit can the Minister really be saying that the teaching of music is as important as the teaching of many other subjects more closely related to the economic wellbeing of the country?

Mr. McElhone

As he is a gentleman and a cultured Highlander, I would have thought that music was important to the hon. Member as part of his own culture. I do not wish to accuse him of being a Philistine, but I had imagined that he would regard music as part of the Celtic culture of Scotland.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

The Minister has been most helpful but did he say that about half of those affected by the Bill had 20 years' service or more?

Mr. McElhone

I was referring to the special recruitment scheme and those who came in as late entrants.

It has been suggested that the period of three months allowed for the reemployment of promoted teachers is not good enough. In 1969, when the retirement age was reduced to 65, the teachers' unions and local authorities gave that move their unanimous support. In order to open up the promotion log jam the teachers' unions pressed the Secretary of State of the day to allow a reduction to 65. We recognise that today a 65-year-old teacher who is in a promoted post may be engaged to carry on in a non-promoted post if he specialises in a subject in which there is a shortage. It is possible that even a teacher in a promoted post will be a late entrant and get promotion.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) referred to the decision about the rector of Dundee High School. That situation has nothing to do with the Bill. The situation of a rector, which is a promoted post, was decided in 1969 when the teaching profession, unions and local authorities were unanimous in the view that a promoted teacher had to retire at 65. I do not believe that the teaching profession in Dundee in particular will say that a rector or principal is irreplaceable. There are plenty of deputies and others who could fill such a position.

Several hon. Members said that teachers should be given compensation if they have not completed a certain length of service. But at present 90 per cent. of teachers voluntarily retire below the age of 65. The argument is that compensation should be paid for loss of expectations. Section 82 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1962 makes it clear that a teacher holds his appointment during the pleasure of the education authority. Since there is no vested legal right that has been taken away, there can be no vested legal right to compensation.

The most controversial issue which has been raised by all hon. Members is the starting date of 1st January. That date will leave only a few weeks between Royal Assent and the coming into operation of the measure. Several hon. Members have raised the question of a possible conflict with the Employment Protection Act—a matter which was raised by the SSTA in submissions to hon. Members. The issue is not one of losing a job or of redundancy. It is a question of the time of retirement—a subtle difference. There is no question of a school or factory closing down. All hon. Members will accept that 65 is a good age to retire and that it applies to nearly every job in the country.

Hon. Members also questioned the teachers' contract' and asked whether teachers should be paid to the end of the school holidays. When a teacher decides to leave the service or voluntarily to retire, he normally gives four months' notice to the education authority so that his superannuation can be worked out. But hon. Members did not mention that teachers also get a lump sum after a number of years' service. The average figure last year for men was £6,000—a sizeable sum. The amount is justified but many people in industry who do heavy jobs most of their working lives do not have a job expectation until they are 70 years of age, or even until the next day. They certainly do not receive £6,000 in a lump sum when they retire.

For the year ended 31st March the average pension for a male teacher was £2,165 or £40 a week, and for a woman teacher £1,354. The average lump sum paid to teachers in the same year was £6,158 for men—a sizeable sum by any standards. Many hon. Members who were unfortunate enough to lose their seats would be grateful if they could draw a benefit of that size. The average male pensionable salary for the year ended 31st March this year was £4,985 and for a woman, £3,430.

The hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) talked of List D schools, to which this Bill does not apply. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) asked about the distribution of teachers. During his period of office he worked hard on that matter. The director of Strathclyde Education Authority said on 21st October in the Glasgow Herald that in all six areas of the region the staffing was good. He said that the position was comparable with the best in any European country.

We now have the best pupil-teacher ratio we have ever had in Scottish schools. Despite the financial difficulties, teachers' salaries during this Government's period in office have increased by 67 per cent., a sizeable increase by any standard. We must also accept that the primary school figures have been dropping consistently. Strathclyde's primary roll dropped by 7,000 last year, and between 1975–76 and 1979–80 it will drop by over 100,000.

The hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) talked of the Government's not meeting their financial commitments and opting out. He must recognise that for the first time in 30 years we have no part-time education in Glasgow and West Scotland. That is an achievement.

No one is happy about there being unemployed teachers. No one is happy about anyone's being unemployed. But a year or two ago in my area and other areas of Glasgow it was depressing to talk to young people, to find that they had left school with no grades, and to hear them explain "I had a teacher for only half a day". I do not wish to be provocative, but many of us who represented the poorer areas of the city thought that all too often teachers who were supposed to be teaching within the Glasgow Education Authority area opted for the less difficult areas. The East End and parts of my constituency suffered grievously because of the lack of vocation of certain teachers at that time. But I should not be churlish and deny teachers their lump sum and pension. They provide a tremendous service to Scotland, and we look to them to provide the better citizens for the future.

To sum up, it would be wrong to think that we are chasing teachers out of schools, or forcing them to retire, when 90 per cent. retire before the age of 65. A promoted teacher will still have three months to finish the term and not disrupt a school curriculum. A teacher aged over 65 may, with the consent of the local authority, work from year to year—

Mr. Neil Carmichael (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)

Will my hon. Friend consider bringing out one or two points, at least in Committee? He has not mentioned the numbers likely to be affected and the important question, raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), of a circular so that there is fairness between the education authorities with regard to those who stay on and those who are forced to leave.

Mr. McElhone

I can tell my hon. Friend, who, I know, takes a great interest in education, that we shall consider any points raised. If I take the Committee stage, I shall consider any suggestion made by hon. Members on either side of the House.

As for any question of lack of consultation, I have had three discussions with the General Secretary of the SSTA and two with representatives of other teachers' unions. Last Thursday I spent a considerable time with the President and General Secretary of the SSTA. We take very seriously all the matters that are raised. We do not have blinkered attitudes to the benefits of the Bill. We are not saying that we have a panacea for the problem of unemployed teachers, but we do say that the Bill is a useful step forward which we hope will take a fair number of unemployed teachers out of the labour exchanges and will continue to do so from year to year.

Mr. Younger rose

Mr. McElhone

I am coming to the very end of my speech. We are not blind to any sugegstions from either side of the House. Hon. Members will always find me very receptive to any worthwhile suggestions that do not cost a great deal.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. James Hamilton.]

Committee tomorrow.