HC Deb 16 May 1978 vol 950 cc217-9
2. Mr. Gould

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when she expects to receive the report of Committee B on university teachers' pay.

23. Mr. Michael Latham

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she is now in a position to make a statement on the review by Committee B on the timing of the rectification of the anomaly regarding the salaries of university teachers.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mr. Gordon Oakes)

As my right hon. Friend told the House on 5th May, agreement was reached in the negotiating committee that day that the anomaly in university teachers' pay would be rectified in two approximately equal stages on 1st October 1978 and 1st October 1979. I welcome this agreed solution to a long-standing and difficult problem.

Mr. Gould

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is considerable satisfaction in the universities that a long-standing problem is at last on the way to being resolved? Will he also recognise that the last few years of financial constraint on both staff and resources has damaged morale in the universities and that what is now needed is renewed evidence that the Government place a proper value on the contribution they are able to make?

Mr. Oakes

I am aware of considerable satisfaction in the universities that a promise made was a promise kept by this Government in this matter. I am also aware that because of that difficulty there has been some lowering of morale. I hope that that will now pass away and that morale will be quickly restored to normal, as I am sure it will be.

Mr. Latham

Is the Minister aware that those of my constituents who are lecturers at the universities of Leicester, Loughborough and Nottingham will be glad that progress has been made in this way? But they will be well aware that a great deal of time elapsed before a settlement could be reached, and they deeply regret that dilemma.

Mr. Oakes

Yes, some time elapsed because they were difficult negotiations. However, my right hon. Friend said in March of this year that a decision would be made before June of this year, and, indeed, it was made at the beginning of May.

Mr. Grocott

Is not one of the main problems that bedevil pay settlements in higher education the fact that divisions exist between universities on the one hand and polytechnics and colleges of further education on the other? Is it not the case that we shall get some sanity at this level of education only if we have a common comprehensive system of further and higher education?

Mr. Oakes

My hon. Friend has raised a very much wider question, but, as the whole House is aware, there has been an anomaly with university teachers' pay which has existed since 1975. Promises were made by two Secretaries of State that it would be remedied, and I am delighted that it has now been remedied.

Dr. Hampson

How can the Minister of State say that when the Government, in keeping that promise, have drifted and dithered right up to the point at which university staff threaten not to mark finals examinations? Does he believe that that sort of treatment will keep people of brilliance and talent on £4,000 or £5,000 a year in British universities?

Mr. Oakes

We did not drift and dither. There was a threat of this form of industrial action, but the university teachers won their case because of their lack of power of industrial action, which proves that the Government are fair to all sections of the community, whether they have industrial muscle or not.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Will the Minister of State accept that repentance of a sinner is always welcome, even if it is on a death bed?

Mr. Oakes

We are far from dead.