HC Deb 13 March 1979 vol 964 cc255-6
9. Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will make a statement on the pending pay claim of teachers.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

The teachers' panel first presented its claim at a meeting of the Burnham Committee on 7 March. In view of the Prime Minister's anouncement, on the same afternoon, of the establishment of a Standing Commission to consider comparability issues, the Committee agreed to resume discussion on 21 March.

Mr. Marten

Are all the members of this panel united in the claim, or do they take different views about it? If the claim is eventually referred to the comparability Commission, with whom are the teachers likely to be compared, particularly in view of their holidays?

Mrs. Williams

I notice that a number of answers have been given from behind the Front Bench to the hon. Member's last point, to the effect that teachers might be compared with Members of Parliament. On the first part of the hon. Member's question, he will have seen from the press, particularly the education press, that there are certain differences of emphasis within the teachers' panel over the claim. On the point about the claim being referred to the comparability Commission, this would be a matter for both sides to agree. My understanding is that the management and the teachers are both now examining that possibility. I cannot yet say with whom the teachers will be compared. That is a matter for the comparability Commission, not the Government.

Mr. Grocott

I recognise that teachers generally have not done too badly since the Government came into office, and particularly since the Houghton award. However, will my right hon. Friend use her influence to see that in any future major award there is a move towards a lessening of differentials in the teaching profession? This would be an example to the rest of the country. Will she ensure that, in future, substantial increases go to new entrants to the profession and to the lower graded teachers, and that less goes to directors of polytechnics and others, who are pretty well provided for already?

Mrs. Williams

It would be for the management and teaching sides to take note of that. My hon. Friend will appreciate that there are great differences of opinion on the matter within the teachers' panel itself. Over the last few years the teachers' argument has been that there has been some erosion of the Houghton comparability. That has been made a major element of their claim.