HC Deb 08 June 1981 vol 6 cc179-96

'For Section 91 to 97 of the principal Act there shall be substituted the following sections—

"Pay and conditions of teaching staff employed in providing school and non-university post school education

After consultation with appropriate bodies the Secretary of State shall set up a Standing Review Body to make annual recommendations on the pay and conditions of service of staff employed in providing school and non-university post-school education, recognised teachers' unions, local authorities the Secretary of State and other interested bodies shall be entitled to make submissions on the level of teachers' pay and matters relating to conditions of service to the Standing Review Body. Decisions of the Standing Review Body shall be binding on all parties including the Secretary of State for Scotland.".'.—[Mr. Foulkes.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Foulkes

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

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)

With this we shall take the following amendments:

No. 80, in page 40, line 16, leave out clause 14.

No. 109, in page 58, line 23, leave out schedule 5.

Mr. Foulkes

As the sun rises over London some aspects of Scottish education are still in a Conservative twilight, but on this matter I have high hopes of a breakthrough—high hopes that we shall be able to get the Minister to see reason. We have not had many breakthroughs on the Bill, either in Committee or on Report. The Minister's instransigence is resulting in the backlash from the Opposition. We are getting fed up because, in spite of all the reasoned and reasonable arguments advanced day after day in Committee and hour after hour on Report, we are getting nothing out of the Government other than arrogant statements made around the country and inflammatory comments.

Our suggestion in the clause is made in response to a growing feeling in the country, on both the management and the teachers' sides, that the system for reviewing the pay and conditions of service of teachers in Scotland should be changed. I speak from a little experience in the teachers' salaries and conditions of service committees in Scotland. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) speaks from experience on the other side of another negotiating body.

5.15 am

I have been accused in some places of being a management lackey and of taking the local authority view over teachers' pay. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Milian) did not always see me as a lackey of St. Andrew's House or management generally. I represented 12 local authorities, nine regions and three island councils and had the privilege to serve as chairman of the management side which dealt with teachers' salaries and conditions. It is necessary often to represent particular interests, particular consensus decisions and verdicts reached by majority vote on the management side with which one does not agree. That is a burden that one undertakes on the management side. The new clause would substantially remove that aspect of the matter.

Our experience in relation to teachers' salaries and conditions of service was not always happy. There have been industrial relations problems in Scotland. There have been strikes which did not occur south of the border. Discussions and negotiations have not always been friendly. On the other hand, some constructive progress has been made, resulting in the teacher's contract that provides some security and a framework for teachers that does not exist south of the border. Although there have been problems, some constructive work has been achieved.

A feeling has existed for some time that legislation should be introduced to bring together the committees on teachers' salaries and on conditions of service if the two bodies are to continue. I welcome the minor but long-overdue improvements that have been made. It is, however, the general view outside the Chamber that the time has come for more radical change in Scottish education. This has been motivated by experience during Houghton and post-Houghton. That exercise undoubtedly improved the pay of teachers both in Scotland and south of the border.

I recognise that unfortunate problems arose at the time. My right hon. Friend the Member for Craigton will have a stark and vivid recollection of those problems. The teachers were anxious and impatient about the outcome. All will agree, however, that once Houghton reported, teachers were placed on acceptable scales of pay. In subsequent years, however, the teachers saw their position being eroded. Artificial cash limits were imposed and a concordat reached between local authorities and the Secretary of State. As a result, teachers have formed the view that a standing review body would be more acceptable for settling their pay.

I made this proposal over a year ago. I was pleasantly surprised to discover the huge amount of support that it received from the Educational Institute of Scotland and officers of the institute. Subsequently, they pursued the idea with the Secretary of State. I am sure that the Minister will confirm that he has received submissions from the EIS to the effect that a standing review body would be a more appropriate way of dealing with teachers' pay and conditions of service. Indeed, the Minister would seem to be nodding his head vigorously for this time on a Tuesday morning.

There has been and always will be conflict between the role of a professional organisation that looks after the professional interests of teachers and the role of a trade union. When teaching associations are constrained to take industrial action, pressures fall on them. They have to consider how that industrial action will affect schoolchildren. That is a strong constraint. In many ways teachers are in the same position as doctors, nurses and the Armed Forces. They are told that if they take industrial action they will harm young children and their education and, that, by definition, the children will never be able to return again to that educational stage. Obviously they can never be the same age again. It is said that they will lose that education for ever and will be irreparably damaged.

Local authorities and the Secretary of State exert strong moral pressures on teachers. My hon. Friends and myself agree that either extrinsically or intrinsically such pressure is put on them. It is said that teachers should not strike. Therefore, if we wish to put them in the same category as doctors, nurses and members of the Armed Forces the inescapable conclusion must be something along the lines that has been suggested.

We are in the middle of a problem with civil servants. The Government say that they should not take industrial action because they have responsible jobs. They say that if the civil servants take action they will harm many people and undermine their professional reputation. No doubt that is why the Conservative Government of 1971 systematically established a number of review bodies for certain categories. In July 1971 the Government established the Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration. Its distinguished members include members of the great and good, who always get co-opted or nominated to such positions. They are not revolutionaries, activists or infiltrators. However, as the chap in charge of the Queen's paintings turned out to be on the other side, one begins to wonder.

The list of the great and good includes Sir Robert Clark, chairman of the review body, Professor Graveson, Sir Peter Menzies, Professor Moore, Mrs. Rumboldt, CBE—she is a respectable sounding lady—Sir William Slimmings, Professor G. F. Thomason and Sir Graham Wilkins. That review body is the type of thing that we are discussing in relation to teachers' pay.

Similarly the Review Body on Armed Forces Pay, which was set up in September 1971, includes a list of apparently respectable people, such as Sir Harold Atcherley, Dr. Ewan McEwan, Dame Rosemary Murray, Sir John Read, Baroness Sharples, and Air Chief Marshal Sir Ruthven Wade, KCB, DFC. The Review Body on Top Salaries and the Civil Service Pay Research Unit also exist. Until recently I had thought that the Government would automatically accept that body as one that gave impartial advice and guidance on the salaries of professional people whose withdrawal of labour would cause tremendous problems. Successive Governments have exerted constant moral pressure on such people not to take industrial action.

What we are suggesting is not a revolutionary change. We are suggesting that the Secretary of State should set up the body and that he should make the decision about the great and the good people he chooses to be on it, after consultation with the various interests involved. We suggest that there should be an annual recommendation. That is something that the teachers consider to be vitally important. It would ensure that matters did not drag on.

We also suggest that pay and conditions of service should be taken together. We are suggesting that the body should deal with school teachers and, to use the precise and descriptive, if not elegant, phrase that my hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart advises me is appropriate, with the non-university post-school teachers. We are suggesting that the unions, the Secretary of State and the local authorities should be the people principally involved—the unions on behalf of their members, the Secretary of State representing the public interest, the wider economic interest—representing the views of Government—and the local authorities as the employers of the teachers. They should be the principal people making submissions to the review body.

It would be open to other bodies to make recommendations, but I do not think that they would carry as much weight. We are also suggesting that the body should make a recommendation taking account of the various submissions, from the Government about the economic situation and pay policy generally, from the local authorities, and from the teachers' unions about what their members need to keep up with inflation and to take account of all the other changes in their circumstances. We suggest that the recommendation of the review body should be binding on all parties so that the Secretary of State does not have, as is the case, an override provision whereby he takes part in all the other processes but decides, if he does not like what is recommended, to override the decision and say "I reject this". That is unacceptable. That provision was strongly attacked in Committee and never adequately defended by the Minister.

We suggest that this body of distinguished people should make recommendations that are binding on all the parties. We admit that such a proposal has dangers for the teachers' unions. Such a body will not automatically come out in favour of everything they want. Nor will it come out in favour of everything the local authorities or the Secretary of State wants. We think that it is reasonable to set up a body that will have all the evidence made available to it and that will be as impartial as is possible and take account of all the factors and make recommendations.

I hope that the clause will be seen as a genuine attempt to put forward a new dimension to the discussion about teachers' salaries and conditions of service in Scotland. It will, I think, find general acceptance among teachers and local authorities. It will remove teachers' salaries and conditions of service from the hurly-burly of negotiations, the day-to-day discussions, when many matters raised cause unnecessarily complicated discussions because of the way the machinery is structured. I hope that the clause will be seen as a positive contribution to creating better industrial relations in education in Scotland and to providing a much better and fairer hearing for teachers.

5.30 am
Mr. Alexander Fletcher

I intervene at this stage to respond to the initiative of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Foulkes), who, as he reminded the House, has been putting forward this proposal for more than a year, and I know that he feels strongly about it.

Clause 14 reduces the number of negotiating committees to two—one for school, and one for postal education—and for the first time they will embrace both salaries and conditions of service. When we discussed the matter in Committee, the hon. Member, unlike most of his colleagues, supported the combination of the two functions. I am grateful to him for that.

The hon. Member described the new clause as radical but not revolutionary. I agree that it is not revolutionary, but I shall not comment on whether it is radical, because there are a number of precedents for a committee of this kind. However, the new clause lacks one important ingredient in any type of negotiations—namely, that the negotiations must matter equally to both sides and both sides must have the same responsibility in the negotiations.

The danger with machinery of this kind is that we bring together some great and good people—as the hon. Gentleman described them—to try to establish and recommend a sum that they think will be fair and acceptable. No doubt they try to apply some measure of public interest to that, but the difficulty with any machinery of this kind is that the arbiters are not themselves responsible for finding the money to make the payment. It is an important responsibility of management to conduct negotiations of this kind within the resources that are available to it. Anyone who tries to settle wages should also have to find the money. The absence of that has led, in some of the cases that the hon. Gentleman outlined, albeit with the best of intentions, to most unsatisfactory settlements from the point of view of the economy of the country.

Additional resources do not become available simply because teachers' pay, for example, has been fixed by an independent review body. We cannot give an open-ended undertaking on behalf of the Government and teachers' employers to underwrite any pay increase that an independent pay commission might award. Employers should weigh the merits of pay claims against their other commitments and in the light of the resources that are available to them.

It is, therefore, preferable for employers to conduct their own negotiations with teachers. That is their responsibility. They have charge of substantial resources. About one-third of the funds available come from ratepayers. I correct the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton). I am not an employer of teachers. Teachers are employed by the local authorities, which manage our education system. They have to raise one-third of the funds from rates. The other two-thirds come from rate support grant. They are responsible for resources covering vast amounts of capital expenditure. They must find the balance for pay increases within their resources.

Mr. Maxton

In a legal sense the Minister is correct to say that he is not an employer of teachers. However, in the central institutions and colleges of education he is the sole provider of resources for the payment of lecturers. He is also a full member of all the salaries committees and he intends to continue to be. If he argues that management should have full responsibility, what is he doing on the committees?

Mr. Fletcher

The hon. Gentleman made a marginal point and then spoilt it. The Secretary of State is an employer of the relatively few people employed by the central institutions and colleges, but the majority of teachers and lecturers are employed by the local authorities. We believe that the employer, in allocating resources, has a responsibility to decide what part of the resources should go in salary increases. That is a management responsibility. In the local and national interest, that responsibility is best conducted by those who manage the education system. That is why I cannot accept the proposition.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Those of us who have been Members for a number of years will have a sense of having been here before, not once, but perhaps three or four times. I recall the period between 1970 and 1974, when the same argument was used about the great resentment within the teaching profession. Then it was said that teachers' salaries were falling behind and that their living standards were dropping in relation to inflation.

The argument was at its height when the Labour Government took office in 1974. I had the privilege of being a Minister in that Government. I was Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for education, among other matters. I still have the scars. I recall one of my first meetings as a Minister with representatives of the teaching profession. The case was put forcefully that for almost a decade teachers' salaries and conditions had diminished and that that was resented. They pointed out that the days when the teaching professions were made up of people who enjoyed security of tenure and a status in society that carried them through many salary problems had long since passed. They said that inflation was proceeding at a pace, which is almost exactly the same argument that we hear now. They wanted action to prevent the constant falling behind.

When I returned from the meeting at St. Andrew's House and reported to my colleagues at the Scottish Office, we felt that something had to be done for teachers. We decided to look at the system and the Government machinery. The teachers asked for an independent review of their salaries. They said bluntly that they did not care which party was in office. They did not trust any Government to undertake an honest review. They would trust only an independent review body. The proposition was fed into the Government machine—I put it no higher than that—and as a result of negotiations in Cabinet the Houghton committee was established. It considered the salaries of teachers not only in Scotland but in England.

We went through a difficult period when the teaching professions wanted the review to be undertaken. They were anxious that it should not take too long. The leaders of the teaching unions came under severe pressure from younger members, who felt the ravages of inflation and the difficulties more seriously than their colleagues higher up the pay scale. Eventually they asked for guarantees that the Government would meet the cost of the Houghton committee.

It is worth recalling that, while all that was taking place, a general election was looming. The Government had a narrow majority. It may be that general elections, like hanging or reselection, concentrate the mind wonderfully. I am not sure about that. However, as a result of discussions among ministerial colleagues in the Scottish Office we reached the conclusion that we were prepared to meet the cost of Houghton. But that was not sufficient.

5.45 am

I come to the first of the flaws in the new clause. I have great sympathy with the view that my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Foulkes) puts forward in the new clause, but I am not sure that I can give him my wholehearted support. A flaw occurred when the teaching professions said that not only did they want the Government to meet the cost of Houghton, but that they wanted a global sum of money made available so that they could decide how the cake would be divided. That is a respectable trade union viewpoint—to see the size of the cash and the colour of the money. Having seen that, they wanted to determine how it should be shared. As a trade unionist all my working life, that appeared to be a reasonable proposition.

I was given the job of writing an article for an educational journal about that point. The decision was a Government responsibility. We agreed to meet the cost of Houghton and allow the matter to go before the Scottish teachers' salaries committee for discussion about the allocation of the money. In other words, if the teaching unions were dissatisfied with the amount of money being allocated to the lower end of the teaching pay scale they could raise it, but only within the global amount. I do not think that the leaching unions in Scotland gave the Labour Government credit for setting up the Houghton committee, for meeting their responsibilities and for agreeing to their suggestion that they should have a say on how the money should be shared out. They may say that that was a privilege. I think that it was not a privilege but a right. It was a right that was not extended south of the border.

Some of my hon. Friends talk about the way in which the Government are centred in Whitehall and how we in Scotland are dragged by the coat tails by the Secretary of State for Education and Science in England. They should remember the Houghton experience. My then right hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Prentice) was the Secretary of State for Education and Science. He made it clear to the National Union of Teachers that it must accept Houghton in total or not at all. That caused a great deal of resentment. In negotiations on salaries there are those who want to have their cake and eat it at the same time. They want both ends of the candle and they cannot have them.

The result of the Houghton committee led to Scottish Ministers giving the Scottish teachers the best deal that they had had for a long time. I do not believe thay they have had such a good deal since. Some of the attacks that are made on the Labour Government from that quarter are greatly misplaced.

After the Houghton committee reported we had further discussions with the teaching unions. We said that there was a danger of teachers' salaries—this applies also to other professions—falling behind year after year because Governments would not always have the necessary cash for salaries. We argued a responsible case. We said to the unions immediately post-Houghton that they should bend their minds to establishing a review body that made some sense. I regret that in the euphoria of post-Houghton the opportunity was missed. I do not think that the unions did enough at that time to bend their minds to how they could ensure that the process was not repeated. However, it has been repeated and it seems likely that it will be repeated time after time.

I accept that we must have some form of review body. However, I am worried by the final sentence of the new clause, which states: Decisions of the Standing Review Body shall be binding on all parties including the Secretary of State for Scotland. I do not believe that any responsible trade union would accept submitting evidence to a review body that would become totally binding on it. Unions properly reserve the right to try to negotiate around whatever the review body recommends.

I agree with the Minister—some of my hon. Friends may not like this—that we cannot bind the Secretary of State for Scotland or the employers on the total sum. Sometimes in our discussions on pay and on salaries we have a responsibility to make it clear to those in the employ of the Government that there is not a bottomless purse at a time of severe priorities to which we must attend.

That case should be argued. Sometimes it is a matter of saying to trade unions involved in public service that there is a problem and money is needed to refurbish schools and to invest in adult education or whatever it happens to be. There is only so much that can be spent, and the trade unions may be asked to hold back for a temporary period.

The problem with all the permanent review bodies that have been set up is that not one of them in the last 10 years has seen the total amount of money it has recommended paid in every case. There was a year when the Labour Government did not meet the doctors' and dentists' review body recommendations for the medical profession—and rightly so, I believe.

If we are asking people to make a sacrifice, as we were during the time of the Labour Government, those who are in the top echelons of the pay scale must make their sacrifice as well. The trouble is that once one sets up the permanent review body, especially with a clause which says at the end that Decisions of the Standing Review Body shall be binding on … the Secretary of State for Scotland", how does one get out of the situation when the conditions set by the review body cannot be met?

That is the hook on which the Government have impaled themselves in relation to the Civil Service. They arbitrarily scrapped the Pay Research Unit. They did not do so by negotiation. If one sets up a review body, there must be some way of negotiating around it. I make it clear that I am not defending the Government in the Civil Service dispute. It is scandalous that they decided to scrap the Pay Research Unit, tried to impose cash limits and then said that the matter would be discussed next year.

We must be extremely careful about setting up permanent review bodies that make binding recommendations because they take away the element of negotiation and build up resentment. If the Government say later "Sorry boys, we will not accept your recommendation this year because it is binding", presumably there will have to be legislation that unbinds it.

When dealing with something as sensitive as education, one has to be careful. I concede that in this debate I shall make more enemies than friends. However, I have waited a long time for the opportunity to discuss the issue.

Mr. Maxton

The press is not here at this time of the morning.

Mr. Hughes

I do not care whether the press is here. Perhaps it is a pity that we are discussing the matter at this time in the morning, when the light of day should be shed on it.

I shall never forgive the teaching unions for hitting the working-class areas when they went on strike. They know that, as I have told them it before. The teachers in the well-off schools in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen did not come out on strike. They made sure that that part of education was covered. The areas of deprivation suffered more. In criticising that and saying that it was wrong, perhaps we should understand that teachers in deprived areas—without being unkind or patronising—often have material which does not seem to be much interested in education, and there may be difficult classes and circumstances and a shortage of staff. The resentment bit deep into those teachers who had struggled for years to try to improve education in those areas where they were being given a kick in the teeth. That is why my hon. Friends should be careful about what they are doing.

I sympathise with, understand and support the idea of a review body regularly to report on what is happening and to provide a firm, factual basis for negotiations, but I hope that a Labour Government would not set up a review body on such terms, believing that easy choices can be made over public expenditure. Things will be much more difficult. Under this Government public services have been destroyed. What is worse, as a consequence resentment is building up among public service employees that will be difficult to dissipate.

Ever since they came to office the Government have attacked public service employees as being in well paid jobs for which everyone would clamour. They blame many of our economic problems on the number and pay of public sector workers. I do not refer to the current dispute. Teachers are also public sector employees. The attack is driven home that public sector workers are overpaid, underworked, there are too many of them and they are not doing their job. The resentment has gone deep. Teachers' disillusionment with the Government over pay is deeper now than it was in 1974 and when we were trying to resolve matters in relation to Houghton. We must not give the impression that we are making promises that we may not be able to keep.

Let us try to establish a review body to provide a factual base so that we can look at teachers' pay with sobriety and without allegations that the Government are trying to cook the books. That is essential if we are to have proper negotiations. Governments have at times sheltered behind the concordat with the employers. This Government have become more and more involved in the total amount of money available.

Anyone with experience in pay negotiations knows that free collective bargaining is a bit of a myth. The employer knows how much money he is prepared to make available. The only way to establish trust in negotiating Scottish teaching salaries is for the Government not to hide behind concordats but to try to make the money available. They must not arbitrarily set a rigid cash limit. That approach leads to disaster. They must negotiate on the sum available. The Government must be flexible, and part of the money may have to come from rates. The Government must come clean. They are represented—and will continue to be under the Bill—on the Scottish teachers' salaries committee. They should declare their hand and not have phoney negotiations. If our education system is to progress, we must get salaries right.

I understood my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire to say that many people in the teaching profession had come round to the idea of some kind of review body, but I should be very surprised if they had come round to the view that a review body in the terms of the new clause would be acceptable.

This has been a valuable discussion and there is certainly merit in the new clause as far as it goes, but I certainly could not support it if it were pressed to a Division so long as the last sentence remains in it. I hope that this very valuable discussion will carry on from here. The problem will return time and again to haunt us, and it will destroy us if we do not get it right.

6 am

Mr. Hugh D. Brown

My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) made a most interesting speech. He sounded a little bitter about his experiences with teachers. Frankly, I do not blame him. That was a particularly unfortunate period, post-Houghton, with an ungraciousness about it that was almost bewildering, considering that the Houghton recommendations were the best on record. I know that both my hon. Friend and my right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) were deeply involved in it.

This is yet another debate that merits a better time and certainly a larger audience. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Foulkes) will now appreciate why I was girning at him earlier rather than wasting time on the trivial stuff, because this is fundamental to the future of education.

My excuse again is a constituency one to some extent. I received a telegram. I do not know how many other hon. Members received telegrams. I have a very active office-bearer of the NAS/UWT, who is a constituent as well as a teacher in one of the secondary schools. The telegram reads as follows: Request support in opposing attempt to impose statutory control of teachers' conditions. Urge support for genuine voluntary negotiations. Quite honestly, I am not sure whether that means that I am supposed to support the new clause or not, because in the light of what my hon. Friend said it is not a voluntary arrangement that is proposed. Without further guidance from the union concerned, therefore, I have decided not to support the new clause.

To me, one of the tragedies of the teaching profession is that there are three organisations representing the teachers. They are even worse than engine drivers, and that is saying something. I am always amazed, considering the calibre of some of the people involved in leading the teachers' organisations—I do not mean merely the current leaders—that better efforts have not been used to get the organisation together. To me, that is a constant reminder that a good education does not necessarily imply common sense. It is one of the tragedies of an undoubtedly difficult situation. To some extent it is related to the problem highlighted by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North. That is to say, there is always the dilemma of carving up the cake in accordance with some academic qualification rather than the skills that are required and, indeed, the more difficult tasks that some teachers have in certain areas.

I do not wish to take up any more of the time of the House on this matter at this time of the morning, but my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North missed one important point in that difficult period, namely, the fact that the miners had just brought down a Conservative Government. That may or may not have been a good thing. To me, anything that brings down a Conservative Government is a good thing, but there was a price to be paid, in the so-called increase in militancy in organisations that felt that that industrial muscle was the only way to get justice. It would be unfortunate it that were the only factor that determined the success or otherwise of a wage claim. If that were so—and there is a lot of truth in it—it would mean that some other deserving occupations would hardly ever get a decent wage award.

I address my remarks to my hon. Friends, because the Government have nothing to contribute in this regard. They are totally incapable of arriving at solutions that would be accepted by the trade union movement or the Labour movement generally. I often wonder whether we shall ever be able to do it, but certainly the Conservative Party will not be able to do it.

Challenges face us. My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire should know better. He should not try to deceive people. He should face the crucial question that has been faced by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North, namely, whether or not the Government of the day should have an overall veto. My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire might be in Government some day. Perhaps he does not think that it matters, but he should make up his mind, because he may have to decide on such issues. On the basis of common sense and justice, the Government of the day must have the veto.

I do not dress the matter up in elegant language by mentioning such things as salaries committees. At the end of the day that part of the machinery that finds the bulk of the money will call the tune. We therefore deceive ourselves as well as the teachers if we think that some kind of review body—be it for the teachers, the Armed Forces, the police, doctors, dentists, Members of Parliament or top salaried people—is the answer. I know of no Government who would give a commitment in advance that they would inevitably accept the total findings of such a review body. In any case, it would not make sense to do so.

That is why I believe in an incomes policy. I am not afraid to say that. I only wish that some of my so-called Left-wing colleagues would face this question. [Interruption.] I do not want to get bogged down in an argument about whether the Labour Government's incomes policies were right. In principle, there must be an incomes policy.

Whether or not we accept the need for one, we should realise that one always exists in the public sector. Therefore, it is grossly unfair not to recognise that we should have some kind of machinery to embrace the private sector as well. We should accept that an incomes policy exists in the public sector, because we shall never get sanity in wage negotiations and industrial relations until we recognise that basic fundamental fact.

The nonsense talked about free collective bargaining has done more harm to a sound basis for planning a future Socialist society than any other piece of sloganising of which I know.

Mr. Ernie Ross

My hon. Friend talks about an incomes policy in the public sector. It is clear that the money that a Government can assemble, either through taxes or other means, amounts to a global sum. If we accept that a Government can pay only so much in wage increases, we hope that the money that is left will be used constructively in other areas.

However, it is nonsense to compare the public sector with the private sector, because if an incomes policy were applied to a private company there would be no guarantee that it would use the remaining money constructively. In fact, during the 1975 "con trick" the resources were not used constructively. They were invested overseas and eventually worked against us.

Mr. Brown

I am not attempting to justify all that happened in the past. I am trying to suggest that we need an incomes policy or some kind of body that will look at the contribution that workers make to society. We must take into account the different skills, the length of training, the apprenticeship, the motivation, and the dangerous nature of some occupations. We must take these into account in a rational manner, irrespective of whether it be for private industry or the public sector.

I do not have time to go into greater detail about that. All that I am saying is that this is one of the fundamental facts that Socialists should accept. We should not be dependent on the fact that an industry in the private sector is profitable. For instance, the tobacco and whisky industries are profitable. It has not been militancy that has achieved high earnings in some industries; it is the fact that, for historical and other reasons, they have been profitable. If we beg these questions we do no service to those whom we hope to represent in the future.

I do not know whether the Opposition Front Bench will be giving us any guidance on the new clause, or whether they have given up. I shall make up my own mind, as usual. I cannot see myself supporting the new clause.

Mr. Maxton

So far, this has been a very interesting debate. Is my right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) muttering "It now ceases to be so"?

It is to be regretted that the Minister responsible for education in Scotland made his intervention so early and, presumably for good reasons, has had to leave the Chamber. If he had listened to two ex-Ministers of the Scottish Office he might have learnt some lessons. They made very interesting contributions. I did not agree with everything that they said, although I make it clear to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Brown), in contradiction to what my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) may say, that, as a Socialist, I believe in an incomes policy. One cannot talk of an organised, planned society in which one ignores and omits one important element—incomes. Everyone roust accept that.

For a long time I negotiated in the public sector. I am very well aware that there is always an incomes policy in the public sector, even more so than with teachers. I negotiated essentially in an area in which the total amount of money available was given by the Government and did not come from rates or anything else. It came direct from the Government. Therefore, it was always under the constraint of what the Government felt able to give at any point.

Although I take the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West, that if one has an incomes policy that applies to those in the public sector and no incomes policy in the private sector one finds that the public sector falls behind and, as a result, difficulties develop between the two sectors. This is a very difficult question for many of us. We must look at it very seriously.

The debate has been interesting, too, because I think that we have had—and we will continue to have—contributions from the three broad aspects that make up teachers' negotiations and salary negotiations in education in Scotland. The management side of local authorities has been represented by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Foulkes). A previous Government has been represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), who was a Minister in charge of education and who for about eight years was involved in salary negotiations for a relatively small sector of education. We had responsibility for negotiating for that sector solely, without interference from any other unions. Therefore, we can bring considerable experience to bear across the spectrum to the debate. My hon. Friends are right in saying that it is a pity that the debate is taking place so early in the morning.

6.15 am

The debate covers the amendments that seek to delete clause 14 and schedule 5. My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire believed that he tabled the amendments to facilitate his new clause. In broad terms, he has reservations about certain aspects. He accepted clause 14 and the schedule. I do not accept clause 14. I accept some parts of it, but I would probably reject more, and I therefore accept amendment No. 80 in its own right. There are strong arguments for saying that now, though not for ever, we should delete clause 14 and schedule 5 so that we can have a better discussion. This morning we have started a better discussion on how to carry out salary negotiations in Scotland.

I shall briefly give my reasons why I think that clause 14 should be deleted. There are three main reasons. There are always dangers in saying "three", because either one forgets one of them or remembers a fourth and a fifth. I shall try to limit myself to three, or try to remember three.

First, I do not believe that there has been proper consultation on the new negotiating machinery in the Bill. That may seem surprising to some hon. Members and to my hon. Friends, because the Houghton committee reported in December 1974 and the sort of negotiating machinery and the way in which it has been structured was largely drawn from the recommendations of the committee at that time.

It may be thought that in nearly seven years some consultation must have occurred. For six of those years I was a member of the negotiating committee and for four of them the chairman of the union involved in the area. I cannot remember—I have spoken to colleagues who are still in that union, and they cannot remember either—any occasion when we have spoken either to Ministers or to Ministers' advisers about this new negotiating machinery. Immediately after Houghton we were invited to produce a written submission, but thereafter there was no discussion. The teachers and the local authorities pressed the Labour Government and then this Government for the machinery to be introduced. When it finally comes it will be a fait accompli, laid down in the Bill without the smaller unions being involved in the discussions. There may have been discussion with the EIS, but the smaller unions affected have not been consulted.

It would be preferable if the clause were removed so that consultation could take place. If we are to have negotiating machinery it must be accepted fully by both sides. They should work it out together with the Secretary of State and agree that that is the best way in which to operate. That should have happened.

My second reason for reservations about clause 14 is the Secretary of State's power under it. My hon. Friend the Member for Provan raised some interesting points abut the Government's veto and their place in the negotiating machinery. I do not disagree, but he was a little scornful of my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire, saying that he must be realistic.

One of the problems that underlie the present negotiations, and will underlie the negotiations again under this provision, is that the Secretary of State uses his veto behind the cloak—almost hidden in secret—of the management sides, whether they be local authorities or the governing bodies of colleges of education or central institutions. Every time the teachers say "You are the employer therefore you must be involved", we hear—as the Minister said in an intervention—"We do not employ any teachers at all in Scotland. We are not the employer". But under the negotiating machinery, both as it is now and as it will be established under this provision, the Secretary of State will clearly have a veto.

All of us who were involved in the salary negotiations in the past—and this will continue to be true—knew that despite the fact that there might be 10 other people on the management side, representing local authorities and boards of governors of colleges of education and central institutions, the person that one was really talking to was the Secretary of State's nominee on the negotiating committee concerned. He is the person who will have the ultimate responsibility of deciding what sum of money will be made available. Even in the local authority area there is little that the rest of the management side can put forward as an offer to the trade union concerned. The matter is almost entirely in the hands of the Secretary of State's nominees.

Time and again throughout the teachers' dispute last year the Secretary of State said at the Dispatch Box "It is not my responsibility. It is the responsibility of the local authorities to settle the matter." Yet everyone knew that of course it was his responsibility; that he was the person deciding how much money should be spent.

It is not only the power that I object to in clause 14. I object to the fact that the Secretary of State will decide the maximum number of persons on each side. He will decide who shall be invited in the first instance to come on to the committee. One small point—the subject of a later amendment—is that he will be able to invite representatives of bodies that he considers to represent teachers. As a trade unionist I strongly object to that. The Secretary of State should invite to represent teachers only trade unions recognised under the law and recognised as affiliates of the Scottish TUC, not hotchpotch bodies that have few members but seem to have inordinate influence.

The Secretary of State becomes a full member of the management side. He sets up the committee and decides who will sit on it, and he will now become a full member of it. He wants to have his say, although he will deny that anything that it does is his responsibility.

When the committee makes a decision on the salary award, or if there is a dispute between the two sides over the award, the matter will go to arbitration. As a member of the management side the Secretary of State will have a say in deciding whether it should go to arbitration, and some say in settling the remit of the arbiter. Once the arbiter decides on the award, the Secretary of State wants another bite at the cherry. He wishes to be able to say that he does not accept the arbitration decision. He also has the right to say that he does not accept the pay settlement that will be decided. Throughout the process the Secretary of State has the power to set up the committee, to sit on the committee, and finally to overrule the decision of the committee or the arbiter. The Secretary of State seems to have been given too much power in what should be a negotiating committee.

Unlike almost all my hon. Friends, I have some reservations, especially in the post-school sector, about the linking together of conditions of service and salaries. My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire disagrees. At present, three different systems of education, including colleges of further education and the central institutions, which themselves range from what are essentially polytechnics to drama, music and nautical colleges, have different conditions of service.

There are grave fears among many people in the post-school system, and probably in all areas, that a process of bringing together will mean a lowering of conditions of service in some, if not all, areas and that there will be a search for common ground, in which some are bound to lose. I should therefore like to see clause 14 deleted. A possible answer is to establish the pay review board, although I accept some of the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North.

The deletion that I propose would permit a proper discussion of some of the points about the salary negotiating machinery made by my hon. Friends—points that should be heeded. My amendment may not be the perfect answer. It would, however, represent an improvement on clause 14. If what I propose were allowed to exist for two or three years to allow a better negotiating machinery to be established, this might be a better way to proceed.

I recall the submission by the Association of Lecturers in Colleges of Education in Scotland—I was at the time its chairman—to the Houghton committee in September 1974 and our meeting with the committee at the Post House hotel in Edinburgh. The committee did itself quite well on its perambulations around the country. Its members were probably right to stay in good hotels.

The Houghton committee questioned us on our proposal that there should be a permanent standing review body on teachers' pay. The point of the Houghton committee was that teachers' salaries had fallen badly behind those found in comparable jobs. The Houghton report shows that that was so. In the Houghton report the increase was not the annual pay increase, because in April 1975 we negotiated a further pay increase in line with inflation. That was our pay policy that year. In some cases there was a 30 per cent. increase in salary, because the Houghton committee thought that teachers' salaries had fallen behind by that amount in comparison with similar areas of work.

6.30 am

Many organisations—not just my own—suggested that a permanent pay review body should be established to overcome such problems. It was thought that in that way teachers' pay would not fall behind. There would be an annual review, which would maintain the level of teachers' salaries. At that time we were negotiating for most of the time purely with the Secretary of State. However, teachers' salaries fell behind. In addition, the Secretary of State took decisions that we thought should have been taken by a review body. We thought that a review body's recommendations should provide the standard upon which negotiations were based. We thought that that would be a better means of ensuring that Scottish education was not disrupted.

Houghton's failure to establish a pay review body meant that teachers' salaries fell behind again. Teachers always found themselves in the trap of having no industrial muscle. Their salaries fell behind because they could not get anything more than the bare norm that the Government were prepared to give. If there had been a permanent review body that problem might have been overcome.

The wording of the new clause may have its faults. Nevertheless, Ministers should seriously consider the matter and discuss it with local authorities and the education trade unions. They should withdraw clause 14 so that such discussions can take place. There is no rush. There is no reason why the existing salary and conditions of service committees should not continue for another 12 months. They have continued for seven years since the Houghton report, and one year, or even two years, will not make much difference. There is no great problem. The teachers have negotiated for seven years and I see no reason why they cannot negotiate now, while we try to find a proper solution rather than the hotchpotch of clause 14.

Mr. Bruce Milan (Glasgow, Craigton)

The debate and the points raised by my hon. Friends have raised the question of public sector pay. Hon. Members will be glad to know that I intend simply to comment for a few minutes on the new clause. All Governments face difficulties in terms of public sector pay. Hon. Members should recognise that fact. We can see the problems that the Government have got themselves into with the Civil Service. The Government began by saying that they would not get involved in any form of incomes policy, but they are now applying one severely in the public sector. They are acting unfairly and arbitrarily by refusing to negotiate with the Civil Service.

It is ironic, in that context, and an illustration of the difficulty of dealing with public sector pay, that, as I understand it, some kind of independent inquiry is being talked about, between the Government on the one hand and the Civil Service unions on the other. Whatever form that inquiry takes, whether it be a Royal Commission or something else, it will be looking into the question of how the civil servants should have their pay decided. The Government have apparently abandoned the Pay Research Unit and the various obligations that used to follow from that.

If we set up a standing review body or a Royal Commission, a pay research unit, or whatever, it cannot be done in a vacuum. It has to be done in the context of some terms of reference, and in the context of some overall policy. One of the difficulties about the new clause is that setting up a standing review body does not by itself solve the problem of teachers' pay.

First, it is unrealistic to say that the decision shall be binding on all the parties. Apart from anything else, I do not think that the teachers' trade unions would accept that. That is always one of the difficulties. I may be wrong in my recollection, but it is not my impression that the obligation was accepted at the setting up of the Houghton committee. The unions then were anxious that the Government should accept an obligation that the recommendations would be binding, but they were not anxious to accept that obligation themselves. In practical terms that is not something that can be made to stick.

It may be made to stick on one occasion, but it cannot be made to stick if one is dealing with a permanent review body as distinct from an ad hoc inquiry, as Houghton was. In any case, it has to be done in some kind of context, and with terms of reference. The Civil Service arrangement was arrived at in a particular context. The idea of the Civil Service Pay Research Unit was to find out, in effect, what happened in analagous occupations in private industry and bring the civil servants into line. That is a perfectly understandable way of going about deciding Civil Service pay. The Government have abandoned it in a completely unilateral and arbitrary way. At least there were terms of reference for the Civil Service Pay Research Unit—

Mr. Bill Walker

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that this is not the first instance of pay research being suspended, together with the findings of the unit?

Mr. Millan

Yes. What I was saying was that there has to be some kind of context in which any review body operates. That inevitably involves the Government taking some kind of view about public service pay. I include teachers' pay in that category of public service pay. In a sense, for the teachers or anyone else to ask for a standing review body on its own does not provide any kind of solution to the problem of teachers' pay or to the pay problems of any category of worker. It has to be done in some context.

It is ironic that we should now be arguing for a standing review body for teachers' pay, in view of what happened to the Clegg commission. That dealt with the question of comparability. It was intended to have the effect—and, as far as it was allowed to, it did have the effect—of ensuring that teachers' pay did not fall behind. The report on the way in which it operated was greeted with tremendous hostility by teachers' associations in Scotland. I say now that I think that they were extremely foolish in their attitude to the commission. I say that now because I said it at the time to the teachers. That demonstrates the difficulty of achieving something that is absolutely right and is set in the proper context.

We must set in a general context the standing review body—another kind of reference body, comparability commission, or whatever we have, for teachers' pay. It is putting the cart before the horse to set up the bodies without having decided the terms of reference or without an understanding of what those terms of reference are likely to be.

For that reason, I do not recommend my hon. Friends to press the new clause to a Division. Clearly there is division of view among my hon. Friends on the matter. Nevertheless, we have had an interesting and useful debate. The new arrangements in the Bill—in clause 14 and elsewhere—will not solve the problems of teachers' pay. They may provide a slightly better arrangement in a technical and procedural sense, but they will not prevent the Government from interfering in free negotiations on teachers' pay, as the Government have already done, not by the direct method of exercising the veto in the teachers' salaries committee, but by the indirect and equally effective method—from their point of view—of denying local authorities the opportunity of engaging in genuine free negotiations with teachers by denying them money through the rate support grant to pay for the salary decisions that such negotiations might bring about.

The Bill will not solve the problem of teachers' pay; neither will new clause 8, unless the idea of a standing review body is considerably elaborated in a way that I do not think possible in the legislation, and particularly without an understanding of the context and terms of reference in which such a review body would operate. For that reason I hope that my hon. Friend, having ventilated the matter in a useful way, will not press the new clause to a Division.

Mr. Foulkes

I appreciate the spirit in which all the speeches have been made. The debate has been constructive. Even my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Brown), although he felt that his remarks were not constructive, was not in any way unconstructive.

I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) that we have not achieved perfection in the new clause. It is difficult to do that. However, we hope that it has ventilated the issue and provided an opportunity for a debate on a matter that the major trade union sees as a way forward, in the longer term, in pay negotiations.

I accept what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) and others, that before introducing such a proposal more discussions would be needed with trade unions and local authorities. I accept, too, that the matter should be put into the general economic context, as my right hon. Friend said.

I agree with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes). I remember his time as Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science. He gave us the remarkable go-ahead for the Wester Hailes community school and for the Lothian region to take over the borrowing consent of the previous authority.

The purpose of the new clause was to air the issue and provide an opportunity for consideration. Now that it has been considered, I hope that the matter will be looked at in the longer term by the Government—or, as is more likely, by the new Government after the next election. I hope that our debate today will start the ball rolling in that direction.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

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