HC Deb 13 February 1985 vol 73 cc335-6
12. Mr. Douglas

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent communications he has had with the bodies responsible for the negotiation of teachers' salaries and conditions of employment.

Mr. Younger

In my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) on 31 January, at column 272, I reported the outcome of my meeting on 28 January with both sides of the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee for Teaching Staff in School Education. At a subsequent meeting of that body on 7 February the management side outlined proposals for taking forward a review within the SJNC(SE) framework. I understand that the teachers' side is to respond to that initiative at a further meeting of the SJNC(SE) on 15 February.

Mr. Douglas

Will the Secretary of State give an undertaking that if the SJNC decided that it was within its terms of reference to establish an independent body to review teachers' salaries he would not block that development and would still have on the table his responsibility to provide the necessary funds to meet any obligations arising from the deliberations and decisions that finally emanate from the SJNC?

Mr. Younger

I think that I have already answered that question, but, for the avoidance of doubt, I say again that it is up to the SJNC to decide how it wishes to carry out its tasks. I have already said that if it produces a package of pay and conditions that I consider to be attractive I shall do my best to find funds to help to implement it.

Mr. Maxton

Why does the Secretary of State continue to give the impression that he and the management side of the SJNC ar totally separate and independent beings? His representatives are members of the management side, and one of the underlying problems of teachers is that they do not believe that the management side can operate independently of the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Younger

I should have thought that a notable feature of the whole business was that the management side had been obviously independent. For instance, it took the line that it, too, was in favour of an independent pay review, as did the teachers, although it took a different line from the teachers in that it thought it should be a review of pay and conditions. I do not see any question of the management side being other than independent of the other parts of the body. The essential thing for everyone to understand is that the SJNC was set up for the precise purpose of considering and dealing with the pay and conditions of teachers. I suggest that this is the body through which this damaging dispute should be resolved.

Mr. Henderson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a number of people inside and outside the House are concerned that recrimination about the past few months would be unfortunate? It would be better for the teachers to explore fully within the SJNC the kinds of opportunities to which my right hon. Friend referred earlier. Rather than disrupt now, it would be better to explore the opportunities which my right hon. Friend indicated are available within the SJNC.

Mr. Younger

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. It is true that there is a clear way of proceeding and having all the teachers' worries, grievances, and so on properly looked into by the body set up precisely for that purpose. With that in mind, I suggest that all concerned should reflect carefully on whether it is right to disrupt children's educational prospects when there is a good way of resolving the difficulties without doing so.