HC Deb 16 January 1985 vol 71 cc319-22
4. Mr. Home Robertson

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received about his decision not to set up an independent review of teachers' pay.

6. Mr. Norman Hogg

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many representations he has received on teachers' pay since his decision not to set up an independent inquiry into teachers' pay and conditions.

Mr. Allan Stewart

Since my right hon. Friend responded on 11 December to the request by the teachers' side of the Scottish joint negotiating committee for an independent pay review, he has received some 450 representations.

Mr. Home Robertson

Will the Minister confirm that he has received a set of eminently reasonable representations from my constituent, Mr. John Pollock? Is he aware that I have received a substantial number of representations from parents and teachers in every part of my constituency and that every one of them has supported the EIS claim for a fair and independent review of teachers' pay and conditions?

Mr. Stewart

I am interested to learn that Mr. Pollock is a constituent of the hon. Gentleman, but I do not think that that is a matter on which I should comment either way. In replying to the representations that my right hon. Friend has received, he has said that the SJNC could undertake a detailed review of pay and conditions of service. It has been established for about three years and its remit would include such a review, which has not yet been undertaken. That is a reasonable position for the Government to take.

Mr. Hogg

As the Minister's reply confirms that there is no public support for the decision that his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has taken — there is no support among the profession or by parents for his own much-vaunted initiative in this matter — does he agree that he has no case and that he should give instructions for an independent inquiry to take place without further delay, and thereby end any prospect of disrupton in the schools?

Mr. Stewart

Teachers' pay has increased broadly in line with that of other local authority employees. During the four years from 1979 teachers' pay increased by 74 per cent. while social workers' pay increased by 63 per cent. I am surprised at the hon. Gentleman's statement. His former colleagues in NALGO would be surprised to hear him argue that teachers merit special and unique treatment not available to other local authority employees.

Sir Hector Monro

Does my hon. Friend accept that it is important for this issue to be resolved as soon as possible? Will he confirm that the joint negotiating committee will be able to consider all the issues relating to teachers' pay and conditions of service? We hope that that body will report quickly to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who can then reach a conclusion.

Mr. Stewart

I confirm that the SJNC's remit covers pay and conditions of service. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State told the House in answer to an earlier question, he is prepared to meet the SJNC in the near future to discuss this matter.

Mr. Johnston

Is the Minister aware that it is still difficult to understand why the Secretary of State has refused to set up an independent pay review? Obviously, such a review would not be mandatory. Clearly, an objective analysis would allow a fair solution to be found more easily. Such an analysis would avoid the inflaming of feeling—suoh as we have seen already—the bust up that the Secretary of State has just criticised, and gratuitous damage to our children's education.

Mr. Stewart

It would not be right to pass the job of making recommendations to an ad hoc group which had no responsibility for implementing them. Established machinery can undertake such a review, and I believe that that is a perfectly sensible proposition.

Mr. O'Neill

Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that, apart from the purely financial aspects of a strike, the Minister's intransigence is jeopardising the valuable work that has been done in developing the standard grade? That work has been done without extra salaries being paid to the teachers involved. The teachers are now saying that enough is enough and they want to be paid for the work they have done. They feel that they, as opposed to the other professions in Scotland, are entitled to be rewarded for that work.

Mr. Stewart

My right hon. Friend has made provision for the extra work load carried in developing the standard grade. Last week we announced further extra assistance for the teachers involved in phase one. I deplore the disruption that has occurred during the introduction of the standard grade. It is ironic that the EIS asked the Government to speed up the implementation of the standard grade, and that the teachers are now disrupting reforms which are widely agreed to be desirable in the interests of Scottish people.

Mr. Malone

Is my hon. Friend aware that it is desirable that pay and conditions should be linked in any negotiations? Is it not therefore disgraceful that the EIS has rejected out of hand an offer to discuss conditions? Will my hon. Friend clear up a misconception felt by many of my constituents—a misconception that appears to be shared by the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson)—namely that the EIS wants an independent review of pay and conditions? The EIS is interested only in pay.

Mr. Stewart

My hon. Friend is right to say that EIS has asked for an independent review solely of pay. That request constrasts with the early-day motion tabled by some Opposition Members which relates to pay and conditions of service. I believe that it is perfectly reasonable to link pay and conditions of service and to conduct a detailed review of both within the existing collective bargaining machinery.

Mr. Ewing

Is it not a fact that the Under-Secretary of State wants to review pay and conditions in the context of the Government's pay policy — in other words, to get the best out of teachers' conditions and to give the worst return to teachers in the form of salaries? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the blame for the disruption in Scottish education lies firmly at his door and the door of the Secretary of State? In view of that, will the Minister confirm that when the Secretary of State goes to the SJNC meeting he will go to negotiate and not, yet again, to dictate?

Mr. Stewart

My right hon. Friend will, of course, listen carefully, as he always does, to the points that the SJNC put to him. Disruption in Scottish schools lies firmly at the door—

Mr. Robert Hughes

Of the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Stewart

—of those who are causing the disruption. I hope that Scottish teachers will realise that that disruption does not just cause damage to the education of Scottish pupils, but it cannot possibly do the teachers case any good.