HC Deb 23 July 1985 vol 83 cc852-6
7. Mr. Nellist

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on the current teachers' pay dispute.

9. Mr. Yeo

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement about the teachers' dispute.

10. Mr. Baldry

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on the present teachers' pay dispute.

13. Mr. Dormand

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on the current teachers' pay dispute.

17. Mr. Evennett

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on the current status of the teachers' pay award negotiations.

19. Mr. Campbell-Savours

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the current state of negotiations in the teachers' pay dispute.

21. Mr. Proctor

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on the current teachers' dispute.

Sir Keith Joseph

I very much regret that this harmful and unnecessary dispute continues. The employers have indicated a willingness to increase what is on offer, if the unions are prepared to show flexibility. For my part, I have offered additional Government resources next year for teachers' pay and to help meet the cost of removing midday supervision from teachers' standard duties provided there is satisfactory progress by October towards our objectives for improving the quality and standards in the schools. Only on this basis are the Government willing to see additional resources made available.

Mr. Nellist

In the Secretary of State's attempts to resolve the teachers' pay dispute, how does he regard one of the Prime Minister's answers last Thursday, which told us that a senior civil servant in the Department of Education and Science is to receive a 30 per cent. rise in his wages, which is six times that which is being offered to the teachers? Was that "helpful" intervention by the Prime Minister naive and stupid, or merely arrogant? Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that that will stiffen the resolve of teachers and their unions to get a just settlement and a decent wage for teachers?

Sir Keith Joseph

Exactly the same purposes as were being served by the Top Salaries Review Body, most of whose recommendations the Government have accepted, are being served by the additional taxpayers' money which I, on behalf of the Government, have been offering for over a year to transform the teachers' career and promotion structure, if they will only negotiate.

Mr. Yeo

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, without condoning the strike action that is being taken by some teachers, there are grounds for being concerned about the low level of morale in the profession? Anything that he can say which reiterates his appreciation of the good work that many teachers are doing will be of great comfort to them and to the parents of children at school.

Sir Keith Joseph

I can only repeat what I have said many times, that many teachers do excellent work, often in difficult conditions. As for morale, I wish I could be sure that all teachers realise that the Government have been offering for a year additional taxpayers' money in order to transform promotion and career prospects for teachers.

Mr. Baldry

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that it is the Government's intention to have a well motivated properly remunerated, well rewarded teaching profession which is able to recruit and retain good quality candidates, so that, for example, good quality chemistry graduates may feel that a career in teaching will be attractive? Will my right hon. Friend clearly state the sort of restructuring proposals which he would be able to commend to his colleagues in the Cabinet?

Sir Keith Joseph

I agree with my hon. Friend. I have made it plain for over a year that the Government are prepared to find additional money from the taxpayer in order to transform the promotion prospects of teachers. I hope that the teachers' representatives and the employers will soon get down to negotiating such a package, so that this opportunity to improve the schooling of our children is not lost for the second year running.

Mr. Dormand

Will the Secretary of State confirm that he was prepared to accept a higher settlement than that which was publicised, and that it was acceptable to the teachers but was blocked by the Prime Minister? Does he not recognise the strength of feeling among teachers, and that the teachers' case is overwhelmingly supported by parents? How much more damage is he prepared to see done to our schools?

Sir Keith Joseph

I respect the hon. Gentleman, but the first part of his question is based on a complete misconception. The hon. Gentleman is wholly remote from the truth in the suggestion contained in the first part of his question. As to the second part of his question, I wish that he and his colleagues in the Opposition parties would address their minds to the Government's overwhelming priority, which is better schooling for all children of all abilities. That is the great purpose that the Government are seeking to serve, and I hope that the Opposition will give their support to that purpose.

Mr. Proctor

Is it not the case that, in negotiations over many previous years, pay and conditions of employment have not gone together? My right hon. Friend is to be congratulated on trying to bring pay and conditions together in these. negotiations.

Sir Keith Joseph

If my hon. Friend is saying that in recent years pay and conditions have not been negotiated together, I regret that that is the truth. I am grateful to him for encouraging the efforts which the Government are making to bring the two together.

Mr. Flannery

When will the Secretary of State face reality? In the Select Committee this morning I told him that if the Government had given the £250 million to the teachers which they gave gratuitously to Johnson Matthey, we would not have all this trouble. Is it not a fact that, as a result of all the money being paid to generals, admirals and top civil servants, the Government do not know where they are? While talking about the subject this morning, the Secretary of State said the opposite to what the Prime Minister said about vouchers. He said that he was against them. The other afternoon the Prime Minister said that she was for them.

Sir Keith Joseph

The hon. Gentleman is misleading himself. If he looks at the record he will find that in the Select Committee this morning I said that vouchers, after careful examination by the Government, were off the agenda. I have not said I am against them. On the first point, I must seek once again to try to recruit the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues for the great purpose of improving schooling for the children of all abilities of this country. If yet another year passes with an indiscriminate increase to the teachers and nothing in return negotiated by union leaders, we shall not make progress to what should be a common purpose, namely, better schooling for children of all abilities.

Mr. Fisher

If the purpose behind the pay offer to which the right hon. Gentleman referred earlier is to recruit, retain and motivate people of the right quality, how can that purpose be fulfilled by two such enormously different pay offers as that to the teachers and that to top salaried people? Is that the reason why, at a conference last week, the right hon. Gentleman's remarks were greeted with cries of "Rubbish". "Shame" and "Crap" — [Interruption.] Is it not time that the Secretary of State resigned?

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is not a very nice word to use.

Mr. Fisher

I was quoting from a newspaper report, Mr. Speaker.

Sir Keith Joseph

Even if some remarks of mine are not greeted as immediate revealed truth, I still maintain that the purpose behind the Top Salaries Review Body's recommendations and the purpose behind the Government's offer to the teachers of additional taxpayers' money for the right package are precisely the same—to recruit, retain and motivate, in this case, teachers of the right quality.

Mr. Greenway

Will my right hon. Friend disregard the extravagant and crude language of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) and look at the offer of remuneration for midday supervision by teachers, which is very valuable? Is there any reason why negotiations on his offer of remuneration to teachers undertaking midday duties should not be started with those teachers and unions prepared to talk?

Sir Keith Joseph

Even from my hon. Friend I am not prepared to see unravelled the package on which the Government's offer of additional money from the taxpayer is based.

Mr. Radice

Can the Secretary of State say whether, in the Cabinet, he supported the decision to give so-called top people very large increases in salaries?

Mr. Maclean

What did Labour do in 1978?

Mr. Radice

Does the right hon. Gentleman even now not understand the outrage of paying his Department's chief civil servant an extra 30 per cent. to supervise a policy of limiting the pay increases of classroom teachers to 6 per cent. at the most? I have to tell the right hon. Gentleman that, for sheer inconsistency, insensitivity and bad timing, the decision on top people's pay is hard to beat.

Sir Keith Joseph

The answer to the hon Gentleman's first question is yes. The answer to the second part of his question is that in 1978 the Labour Cabinet accepted the recommendation of the Top Salaries Review Body for salary increases of 35 per cent. for the grades covered. Why is what was right for a Labour Government in 1978 wrong for a Conservative Government now?

Mr. Freud

Are not applications to enter teaching training colleges vastly down this year compared with last year, and is that not proof of the argument that we must pay teachers more if we are to attract the right people?

Sir Keith Joseph

Even though the hon. Gentleman's factual assumption is wrong, because broadly the quantity is still at about the same level, he is still right in general to be worried about the quality and types of skills being recruited to the teaching profession. That is why the Government are concerned to find an answer to the long continued shortage of certain skills in teaching and why we are anxious to make sure that we are recruiting and retaining the right quality and motivation. Those are all reasons why the Government have thought fit for more than a year to offer additional taxpayers' money for a package that will help to achieve all those purposes.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Greg Knight, No. 11. Mr. Michael Colvin, No. 12. Mr. Michael Stern, No. 14.

Mr. Patrick Thompson

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

I shall take points of order afterwards. It takes up time out of questions.

Mr. Thompson

Question No. 8, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

I absolutely withdraw. I apologise to the hon. Member.