HC Deb 04 March 1985 vol 74 cc637-8
1. Mr. Raffan

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement regarding the latest position on the teachers' pay claim and the effect of industrial action by particular teachers' unions on pupils' education in Wales.

9. Mr. Grist

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what proposals his Department has to protect pupils' interests during any industrial action taken by teaching unions.

The Minister of State, Welsh Office (Mr. John Stradling Thomas)

Teachers' pay and conditions of service in England and Wales are the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science. So far, industrial action in Wales has been limited to the half day strike last Tuesday by members of the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers. I deplore this action because it can only interfere with the preparation of pupils for this summer's public examinations; but it is of course for the local education authorities to do what they can to minimise the effects of the dispute on pupils.

Mr. Raffan

Does my hon. Friend agree that by taking strike action teachers harm the education of children and their professional status? Does he further agree that teachers can enhance their status only by accepting a much closer link between performance and pay?

Mr. Stradling Thomas

My hon. Friend has put his finger on two important points. First, I have always been taught by educationists that the finest method of teaching is by precept. By taking this action, teachers are setting a very bad example. Secondly, teachers have gone in for disruption although, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said last week, their pay has kept pace with inflation since 1979.

Mr. Grist

Does my hon. Friend agree that, although most teachers give sterling service to the pupils in their charge, they might have learnt from a recent example that blind loyalty to the leaders of their unions will repay them ill?

Mr. Stradling Thomas

Underlying the strike is the fear of the possibility of assessment. There are few professions or other occupations in which continuous assessment of performance is not inherent. That is especially true of Members of Parliament.

Mr. Rowlands

After the miners, do the Government now consider that the teachers of Wales are the enemy within?

Mr. Stradling Thomas

Most certainly not. Most teachers in Britain, especially in Wales, give excellent service and are vital to our future.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

Will the Minister assure the House that, if the teaching dispute lasts one year, the Government will not spend the first six months telling the House and the country that they have nothing to do with it and the second six months actively trying to prevent negotiations?

Mr. Stradling Thomas

I do not accept the basic premise of the hon. Gentleman's question. My answer to both parts of his question is no, Sir.

Mr. Ron Davies

Does the Minister agree that the Government's action in response to the teachers' dispute has been set by the policies that they followed in respect of the miners' dispute? How else can we explain the Government giving misleading statements, misleading teachers' unions about their intentions and doing nothing other than sowing bitterness and confusion in the minds of teachers?

Mr. Stradling Thomas

I do not accept the premise of the hon. Gentleman's question. The Government have been clear about this. There is an offer on the table. It is not the Government or the management who have misled teachers in this case; it is the leaders of the teachers' union which has done so. If the teachers pursue their claim as they are doing at present, it can only mean fewer teachers or fewer resources for other vital educational matters.

Mr. Terlezki

Does my hon. Friend agree that there are no winners, only losers, in this strike, and that the losers are the children? Surely one cannot expect a 12 per cent. increase in salary when inflation is running at only 5 per cent. a year.

Mr. Stradling Thomas

I completely agree with my hon. Friend. I wish that the teachers, who are responsible and well-educated people, would bring this point home to the leaders of their union. The union leaders are not acting in the best way for the union members or for the children, who are the really important people in this matter.

Dr. Roger Thomas

Does the Minister agree that if we are to continue attracting to the profession people of talent and dedication who have spent four years at university to qualify it is time that they were paid better than unqualified and untrained office staff?

Mr. Stradling Thomas

I believe it is well known to most hon. Members that there is an offer on the table for the restructuring of salaries which would lead to that highly desirable result. It would be much better if teachers, instead of going for disruptive action, returned to negotiation and sorted out that aspect in order to improve the quality of education. That aim is at the heart of the Government's policies.

Back to