HC Deb 19 March 1985 vol 75 cc763-5
3. Mr. Meadowcroft

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what representations he has received as to comparability of teachers' pay with other groups.

Sir Keith Joseph

Comparability with the pay of other groups is a recurring theme in representations to me by teachers about their pay. The prime factors in settling pay are the employers' capacity to pay and their need to recruit and retain teachers of appropriate quality.

Mr. Meadowcroft

Is the Secretary of State aware that the report of the Burnham committee's pay data working group shows that, over 10 years, the pay of teachers compares unfavourably with that of many other groups in the public sector? Surely comparability is important, because it gives some idea of the Government's perception of the importance of the teaching profession.

Sir Keith Joseph

I disagree with the hon. Gentleman. Chasing past relativities means a return to a self-defeating inflationary spiral, which would price even more people into unemployment.

Mr. Madel

As the unions involved in the current dispute are due at ACAS tomorrow, should not classroom disruption end at once to give ACAS a reasonable chance of solving the dispute?

Sir Keith Joseph

I cannot believe that classroom disruption is in the interests of teachers themselves, let alone of children. I hope that they will give up disruption.

Mr. Flannery

Is it not a fact that teachers' pay—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Perhaps hon. Members will listen.

Is it not a fact that teachers' pay has fallen a long way behind the pay of other people? Is it not disgraceful that a teacher, who has taken A-levels and undertaken four years of training, should earn less when he or she begins to teach than an ill-qualified young policeman with only three months training? Has that not driven teachers to industrial action which, without the type of provocation in which the Secretary of State has engaged, would never have needed to be taken?

Sir Keith Joseph

I do not for a moment denigrate the hard work, the difficult job and the devotion to duty of most of the teachers, but they should bear in mind that they have one of the most secure jobs in the country, that they are important and that they have been offered, and have refused, a 4 per cent. pay increase and all arbitration measures. They have refused even to discuss proposals for appraisal. I cannot believe that that is in their interests.

Mr. Key

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the National Union of Teachers is seeking to prove that might is right because it is the biggest teaching union, that it has divided the teaching unions, and that the other teaching unions disagree with it fundamentally and are prepared to conciliate, arbitrate and negotiate to solve the problem? [Interruption.]

Sir Keith Joseph

It is no good Opposition Members jeering at my hon. Friend. The teaching unions seem to be split.

Mr. Boyes

Is it not a fact that local government officers have had a much greater pay rise than teachers during the 10 years between 1974 and 1984? I welcome the rise in pay for officers in local authorities, but is it not a fact that those delivering the service and teaching in the classrooms should have had at least as big a rise as administrators in the service? Is that not a reason why teaching morale is as low as it has ever been? Is it not also a fact that teachers' resources have been continuously cut and that our most precious asset, children's education, is suffering as a consequence?

Sir Keith Joseph

I do not think that that justifies the return to a particular year, which the teachers' union leaders advocate, as every other group would seek the same argument of comparability, which would start another inflationary spiral, with even more unemployment.

Mr. Colvin

Will my right hon. Friend acknowledge that there are not enough policemen, yet there are too many teachers?

Sir Keith Joseph

My hon. Friend is surely right that the pay rise for the police was necessary to staunch an extremely sharp outflow of policemen at the time. I do not accept that there are inherently too many teachers, although the House knows that, because of the fall in the number of school children, a small decrease is being brought about in the teaching force.

Mr. Radice

Will the Secretary of State tell the House and parents what he is doing to help solve the dispute?

Sir Keith Joseph

The function of the holder of my office is to play a certain part in the negotiations, which are primarily between the employers and the teachers.

Mr. Tracey

Can my right hon. Friend say how many representations in favour of the teachers' pay claim he has received from parents and taxpayers because, if my constituency is anything to go by, it will be few?

Sir Keith Joseph

A significant minority of the representations reaching us from parents are in favour of the teachers; but I suspect that the purpose of the teachers in disrupting children's education is not calculated to win the esteem of most parents.