HC Deb 06 March 1986 vol 93 cc459-69 4.11 pm
The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Malcolm Rifkind)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement about the teachers' dispute in Scotland.

This dispute has now run for nearly 19 months. The education of pupils is suffering increasing disruption, and continuation of the dispute can do nothing but harm. The Government have made repeated efforts to find an acceptable basis on which teachers and their employers could negotiate a settlement, yet formal negotiations have not even begun.

This situation is unsatisfactory from any point of view. It is also in marked contrast to events in England and Wales, where, as the House will be aware, an agreement for the current year has been reached and constructive negotiations on pay, pay structure and related matters are about to begin under the auspices of the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service. I very much regret that there is no sign of a similar initiative in Scotland. The statutory negotiating machinery has failed to function and it is therefore necessary to find some means of breaking the deadlock. I therefore propose to set up an independent committee of inquiry with wide-ranging terms of reference in an effort to bring this dispute to an end and establish a basis for the pay, conditions of service and management of the teaching profession in Scotland which is appropriate to the conditions of today.

The inquiry will accordingly be given the following terms of reference:

In the light of the Government's education objectives and the need to observe continuing public expenditure restraint in the interests of taxpayers and ratepayers, to consider:

  1. (a) the duties, pay structure, pay levels and other conditions of service of school teachers, with particular regard to the need to recruit, retain and motivate teachers of the right quality, to address staffing difficulties in shortage areas such as mathematics and science and in particular localities, and to improve the promotion and career prospects of effective teachers, particularly experienced teachers of proven ability who remain in the classroom;
  2. (b) teachers' duties and responsibilities and their definition in contracts of employment;
  3. (c) the arrangements for managing schools and the teaching service;
  4. (d) future arrangements for determining teachers' pay and structure, duties, responsibilities and conditions of service;
  5. (e) the mechanisms for implementing and enforcing the above arrangements;
  6. (f) in all respects the need to take into account what can be afforded;
and to make recommendations. I hope to announce the names of the chairman and members shortly. The committee will be asked to begin work as soon as possible and to report by the end of the summer so that its findings can be taken into account in the 1986–87 pay settlement. The committee will take evidence from all interested parties and will give the teachers the hearing for which they have asked since the beginning of the dispute. I therefore expect—I believe I shall be supported by both sides of the House in this—that the teachers' unions will call off their industrial action forthwith and allow the life of the schools to return to normal. I hope that teachers and employers will in the meantime agree on a pay settlement for 1985–86 in the normal way while they await the committee's findings on the wider issues.

Mr. Harry Ewing (Falkirk, East)

As one who complains when the Secretary of State or his Ministers make statements not to the House but outside the House, may I make it clear that I welcome the fact that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has made this important statement to the House, giving himself the opportunity to be asked and to answer questions and to recognise, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman obviously does, the serious damage that he and his Government have done to education in Scotland during the past 19 months. I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that it is incredible that teachers asked in June 1984 for an independent committee of inquiry and that it took the right hon. and learned Gentleman's predecessor, the right hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) until November 1984—six months—to respond by refusing that request? Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that everything that has happened since is a direct consequence of the way in which the then Secretary of State dealt with the request? The right hon. Gentleman and the Government are entirely responsible for today's crisis in Scottish education.

How independent does the right hon. and learned Gentleman think the inquiry will be, in view of the fact that he has imposed two major restraints on it: the need to observe continuing public expenditure restraint"— applied by the Government at the beginning of the terms of reference—and the need to take into account what can be afforded at the end of the terms of reference? Who will tell the inquiry what can be afforded? At what stage during its deliberations will it be told? Surely the right hon. and learned Gentleman will accept that no inquiry can possibly be independent if it works within such tight constraints.

I fully accept that this is a wide-ranging inquiry. I welcome that fact. Will the Secretary of State take account of the wide-ranging nature and detail of the inquiry in determining the date by which it should report? Because of its wide-ranging nature, it may well be that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is asking too much of the inquiry in requiring it to report by the end of the summer. Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman assure me that the criterion for the inquiry will be that of thoroughness rather than speed? The inquiry's recommendations may well have to endure for a long time. I assure the right hon. and learned Gentleman that I, for one, would not want thoroughness to be made the victim of speed so that he can have his report quickly.

Is the Secretary of State aware that a great deal will depend on the chairmanship and membership of the inquiry? I plead with him to take fully into account the backgrounds of the people he decides to appoint as the chairman and members of the inquiry, in terms of their knowledge of education and wage negotiations. Bearing in mind that this dispute relates to the salary year beginning 1985, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman explain why the inquiry's pay recommendations will be implemented only from the pay year beginning 1986? Why will it not be backdated to the pay year 1985, the date of the dispute?

In suggesting to the teachers and management that they should negotiate a settlement for 1985–86, is the Secretary of State asking that this settlement should be negotiated within the current pay guidelines, or is he prepared to give some of the £125 million about which he has been telling us for the past year to the local authorities to supplement a pay settlement for that year?

To put the minds of Conservative Members at ease, I make it clear that I welcome this inquiry and I welcome the courage that has been shown by the Secretary of State. However, I condemn most strongly the way in which the Government have handled this dispute, thereby seriously damaging the education prospects of our children. Contrary to what is believed, the Secretary of State looks a pretty sight standing on his head, and he should do it more often.

Mr. Rifkind

I thank the hon. Member for his welcome of my statement, although I regret that he has not yet echoed my call for the unions to withdraw all industrial action. I am sure that he will want to do that and I hope that he will find an early opportunity to do so.

Any fair-minded person would take the view that the damage caused to the education fabric of Scottish schools over the past 18 months must be the responsibility of those who have put the interests of the youngsters second to their industrial dispute. I think that the vast majority of Scottish people will believe that.

The hon. Member referred to the EIS demands over the past 18 months. He will be aware that it has been seeking an inquiry into pay. There will be one but, as I said in the statement, it is also appropriate that there should be an inquiry into conditions of employment, contracts of service and the whole range of issues referred to in my statement. That is not something that the Government alone believe; as the hon. Gentleman well knows, the education authorities, Labour-controlled as well as Conservative-controlled, have insisted that any outcome to this dispute must involve a package that covers conditions of service as well as pay. It is unfortunate that, up to today, the EIS has refused to acknowledge that fact. I believe that the whole spectrum of political opinion in Scotland has associated itself with that view, as has the hon. Member on a number of occasions.

The hon. Gentleman asked how independent the inquiry will be. The members of the inquiry will be free to make whatever recommendations they believe appropriate. He tried to take issue with the fact that the terms of reference refer to public expenditure restraint and the need to take into account the interest of taxpayers and ratepayers. The general public will not find that inappropriate or unreasonable. It is right, in determining the education objectives that we have at any given time, that we also take into account what can be afforded by the country at that time. I emphasise that the members of the inquiry will be free to make any recommendations that they feel are appropriate, having heard the evidence put to them, and that freedom will extend to all the matters within its consideration.

The hon. Gentleman asked whether the report of the inquiry had to be provided by the end of the summer. It is appropriate to try to work towards that target because teachers themselves wish an early outcome to this protracted matter. He also asked why we have not backdated any outcome or any recommendations of the inquiry to the year 1985–86. Even at this date, 19 months into the dispute, the unions have yet to put in a pay claim for 1985–86. Therefore, it would be inappropriate to take action such as that which he suggested.

I hope, if the hon. Member catches your eye, Mr. Speaker, at the end of the time allowed for questions, that he will use the opportunity to give Opposition support to the call that I have made for the unions to cease industrial action forthwith.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I again draw the attention of the House to the point that we have an important Opposition debate ahead of us, but only half a day for it, and a large number of right hon. and hon. Members wish to take part. I shall allow questions on this statement to continue for 20 minutes.

Mr. Roy Jenkins (Glasgow, Hillhead)

I welcome this statement. It will now clearly be right for the unions to take all action to bring the schools back to normal while the inquiry is going on, in so far as the position can be restored to normal after the damage that I fear has been done. The right hon. and learned Gentleman did not attempt to explain in his first answer why 19 months was allowed to go by. Without wishing to go into calendar competitiveness, my hon. Friend the Member for Ross, Cromarty and Skye (Mr. Kennedy) and I put precisely those proposals for a wide-ranging inquiry to the right hon. and learned Gentleman's predecessor in October 1984. What is the reason for having allowed this delay and the damage to Scottish education over the past 19 months?

Mr. Rifkind

I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's welcome for the statement and in particular his support for my call that the unions should withdraw all industrial action and allow the schools to return to normality. As to the other matters, repeated attempts were made both by my right hon. Friend the previous Secretary of State and other interested parties to get the parties together to begin the negotiations. Unfortunately, right up to this day, the EIS has refused to become involved in negotiations. It is because the existing negotiating machinery has been seen to be ineffective in helping to resolve the dispute that it is necessary for Government to intervene to break the deadlock.

Sir Hector Monro (Dumfries)

In view of the failure of the Scottish joint negotiating committee to find a solution to this problem I warmly welcome the investigation into pay and conditions of service and structure of teaching. I hope that the teachers will also accept this package. Will my right hon. and learned Friend make it a condition of acceptance of this package that the teachers stop any further disruption of education in Scotland?

Mr. Rifkind

An inquiry is to take place, and it is not subject to the approval of any particular quarter. However, I think that the public in Scotland will find it unthinkable that, while an inquiry is going on into pay and other matters involved, such as conditions of service, teachers will take strike action, boycott exams or carry out other acts of disruption against the youngsters in their care.

Mr. Norman Hogg (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth)

Will the Secretary of State give assurances that any new machinery for determining the salaries and conditions of service applied to teachers will fully recognise the teachers' organisations and will not remove or diminish the teachers' right to belong to a trade union?

Mr. Rifkind

The inquiry is free to make any recommendations that it wishes, and the Government will then have to consider the recommendations. The Government attach great importance to the rights of teachers to belong to trade unions, and I cannot conceive of any circumstances in which that right would be changed.

Mr. Alex Fletcher (Edinburgh, Central)

I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend on the robust and realistic nature of the terms of reference for the inquiry. Will he ensure that parents are also robustly represented on the committee and that those teachers, unions that do not now cease industrial action are barred from the review?

Mr. Rifkind

The inquiry will be free to take evidence from such quarters as it thinks appropriate. I consider it desirable that the individuals serving on the inquiry will be appointed on the basis of their individual contributions and not necessarily in regard to any representative qualities that they might have. One will take into account the background and experience of the individuals concerned.

Mr. Willie W. Hamilton (Fife, Central)

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman understand that I very much welcome his statement and that I appeal to the teachers to end their industrial dispute, upon one condition? Their morale is at the lowest ebb that I can remember. Unless and until the Secretary of State says that he will treat the teachers' pay claim for 1985–86 as generously as the judges, admirals and the rest were treated, I fear that there will still be difficulties ahead for him. Does he understand that in the light of the terms of reference many people think that the timetable is very tight?

Mr. Rifkind

I welcome the hon. Gentleman's call to the teachers to cease their industrial disruption. As for his qualification, I have to emphasise to him that the Educational Institute of Scotland and the other unions have insisted all along that they have no desire to put in a claim because they wish there to be an inquiry that will look into these matters and make long-term recommendations. It is appropriate, therefore, that the inquiry should proceed on the basis that I have outlined.

Mrs. Anna McCurley (Renfrew, West and Inverclyde)

Will my right hon. and learned Friend accept my congratulations upon his excellent plan for an inquiry, which is worthy of Solomon? It should satisfy employers, parents and all teachers who wish the strike action to be ended and the profession to be held in the highest esteem and those who have the best interests of the pupils at heart. It is particularly encouraging to those areas that have been subjected to wholly unfair targeting. Those who reject this excellent inquiry will be judged accordingly.

Mr. Rifkind

I thank my hon. Friend for her kind words. All I would say is that Solomon is a slightly better comparison than I have been used to in recent weeks.

Mr. Malcolm Bruce (Gordon)

Will the Secretary of State accept that, although we welcome the fact that he has decided to set up an independent review, we regret very deeply that it has taken him 18 months to do it? I notice that his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science is at his elbow, like the "hoodie craw"? Is it not an amazing coincidence that this offer is being made just two days after the English settlement? Why could not the Scottish Office have settled this at the beginning? A settlement could have been made then. I echo the points that have been made earlier in the light of what has been proposed. I hope that the teachers will call off their action and that the Government will honour the motivation behind it and ensure that they get a fair settlement this year and a properly supported outcome of this review at the end of the day.

Mr. Rifkind

The hon. Gentleman's comments were typical of a Liberal intervention: qualifying every remark in order that it might not sound too significant to any section of the community. I believe that the Scottish public will welcome this committee as a necessary and essential way of ensuring that the interests of Scottish youngsters are well protected.

Mr. John Corrie (Cunninghame, North)

Will my right hon. and learned Friend accept that I welcome his statement? Will he also accept that I agree with the hon. Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Ewing) that this is a very wide-ranging inquiry, which will affect the shape of education for a very long time to come? Therefore it should not be rushed. It should be got right. In the meantime, will my right hon. and learned Friend try to get the two parties together to provide some advance for the teachers, who really need it?

Mr. Rifkind

I thank my hon. Friend for his welcome. I have no desire to see a rushed inquiry. Naturally, we shall reflect and take into account the views of the members of the inquiry. We are all anxious to ensure a suitable outcome. However, we hope that the inquiry will also take into account the desire of both the education authorities and the unions that this dispute, which has already been very protracted, should not be extended too far as a result of the inquiry.

Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)

Does the Secretary of State concede, in his wisdom, that this approach on his behalf would not have happened had the teachers not remained united in their view and if their unions had not remained fairly obdurate in pursuit of their claim? I wish to probe him a little upon the nature of the inquiry. If I heard him aright, the Secretary of State said that the inquiry would be fully independent and would be able to come forward with any recommendation. Will that include the possibility of an interim report on pay alone because of the need to allay fears and suspicions about the Secretary of State's restraint upon the terms of reference—which, as far as I can gather, are his terms of reference and not terms of reference agreed with the teacher unions? Can he assure me that if the body concerned wanted to come forward with an interim report on pay he would not place any impediments in its way? Moreover, is it the Secretary of State's intention to appoint as members of this inquiry any assessors from the Scottish Office?

Mr. Rifkind

I do not see any likelihood of assessors from the Scottish Office being appointed, although the Scottish Office will undoubtedly wish to give evidence to the inquiry. As for an interim report, along with all the education authorities the Government take the view that the ultimate resolution of this dispute has to be in the form of a package covering conditions of service and contracts of employment as well as pay. Therefore, an interim report on pay would be as inappropriate as an interim report on conditions of service.

Mr. Douglas

But it is not independent.

Mr. Rifkind

It is indeed independent, because the members of the inquiry are being requested to make recommendations on all of these matters. Quite naturally, we expect them to make these recommendations at the same time.

Mr. Albert McQuarrie (Banff and Buchan)

As one who has supported the teachers in their demand to be brought into line with the present salary structures of other professions, I welcome my right hon. and learned Friend's efforts to try to bring this very sad dispute to an end because of the effect that it has had on parents, teachers and pupils. When my right hon. and learned Friend forms this committee of investigation does he intend to look at the need to have representatives of the teaching profession on it to ensure that their point of view about the demands that they have already made can be fully aired?

Mr. Rifkind

The point of view of the teaching profession and the education authorities will be primarily made by the evidence that each of them submits to the inquiry. I said earlier that I expect the members of the inquiry to be appointed primarily in regard to the personal contribution that they can make to the work of the inquiry.

Mr. Michael J. Martin (Glasgow, Springburn)

Is the Secretary of State aware that in at least one school in my constituency there was a long industrial dispute prior to the present industrial dispute? This means that the education of many children in my constituency, an area of high unemployment, will be damaged. What steps will the Secretary of State take to try to ensure that these children catch up with their education?

Mr. Rifkind

Obviously we are all very concerned that that should be brought about. No doubt the Strathclyde education authority will be the most appropriate body to take detailed action in regard to a particular school.

Mr. Dennis Canavan (Falkirk, West)

Although the Secretary of State's statement indicates a belated shift in the Government's attitude, will he admit that his claim that he is giving the teachers an independent hearing, for which they have been asking all along, is simply not true? His inquiry incorporates not just pay but conditions of service and contracts of employment. It is not exactly independent if at the outset it is placed in the finanial straitjacket of the Government's economic policy to cut public expenditure, particularly on education. Is the Secretary of State not aware of the obvious fact that the Government will get the education system for which they are prepared to pay? Will he come clean, therefore, and tell us whether at the very outset he is ruling out a restoration of the pay levels that were awarded by Houghton to the teachers over a decade ago?

Mr. Rifkind

The hon. Gentleman is wrong in one respect and right in the other. He is wrong to suggest that the inquiry will be involved in some financial straitjacket. It will be asked to recommend what the pay of a teacher should be now, and in particular to take into account the various duties and responsibilities of teachers when coming to a view and making a recommendation on that matter. The hon. Gentleman is certainly right when he says that this inquiry goes significantly beyond the kind of inquiry that the unions have requested. It includes pay but it also deals with the other matters that the hon. Gentleman correctly mentioned. That is something that I believe a wide spectrum of opinion in Scotland has always maintained should be the case.

Mr. Michael Forsyth (Stirling)

Does my right hon. and learned Friend recognise that parents are absolutely sick to death of this dispute and that his statement will be widely welcomed? I hope that it will be noted by parents throughout Scotland that the Opposition Front Bench spokesman, the hon. Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Ewing), is more concerned with dotting the i's and crossing the t's in the interests of the Educational Institute of Scotland than in welcoming this agreement and asking the EIS and the other unions to call off their action in the interests of pupils and parents.

Mr. Rifkind

I think that the House is still waiting with interest to know whether the Opposition will join my call and, indeed, the call of the Liberals and other parties, for the unions now to call off their industrial action.

Mr. Jim Craigen (Glasgow, Maryhill)

Since the independent inquiry team will be operating within the straitjacket that has been designed by the Government, why has it taken 18 months for them to concede this inquiry? Will the Secretary of State give a guarantee today that he will honour the financial recommendations that the inquiry team makes, and that that will be reflected in the rate support grant to education authorities?

Mr. Rifkind

I repeat that the inquiry will be free to make any recommendations on conditions of service, contracts of employment and pay which it thinks appropriate. Not only we but the education authorities and the unions will wish to see the whole package of recommendations that it may make before coming to any conclusions as to what then should take place.

Mr. Gordon Wilson (Dundee, East)

, I welcome the initiative the Secretary of State has taken and hope that the Scottish teachers will give it serious consideration. I wish to suggest three things to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. First, in view of the fact that teachers have been without an increase in pay for a considerable time and have suffered a depreciation in their salary levels in relative terms, will he make a generous cash offer now because, considering the fact that this is not a pay review but one relating to pay and conditions, such an offer would be useful? Can he also give attention to the question of consultation on the appointment of the independent committee so that the teachers' representatives know that this is not to be just a collection of friends of the Scottish Office? Lastly, can the Secretary of State give a better reply than that which he gave to the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) in relation to relativities and variations of pay levels? I think that such a statement, given the two inhibitions in his own statement, will go a long way to allay the fears and suspicions that many teachers could have that this is a con and not a serious offer.

Mr. Rifkind

There is no question of it being anything other than a serious contribution. If that were not so, I would be indicating constraints on the kind of recommendations that the inquiry will be free to make. I emphasise again that the inquiry will be free to make any recommendations—including recommendations on pay—which it believes to be appropriate. It will hear evidence from the various quarters and come to its own conclusions as to what it believes the pay and pay structures for Scottish teachers should be.

Mr. Barry Henderson (Fife, North-East)

Has my right hon. and learned Friend noticed that the Opposition parties have begun to draw attention to the practical difficulties that arise from an independent review embracing both pay and conditions? Is it not the case that if the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) last February had been adopted and the Scottish joint negotiating committee has commissioned an independent review, some of the problems would have been overcome? Will he now ensure that the inquiry will go forward as speedily as is practicable and that in the meantime there will be urgent negotiations to determine a pay settlement for the last two years?

Mr. Rifkind

With regard to 1985–86 I very much hope that the unions and local authorities will get together to agree a settlement. A settlement has already been obtained for England and Wales for that year. There is nothing to stop an agreement for Scotland being reached. The inquiry will, of course, make recommendations on future pay levels. It would not be appropriate for me to pre-empt the outcome of the inquiry in the way suggested to me by some hon. Gentlemen.

Mr. Hugh Brown (Glasgow, Provan)

Many of us recognise that this is not the place to conduct negotiations but, since we will be meeting the EIS in Perth tomorrow, I for one should like to be able to urge the withdrawal of industrial action. As the Secretary of State says that there will be no pay claim accepted for 1985–86, is he ruling out the review body going back to 1985–86?

Mr. Rifkind

As to 1985–86, it is for the unions to make a claim to the employers and for the employers and unions to negotiate and reach a conclusion. It has already happened elsewhere in the United Kingdom, and ought now to happen for Scotland. I welcome the hon. Gentleman's desire to call upon the unions to withdraw their industrial action so that the inquiry can take evidence and make its recommendations in an atmosphere conducive to the best interests of Scottish education.

Mr. Michael Hirst (Strathkelvin and Bearsden)

Can I assure my right hon. and learned Friend that his initiative will be widely welcomed, not least in Strathkelvin and Bearsden, which has had more than its fair share of disruptive action? Is he aware that parents, public and most reasonable teachers will be reassured that duties and responsibilities are to be examined since it cannot be right that a teacher on full pay can boycott examination procedures? Does he agree that, if the EIS does not call off its industrial action and disruption of Scottish education, it will have rightly earned the condemnation of the people of Scotland?

Mr. Rifkind

I agree with my hon. Friend. I think that the vast majority of Scottish teachers, who are moderate and reasonable people, Will expect their union leadership to indicate that they should now return to normal working in the schools so that the inquiry can proceed in the proper atmosphere. I repeat, I still wait for Opposition Members to make a similar call.

Mr. Ron Brown (Edinburgh, Leith)

Surely the "Governor-General" will accept that a public inquiry is simply a device to get the Government off the hook, bearing in mind that very shortly the Tory party will suffer another disaster in the regional elections. Surely the point is that, unless the teachers see the colour of the Government's money, they should continue with their industrial action because that is the only effective action they can take at the end of the day.

Mr. Rifkind

I think that the hon. Gentleman, by his latter comments, makes it quite clear that he is not the slightest bit interested in Scottish education and simply wishes to be a troublemaker.

Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West)

Will the Secretary of State accept the recommendations of the inquiry?

Mr. Rifkind

When the inquiry makes its recommendations, not only the Government but the unions and the education authorities will wish to consider the whole range of the recommendations, and naturally we shall wish to give them very great consideration. We are not setting up the inquiry purely as a cosmetic exercise. We will naturally wish, as will the unions and the education authorities, to give the closest scrutiny and considerable weight to the recommendations of such an inquiry.

Mr. David Marshall (Glasgow, Shettleston)

Should the inquiry recommend a retrospective pay award, will the Secretary of State accept such a recommendation?

Mr. Rifkind

I have already indicated that we envisage that the recommendations of the inquiry should take effect from 1986–87 onwards. I think that it is appropriate to look at it on that basis, particularly as the unions themselves have not put in a claim and have indicated that they want an inquiry to look to the future and not simply to the past.

Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)

Can the Secretary of State take note of the resolute support given to the teachers by the vast majority of parents throughout this long, miserable dispute? With that in mind, can he confirm that this is a genuinely independent review? If it is without any strings attached, all of us will join in calling for an end to the action.

Mr. Rifkind

Many parents have had sympathy with the teachers' claim for higher pay, but very few parents have had sympathy with the teachers' tactics of disrupting the education of their children. I am delighted to hear the hon. Gentleman's concluding remarks. I only wish that, on this occasion, he had been able to make them not from the Back Benches but from the Opposition Dispatch box.

Mr. Martin J. O'Neill (Clackmannan)

Will the Minister accept that this conciliatory gesture will be welcomed by many people in Scotland? Since, from the teachers' point of view, the core of the dispute has been about pay, is he aware that if he were to indicate that meaningful negotiations could take place about the last year of pay it would be a useful start and would help the teachers in trying to reach a satisfactory end to their industrial action.

Mr. Rifkind

The hon. Gentleman's own Labour-controlled education authority in Central region and, indeed, other Labour regions, have indicated that they believe that the resolution of the dispute must include a package covering matters other than pay. He ought to discuss these matters with his colleagues on the regional council.