HC Deb 27 November 1986 vol 106 cc437-48 3.47 pm
The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Kenneth Baker)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement about teachers' pay and conditions of service in England and Wales.

For more than two years now there have been protracted and unsatisfactory negotiations and—sadly—extensive disruption of children's education. To end that situation I announced in the House on 30 October that the Government would make an additional £600 million available over this year and next for a new pay structure. The structure should contain differentials to reflect the varying responsibilities of teachers and the need to recruit, retain and motivate teachers throughout the school system and at all stages of their careers. I made it clear that this generous Government support for such a pay structure would also depend on a clear definition of teachers' duties carrying through into contracts of employment.

There have been many long hours of negotiations since 30 October. So far, what has been achieved is a document which last Friday the local authorities by a majority vote and four of the six teacher unions agreed to put to their constituent bodies for consideration and ratification. Clearly opinion in the profession is divided. Many teachers concerned for the future of our school system have substantial reservations about the proposals in that document.

However, there has been some useful progress. There is now a clear definition of the teacher's job. Parents, local authorities, heads and teachers themselves all need this, so that there can be no doubt about what can be required of teachers within their contracts. The teachers' working year is to be fixed at 195 days, allowing five days beyond the pupil year. It is also agreed that teachers shall be available for work at the direction of the head teacher for 1,265 hours a year. That is a little less than the figure which the local authorities themselves took to the Coventry negotiations last July, but it is a figure which the Government judge sufficient, and which the Government would be willing to accept. There is progress too on teacher appraisal and yesterday I approved extra funding for development work in six local authorities. Lastly, it is now accepted by all that Burnham must go.

Last Friday's document also addresses complex issues about the ways in which the available teacher time should be deployed in schools. The best broad measure of staffing is the pupil-teacher ratio. That has fallen from 18.9 to 1 in 1979 to 17.6 to 1 this year. Our expenditure provision for 1987–88 and our plans for later years allow for a further fall. There are competing claims, between teaching classes, examination and assessment work, curriculum development, and the professional development and in-service training of teachers. My Department and the local authority associations have been examining those questions in some detail over recent years. I intend to undertake further consultation with local authorities and unions about those matters. But I should make it clear that future changes will have to be accommodated within our expenditure plans for education which the Government have already announced.

Progress has therefore been made in a number of areas, but I have also to tell the House plainly that Friday's document contains some features which the Government cannot accept. First, we cannot accept the excess costs of the proposals on pay. The phasing and distribution mean that the proposals cost an extra £15 million for the three months of January to March next year and another £70 million for the next financial year. The Government's offer, worth £600 million, is for 16.4 per cent. to be implemented in full by next October. That offer stands. It is very generous by any standard.

Secondly, I must leave the House in no doubt about the unacceptability of the proposed pay structure. We have not been given a sensible structure for the profession. Instead we have a reiteration of earlier ideas with higher figures and only minimal movement towards the Government's criteria. The Government want a pay structure for the teaching profession which will provide more incentive posts and there is considerable professional support for that view. Those posts will reward good classroom teaching and extra responsibility. They will also pay for skills in short supply and attract good teachers to demanding posts which might otherwise be difficult to fill—for example, in inner city schools. My proposals are based on 140,000 incentive posts in a profession of 400,000 teachers. Today there are 105,000 such posts. Friday's proposals would provide only 80,000. That would mean that 25,000 teachers who are now on the higher scales would not hold promoted posts come September. My aim is that half of the profession should hold promoted posts or be heads or deputies. Theirs is that only about one third should hold such posts. This is a huge gap and a fundamental point of principle. We must enhance the career prospects of good teachers and give management the flexibility it needs to improve the quality of education in our schools.

Lastly, there is the question of future negotiating machinery. All are agreed that Burnham must go. Friday's document would in effect perpetuate arrangements similar to those which have so signally failed in recent times. The Government hold to the view that for an interim period we need an advisory committee and I shall tomorrow introduce the Bill announced in the Queen's Speech to establish such a committee.

I have been and remain willing to see the local authorities and the unions about these matters. But I am not willing to allow this highly unsatisfactory situation to continue. Our children are entitled to better schooling and that has often been denied them over the past two years. The House, the public and all parents will understand that the Government must put our children first.

Mr. Giles Radice (Durham, North)

Is the Secretary of State aware that, although we are in favour of reform of the Burnham machinery, we shall strongly oppose any legislation which removes bargaining rights? We welcome the fact that, despite all the press reports, there is no mention of imposition in his statement. But is he aware that we shall also strongly oppose any attempt to impose a settlement, either now or in the future? The nation wants decent pay for teachers, an improved education service and, above all, peace in the classroom.

The question that each hon. Member has to answer is whether these objectives are more likely to be secured by an agreement that has already been negotiated by employers and teachers, and that is supported by at least two thirds of the profession, or by an imposed settlement that will not only be accompanied by severe technical difficulties, but is also highly likely to lead to renewed disruption?

I welcome the fact that the Secretary of State has at last recognised the substantial advantages and achievements represented by the deal. It establishes decent pay for classroom teachers, provides a clear definition of teachers' duties, lays down a minimum number of duty days, sets up a system of appraisal, establishes negotiating machinery that links together pay and conditions—the right hon. Gentleman did not mention that—and defines, for the first time, a maximum class size.

I accept that there are still differences between the Secretary of State's position and the agreement, particularly over structure and costs. Indeed, what I heard the right hon. Gentleman say about both of those matters was somewhat exaggerated. Is he really telling the House that those differences are insurmountable—[Interruption.] He said that they were huge. Did not the employers make it abundantly clear last night to the Secretary of State that they are prepared to discuss the differences in a flexible and responsible manner? So far, the Secretary of State's handling of the dispute has been inept: his ham-fisted intervention at Nottingham, and his unfortunate comment to the House on 13 November about the talks being a fiasco just 36 hours before there was a settlement.

Is the Secretary of State aware that he still has a chance to redeem his reputation if he talks seriously and constructively to the employers and teachers, and reaches an agreement with them? Will he confirm that he intends to do that? Parents will not forgive him or his Government if he fails to grasp this opportunity for lasting peace in our schools.

Mr. Baker

When, about six weeks ago, I did not make the Government's position clear, the hon. Gentleman accused me of dithering, and when I made the Government's position clear, he accused me of being ham-fisted and inept. On 30 October I set out the Government's position, and the framework against which an agreement that would have been acceptable to the Government could have been reached. The document that the hon. Gentleman flourished a few moments ago is an agreement to submit the proposals to the members of the unions. That process is now under way, and may well run for some weeks into December.

Let there be no doubt that there are real worries within the unions. So far, I have seen the Secondary Heads Association and I know of its anxieties on the question of structure. On Monday its members told me that they were very worried about the structure. The Professional Association of Teachers has written to me, and I shall be seeing that association and the National Association of Headteachers again. Yet again the hon. Gentleman has tried to pass off as agreement a situation characterised by serious disagreement, but yet again he has failed.

As I pointed out in my statement, I am certainly willing to hear further representations. Councillor Pearman came to see me last night, and we discussed principally the cost and the structure. The structure is not a minor point, as the hon. Gentleman might like to think. It is the structure to be laid down for the teaching profession for, in effect, the rest of this century. Perhaps I can cite an example. A large comprehensive school that has 75 or 80 teachers may commonly have about 50 of them in some sort of incentive or promotion posts. The proposal that Councillor Pearman confirmed to me last night would be to reduce the number of posts in such a school to 15 to 20. One cannot run a large secondary school on that basis as it does not provide incentives for good teachers.

I cannot accept this flat-earth pay structure. There are insufficient incentive posts and hopelessly inadequate differentials, which means that heads will have a reduced ability to manage their schools. I am prepared to listen, but I want to hear less pretence about marginal differences and more about real movements away from what I regard as an entirely mistaken and misconceived pay and career structure for the teaching profession.

Mr. J. F. Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth)

I ask my right hon. Friend to confirm the differences between the Nottingham pay scales and his. I congratulate him on the abolition of the Burnham committee and ask him to reject the unfounded but predictable criticism of Opposition Members. Parents will respect what is being done and will acknowledge that the pay on the table for teachers represents a good deal for the profession, for schools and for children.

Mr. Baker

The amount of money available is the largest that has ever been offered to teachers in a pay deal. About £600 million is available and it is a grave disappointment that the negotiators at Nottingham and London took that sum, added to it and spread it in a way which intensifies the flat-earth approach of their pay structure. It would mean that certain teachers at the lower end of the scales would receive substantial increases of 40, 50, and 60 per cent., which would mean wage increases of £40, £50, £60 and, in some instances, £70 a week. These are substantial increases.

I can demonstrate the difference between us most significantly by taking as an example a good honours graduate of 22 years of age who wants to become a teacher. Under the local authorities' proposals, he would receive only £1 extra, but under my proposals he would receive another £13 a week. If he did well in the profession, however, at the age of 28, for example, he would be earning £12,700 a year under the Government's proposals, but £20 a week less than that annual sum would produce under the local authorities' proposals. That is because the local authorities' proposals do not recognise and reward good, able and energetic teachers.

Mr. Clement Freud (Cambridgeshire, North-East)

Does the Secretary of State genuinely feel that this negation of the negotiation procedure will bring long-lasting peace to the classroom? Will he accept that the partnership on which he is so keen does not involve either party getting all that it wants? Given the substantial shift in the teachers' position, would it not become the right hon. Gentleman to be more magnanimous than he is? Will he accept that pupil-teacher ratios are no longer the important criteria and that class sizes are?

Mr. Baker

There can be no justification for disruption. The amount of money that the Government have made available is uniquely generous and I hope very much that there will be no disruption. Unfortunately, it is not clear, even if the Government were to accept the proposal, that there would not be disruption. The National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers speaks of the schools being made a battlefield.

I was depressed when I read an article that appeared in Education last week. I refer to the reported remarks of Mrs. Christine Keats, who is the local secretary in Birmingham of the NAS/UWT. She said on behalf of her union that it would work strictly to the rule book and cause as much disruption as possible. She added: We are well known for our ability to find ways of making life difficult for LEAs and that is what we will do if either deal goes through. I find that attitude deplorable and disgraceful.

Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)

When my right hon. Friend encounters that mood among the leaders of teachers' unions, does he remind them sometimes that the primary purpose of the school system, for which ratepayers and taxpayers pay, is to provide children with the opportunity of a good education, and that all teachers employed in our schools have an equal duty to provide that service?

Mr. Baker

Our children deserve an uninterrupted education, and over the past two years teachers, many of them with heavy hearts, as I recognise, have engaged in disruption. I hope that this will not occur again. As I have said, there has been progress, and the definition of teachers' duties is an example of that. I must re-emphasise that we must use this opportunity to ensure that there is a proper pay structure with proper incentives and rewards for good classroom teaching.

Mr. Jack Dormand (Easington)

Does the Secretary of State appreciate just how far the teachers have moved in coming to this agreement, given their long, strongly held and properly held views? I have to tell the right hon. Gentleman, in spite of what he has said, that his proposals—this does not apply only to the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers—are a recipe for further disruption in the schools. The right hon. Gentleman makes great play of the fact that the Government are offering the biggest increase that there has ever been, but I remind him that the proportion is not as great as that which was offered and readily agreed under the Houghton report. Although the right hon. Gentleman talks, and rightly so, about the quality of teaching and the reward for teachers, will he tell the House how he intends to implement the assessment of teachers? Whether the assessment is of head teachers, local government inspectors or HMIs, it is an exceedingly difficult task, and nothing like as easy as he is trying to make out. He had better comment on that.

Mr. Baker

In our discussions with local education authorities and the unions we have agreed that there will be six pilot projects, which I agreed to fund yesterday. I hope that they will get under way. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that there is not one set method of appraisal of teachers. I recognise that there are different methods.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the Houghton report. When the Conservative Government took office in 1979, teachers' pay under the Labour Government had fallen in real terms by 13 per cent. below the levels of the Houghton award. That is what we inherited. If my proposal goes through, and taking inflation at 3.5 per cent. per annum, by October 1987 teachers' pay will, on average, be 10 per cent. higher in real terms than it was in 1974.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will exercise the influence that he has in his party and in the country to ensure that there will not be disruption. I do not believe that parents will forgive anyone who says that there should be disruption. There is no justification for it. We have provided an extra £600 million for the resolution of this dispute, and that sum was not on the table a year ago.

Mr. Alan Haselhurst (Saffron Walden)

Does my right hon. Friend accept that any pay dispute is capable of settlement if we fall into the trap of believing that another few tens of millions of pounds do not matter? Does he agree that it is crucial that we arrive at a structure for the profession that will stand the test of time and will be inviting to entrants into a long-term career in teaching, and that it is worth struggling for that?

Mr. Baker

I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. We are dealing with the fundamental issues of the definition of a teacher's job and the structure of the profession and not only the resolution of a pay dispute for the rest of this year and next year. I must emphasise how important that is. It will condition the attitudes of those who want to enter the profession. We must make the profession attractive to young people by ensuring that they can obtain proper rewards and differentials for good classroom teaching and for teaching subjects for which there is a shortage of teachers, and not only through promotion.

Mr. Mark Wolfson (Sevenoaks)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, if the leaders of the teachers' unions are genuinely interested in increasing the professional standing of their members, they should support an incentive-based pay structure?

Mr. Baker

I agree entirely. I do not see how many schools can be operated without such a structure. I shall give my hon. Friend one example. Under the ACAS document, deputies of smaller primary schools with an average of about 75 pupils would have a salary of £15,300, just £242 more than the maximum salary on the basic scale. If the differential is squashed to that extent, why should anyone want to take on the extra responsibility for such a small reward? No one would want to do so.

Mr. Jack Ashley (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

Before the Secretary of State proceeds with the line of action he has just outlined, will he bear in mind that a loss of bargaining rights and an imposed settlement failed to work at GCHQ and caused a great deal of bitterness? Unless he changes his mind now, his policy will create even more bitterness in the schools and create precisely the sort of disruption he says he is anxious to avoid.

Mr. Baker

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not underestimate the degree of professional support one has for an incentive-based system. According to the advice that is available to me, to central Government and local government, there is a great deal of support for an incentive-based system. Since I announced the framework on 30 October, the unions and the Labour-led local authority employers have not really moved towards that structure in any significant way. As I said, I am prepared to listen to them if they still wish to talk.

Mr. Ian Wrigglesworth (Stockton, South)

Will the Secretary of State say what he intends to do about the differences he has with the teachers and local authorities? Will he continue to exhort them to change their mind? Will he negotiate a settlement with them, or will he impose it?

Mr. Baker

There is obviously an indication on structure from the Secondary Heads Association, which is the only union I have seen so far. We will have to see what the other unions say.

Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury)

Will my right hon. Friend clarify a point he made during his statement when he referred to an interim advisory committee? Clearly we are all anxious to move forward from this debacle. Am I right in thinking that my right hon. Friend's proposal is to lay a Bill before the House to abolish Burnham and then immediately to institute an interim committee which could be the body to find a way out of this impasse? Would it be that body which had that task?

Mr. Baker

I do not envisage that. The Bill will repeal the Remuneration of Teachers Act 1965 and set up an interim advisory committee—I stress interim advisory committee—which will make recommendations to me on the pay and conditions of teachers which I shall then discuss with the unions and local authorities. I shall bring forward the recommendations to the House in statutory instruments. That is rather similar to my powers under the existing Act in that I have parliamentary powers to lay down the levels at which teachers should be paid and at which local authorities have to pay them. Under the Act there is no particular parliamentary procedure to do that; the orders are just announced. I would not envisage the differences on structure being addressed to the interim advisory committee. I hope that we can find a way through that before the committee is appointed and begins its work.

Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

Will the Minister accept that all Opposition Members agree with him that our children deserve an uninterrupted education? However, if he had sat down and planned disruption, he could not have done it more brilliantly than the statement he has just made. Will he further accept that if he persists in the attitude he has shown in his statement there is not the slightest doubt that the teachers will react? They have behind them the attitude of the Scottish teachers who, by an 84 per cent. majority, have rejected the offer. Therefore, the teaching profession in Scotland, England and Wales is now unified against what the Government are doing to the teaching service.

Mr. Baker

The hon. Gentleman cannot say that the teaching profession is unified on this matter in England or Scotland.

Mr. Flannery

The right hon. Gentleman knows what I mean.

Mr. Baker

If words have any precision and meaning—I sometimes wonder whether they do for the hon. Gentleman—one cannot possibly describe as a unified position a draft agreement which is signed by only four unions; and subsequently they are even expressing reservations about parts of the draft agreement. I deplore the extravagant phraseology and language used by the hon. Gentleman in talking about disruption and trouble in the schools. I emphasise that there would be no justification for that whatsoever. A substantial sum of money has been provided for a teachers' pay settlement in the immediate future. It is a much larger sum than has ever been provided in the past. Many working parents, who are not likely to see the sort of increases which are available under the proposals, will resent it if teachers walk out on their classes.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

I welcome the flexibility shown by my right hon. Friend in being prepared to go on talking. That is very important. In my experience, unless there are adequate differentials, a large number of important jobs in urban areas and many other deprived areas in every school in the country will not be filled because teachers will not have the incentive to undertake what can often be very difficult work in problem areas. Has my right hon. Friend observed that in the conditions he is considering today—the condition requiring assistant teachers to undertake such extra duties as head teachers may require—has been deleted from the agreement? Can he think of any other institutions which heads are required to run without that sort of back-up?

Mr. Baker

On the latter point, teachers will be available for work under the direction of the head for 1,265 hours each year, which is 324½ hours per week. There will be the usual requirements of a profession. It is accepted by the unions that teachers often work longer hours; it is a great tradition of the profession.

On the first point, I draw considerable support from my hon. Friend's experience as a teacher. I agree entirely with what he says. It would be difficult to attract into the profession the calibre of people we want in order to improve the quality of education in our country, especially in our towns and cities, unless there were adequate differentials and awards. That is the nub of the difference between us.

Mr. Derek Fatchett (Leeds, Central)

The Secretary of State has talked about his willingness to listen and be flexible. Are we to conclude from that that his statement this afternoon is not his final word on this pay settlement?

Mr. Baker

Ever since I have held this post I have been asked to clarify the position of the Government and to say what would be my position. I have done so and I have been attacked for doing so. I certainly do not look upon the draft document which came out on Friday as the last word from the employers. I must emphasise again that the Government are convinced that we need a pay structure which has a large number of differentials, more than the two on offer from the unions and employers of £750 and £2,000. I have recommended five—from £900 up to £4,800. There must be real incentives which will encourage people to take on added responsibility and incentives to reward the good classroom teacher.

Mr. Peter Lilley (St. Albans)

Does my right hon. Friend recall that last week, when he met 350 people comprising teachers, parents and governors from nearly every school in my constituency, all the teachers, including several heads and deputy heads, supported my right hon. Friend's proposals and urged him to reject the ACAS proposal? Did he get the impression that many of the trade unions are out of touch with many of their members?

Mr. Baker

I drew considerable comfort from the meeting I addressed in my hon. Friend's constituency. It was a large meeting of teachers. My hon. Friend reports quite correctly that everyone who spoke supported the Government's proposals and condemned the unions' proposals.

Mr. David Young (Bolton, South-East)

I should say to the Secretary of State that Opposition Members have been trying to re-establish peace in the classroom since the dispute began. It has not been helped by the intransigence of his predecessor or an imposed settlement from him. Will he clarify concisely that he will not impose a settlement but will reopen negotiations? As a former teacher, may I ask him, in the interests of peace in the classroom, to stop referring to "good" classroom teachers? We do not hear about "good" policemen when police settlements are discussed, so let us stop that kind of divisive talk from the Government.

Mr. Baker

The comments of the hon. Gentleman clearly demonstrate the great gulf betwen the two philosophical approaches.

On the question of imposing a settlement, I have laid down the Government's preconditions. As yet, those preconditions have not been met. There is a £85 million overshoot and a pay and career structure at odds with the Government's wishes for more incentive posts. As I have said, my door remains open, but there is a large gulf of principle of philosophy on the shape of the structure. Serious proposals would entail a fundamental shift in the shape of the structure on behalf of the Labour employers and the unions.

Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch)

Is not the use of the word "employer" a misnomer in these discussions? Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the employers to whom he refers are almost entirely party politicians and almost entirely working hand-in-glove with the trade unions? Indeed, many of them share the views of the hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice). If my right hon. Friend accepts that proposition, does he agree that the relationship between the funding of education by local authorities and central Government now bears little relationship to the words which are used to describe it? It is about time that a paper was presented to explain the costs and procedures that might be involved if teachers' salaries were transferred from local authority to central Government responsibility.

Mr. Baker

I certainly have no proposals to do that. During the negotiations the Conservative employers eventually walked out because they felt they were not party—

Mr. Radice

They did not walk out.

Mr. Baker

They walked out at one stage, then returned, and walked out again. However, although they were representing the employers' interests, they did not feel that they were part and parcel of the process. That demonstrates the totally unsatisfactory nature of the existing Burnham arrangements. They are utterly unsatisfactory.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Does the Secretary of State agree that one of the characteristics of this Government during the past seven years has been their claim of non-intervention in industrial matters? Even as late as last night one of the right hon. Gentleman's ministerial colleagues claimed that, even where the Government have a direct interest in the provision of appliances and limbs for people without legs or arms, they cannot get involved in a dispute and the Secretary of State and his colleagues have said roughly the same thing on many other occasions. Does he not think that teachers may think that they are being picked out for special treatment at a time when most of the people involved in the dispute have, at arm's length from the Secretary of State, almost managed to get the ink dry on a settlement? Does that not suggest to the teachers that the Government are trying not to find an agreement but to stir up trouble?

Mr. Baker

The hon. Gentleman does not appreciate the position. As the representative of the taxpayer in all this, I have to find a very large sum of money for negotiations to which I am not party. I am then presented with the bill and told to sign for it. That is an absurd procedure. There was an arrangement two years ago whereby my predecessor had a direct involvement, but that accord was torn up and now I am not a party to the agreement. That shows the fantasy and unreality of the present negotiations. It is absurd of the hon. Gentleman to claim that we are interfering. We are involved as we have to provide a large part of the settlement money.

Mr. Alan Howarth (Stratford-on-Avon)

Has my right hon. Friend noted an authoritative academic study that finds that the average British school leaver in the lower half of the ability range is two years behind his German counterpart in mathematical attainment? Can he confirm that last year only 45 per cent. of mathematics lessons in schools at secondary level were taught by teachers with a main qualification in that subject and that the loss of mathematics teachers to the profession in that year rose to 10 per cent.? Does he accept that the majority of people will deplore the persistent failure of the Burnham negotiators adequately to respond to the crisis in mathematics teaching and will support him in altering the arrangements so that we are able to tackle problems effectively?

Mr. Baker

My hon. Friend has made a good and important point. There is a serious shortage of mathematics and physics teachers and a less serious shortage of craft, design and technology teachers. Earlier this week I was told by Professor Black, the chairman of the Association of Science Education, that we need 2,500 extra physics teachers. How will we get those teachers? We will get them by offering good graduates the prospect of a career with sufficient incentives. I have proposed five incentive allowances that can be used to attract and retain the people with skills that are in short supply and heavy demand such as mathematics. We must recognise the operation of the market. If we do not, we shall deny children the expert tuition to which they are entitled. I thoroughly support my hon. Friend's comments.

Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)

I have sympathy with the Secretary of State's plight, and as a parent I believe that there is an overwhelming need to restore equilibrium in the classrooms, but what does the Secretary of State think that his statement today will achieve? What steps will he now take to bring about an agreement that will bring about the equilibrium?

Mr. Baker

I have already contributed a great deal to the resolution of the settlement, as I have provided some £600 million over the rest of the year and for next year. I have suggested a pay structure that will improve the quality of education in our classrooms. The unions and Labour-led local authorities have not moved to that position at all. They have increased the money and spread it in a way that is not in the long-term interests of the teaching profession.

Mr. Peter Bruinvels (Leicester, East)

Does my right hon. Friend accept that many teachers are not at all happy with the draft employers' agreement and want genuine promotion prospects? They feel that the agreement is too loaded against new entrants and does not encourage true, genuine flexibility and differentials. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we want to see quality through appraisal rewarding the best teachers? My right hon. Friend's decisions so far are dead on to help our children.

Mr. Baker

That is true. Of course, the unions have agreed to the concept of appraisal. That is why they have agreed, together with the local education authorities, to have six pilot projects. There must be an acceptance that there should be teacher appraisal. The profession has not had appraisal so far and it would provide a basis for distinguishing those who should get better rewards as good teachers in the classroom. I agree that many teachers have already expressed strong support irrespective of their union membership for the proposals that I have put forward.

Mr. Tony Baldry (Banbury)

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the simple ambition is to restore the quality of teaching in our schools by rewarding teachers who teach well and that that ambition is supported by parents? That ambition is also clearly supported by the majority of teachers, as was evidenced by last week's Gallup poll.

Mr. Baker

There is a great deal of support for the Government's proposal. I noticed a television poll a fortnight ago which revealed that 60 per cent. of those who were asked said that the Government's offer was generous. Twelve per cent. said that it was too generous. Therefore, 72 per cent. of the poll said that the offer was either generous or too generous. Only 23 per cent. thought that we were not generous enough. That reflects the feeling in the country. Many parents, members of the public and grandparents will be surprised that, with all the money being provided by the Government, the unions and local authority employers cannot reach an agreement.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

My right hon. Friend may well be aware of the fact that children were told not to turn up at a school in south London today until 12.15 pm because of a teachers' meeting. It seemed that it was impossible to hold the teachers' meeting outside school hours. Would my right hon. Friend, when considering the new contract, take account of the fact that some local education authorities are unable or unwilling—because they are dominated by teacher unions—to enforce proper contracts? Therefore, will he give power over the contracts to school governors through headmasters?

Mr. Baker

My hon. Friend records what is unfortunately only all too common in schools in several parts of London today, where there is intermittent disruption. The House should be under no illusion that disruption is not taking place in schools. Indeed, it certainly is happening in many ILEA schools. On my hon. Friend's point about enforceability, both the ACAS document of last Friday and the Government proposals envisage that definitions of teachers' jobs should be incorporated in proper contracts. My hon. Friend, however, goes further than that. Yesterday Councillor Pearman, the leader of the local authority side, told me that he would expect each LEA to implement, honour and seek to secure the observance of these contracts.

Mr. Radice

Will the Secretary of State clarify whether the Bill that he is to introduce tomorrow will enable him to impose a settlement?

Mr. Baker

The Bill that I will introduce tomorrow will. first, repeal the Remuneration of Teachers Act 1965. It will end the powers that I have to issue parliamentary orders requiring local authorities to pay teachers at a certain level. It will also set up an interim advisory committee and give me renewed powers, to issue regulations. Following the recommendations of the intermediary advisory committee, and discussions of the recommendations with the unions and local authority employers, there would have to be powers similar to those that I have now, to issue regulations requiring local authorities—

Mr. Radice

What powers does the right hon. Gentleman have now?

Mr. Baker

I am always anxious to increase the hon. Gentleman's knowledge, so I just fleshed out the full powers that I shall have.