HC Deb 30 October 1986 vol 103 cc463-74

4 pm

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Kenneth Baker)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement about schoolteachers' pay and conditions of service in England and Wales. For more than two years the local authority employers and the teacher unions have been negotiating about school teachers' pay and conditions. During this time the education of the children in our schools has been repeatedly disrupted. The children have been the victims. The local authorities and teacher unions sought help from the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service because they were unable to reach a settlement within the Burnham committee. Limited progress has been made as a result of ACAS's work. Some "heads of agreement" were negotiated at Coventry in July, but little has been achieved since then. Now, scandalously, further disruption is threatened. A further negotiating meeting is planned for 8 November at Nottingham. I must make the Government's position clear.

We now also have the Main committee's report about pay and conditions of service for schoolteachers in Scotland. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will shortly make a statement giving the Government's response to that report. The Government regard the recommendations in that report relating to the teachers' pay structure, and to their duties and conditions of service, as well judged. We consider that similar arrangements should be adopted in England and Wales, although existing differences in practice mean that it is not appropriate to seek to apply the Main committee's findings in their entirety to England and Wales. I am therefore writing today to the chairman of the Burnham committee's management panel explaining the additional resources the Government are willing to make available for teachers' pay in England and Wales and spelling out our conditions for releasing those resources. I have placed a copy of that letter in the Vote Office.

The Government will make additional resources available only when two very important conditions are delivered. First, there must be a pay structure with differentials which 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. The pay structure envisaged at the Coventry meeting in July does not meet this condition. A structure more in line with the recommendations in the Main committee's report is necessary, and I have set out such a structure in the letter which I have put in the Vote Office. All teachers will receive higher pay, more than half of them on promoted posts reflecting varying responsibilities. The crucial importance of head teachers, who carry the biggest responsibilities, will be recognised.

The second condition is that teachers' professional duties must be more sharply defined and clarified, leaving no room for ambiguity about their duties, and this must be carried through into enforceable contracts of employment. Contracts and conditions of service must be brought into line with the 19 points under discussion at the Coventry meeting. In particular, schoolteachers should be under an express contractual obligation to cover for absent colleagues and to be available to work at the direction of head teachers for 1,300 hours over 195 days each year. All this is set out in more detail in the letter I have placed in the Vote Office.

In return for delivery of these conditions, teachers' pay would be increased in two instalments. The first instalment would increase average schoolteachers' pay by 8.2 per cent. from 1 January 1987, and the second instalment would be a further 8.2 per cent. from 1 October 1987. These two instalments would cover the full percentage increase in average schoolteachers' pay implied by the Main committee's recommendations. This would settle teachers' pay for 1986–87 and 1987–88. The increase of 8.2 per cent. from 1 January means that teachers' pay will have increased by over 16 per cent. since 30 March of this year. Teachers will have had an average 25 per cent. increase over the two years to October 1987. This means that a good honours graduate in his third year would receive after two years of teaching £10,000, an increase of about 20 per cent. The head of the largest comprehensive would get an increase from £26,250 to £30,500. I want to emphasise that these increases are only justified by the fundamental change in the terms, conditions and structure of the service which must accompany them.

If, and only if, these conditions are met are the Government prepared to add £118 million in 1986–87 and £490 million in 1987–88 to planned expenditure on education in England and Wales. Education grant-related expenditures would be increased accordingly. Block grants to local education authorities would be increased by £56 million in 1986–87 and £200 million in 1987–88. The cost of these increases would have to be shared by taxpayers and ratepayers. We estimate that rates would increase by between 2 per cent. and 4 per cent., compared with the decisions that local authorities would otherwise have taken.

I hope that the meeting at Nottingham will accept the position I have outlined. I look to the employers and unions to act quickly and positively. I must make it clear that the matter must now be resolved on all the terms and conditions I have set out. The Government will not be prepared to amend them further, or to make any additional resources available.

Now let me turn to the future. Over the last few years it has become widely accepted that the present negotiating machinery should be replaced. The Government therefore intend to repeal the Remuneration of Teachers Act 1965 and to bring forward proposals to this House for new machinery which will involve an interim committee to advise the Secretary of State on conditions of service and the distribution of pay within the resources available at the appropriate time.

The Government are making these proposals in the interests of the whole country. I believe that they will be seen as fair, and continued disruption will be seen to be unforgivable in these circumstances. My proposals constitute a very special offer for very special people, and when I say "special people" I mean the children of our nation.

4.9 pm

Mr. Giles Radice (Durham, North)

Does the Secretary of State accept that parents have a right to know why, if money is now available for teachers' pay, it was not available two years ago? Is it not the case that all the disruption, turmoil and damage of the prolonged teachers' dispute could have been avoided if the Government had come up with this kind of money in 1984?

Parents will also want to know how today's statement will help to improve standards. Why is there nothing in today's statement about the need to reduce the size of classes, to give time for preparation of lessons and to provide more opportunities for in-service training? All these issues were constructively and imaginatively dealt with by the employers and the teachers' unions in the Coventry agreement, which the Secretary of State has completely ignored.

But perhaps the most important question of all is this: will today's announcement improve the chance of a settlement next week at Nottingham, or will it make it harder? Is it not a fact that the Secretary of State is making almost impossible demands on the negotiators by imposing new conditions on the pay structure at this, the eleventh hour? I have to warn the Secretary of State that parents will not forgive him if his intervention today, with its hectoring tone, its last-minute demand for changes in the pay structure and its threat of an imposed solution, undermines next week's negotiations and scuppers the prospects for lasting peace in our schools.

Mr. Baker

May I begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) upon his reelection to the shadow Cabinet. I refute completely his suggestion that a settlement could have been reached at any time during the last two years. The plain fact of the matter is that under the existing Burnham machinery there have been constant negotiations which have produced no settlement and that during the course of the last two years there has been disruption in our schools. The children of our country are entitled to uninterrupted education.

The hon. Gentleman asks how this will improve the standards of teaching and quality in the classroom. He will see from the letter that I have placed in the Vote Office that we are proposing five promotion posts on the basic scale ranging from an extra £900 to an extra £4,800. Those promotion posts recognise the quality of classroom teaching and mean that secondary teachers will go to an upper level, if they are worth it, of £16,500 and £17,500.

The hon. Gentleman also asked about Coventry. Perhaps I could remind him about what the Main committee said. It said: We … wondered whether a new management structure that further reduced the number of promoted posts at a time of contraction and that offered teachers so little prospect of further improvement in career earnings once they had reached the top of the basic scale would be in the interests either of the service or of individual teachers. The hon. Gentleman accused me of intervening and of trying to wreck the Nottingham negotiations. I hope that the Nottingham meeting will take place because details about such things as how the first 8.2 per cent. should be distributed have to be settled. I have not derailed Nottingham: I have provided a solid framework for the negotiators.

The hon. Gentleman also accused me of intervening at the eleventh hour. I remind him that at Question Time on Tuesday he accused me of dithering. Now he accuses me of being provocative. Is it provocative to announce that the Government are prepared to make substantial funds available? Is it provocative to set out a pay structure that strengthens the career prospects of all teachers? Is it provocative to expect duties and conditions to be clearly set out in contracts so that teachers, head teachers and local education authorities know where they are? That is not being provocative. This dispute has been rumbling on for over two years. I have acted today in the interests of Britain's children.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

Can my right hon. Friend tell us how this excellent deal for the average teacher compares with the pay that such a teacher received when the Government came to office in 1979? Can he also tell us how that compares with the pay in 1975 under the last Labour Government? Will he accept that the parents and teachers in Britain expect no less than that the unions and the Labour party and all who, like the Conservative party, have the interests of children at heart will support this award, which will give our children the best education that we possibly can?

Mr. Baker

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his support. I will write to him about the exact comparisons between 1975 and 1979 for the average teacher. In broad averages, the pay of a school teacher now is £11,150. By 1 January 1987, the average will be up to £12,060. By 1 October next year, it will be up to almost £13,000. I envisage that the lowest paid qualified classroom teacher will move up from £6,400 to £7,600 while a senior teacher on the maximum of his scale will go up from £15,300 to £17,500. Exact figures for individual teachers will emerge from the negotiations.

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

Is the Secretary of State aware that most teachers and parents are sick to death of this dispute? If he is able to secure agreement on the general lines of this package he will receive plenty of thanks. However, he will get no thanks if he blows it by leaving no room for discussion with the local authorities or the teachers' unions.

The Government are now willing to listen to an independent inquiry, even though it was purely for Scotland, and to put more money on the table. Why on earth did they not do that two years ago when we were asking them for an independent inquiry? Will the Secretary of State back what he has said by telling the House that he is prepared to back state schools and that his object is not to pull all the best teachers into his own centrally controlled city schools at the expense of the state schools? Will he look again at his proposals for the future, because from the small print it is clear that he plans to take total control of teachers' pay? It also looks like total control of education from the centre.

Mr. Baker

I emphasise that the funds being made available for city technology colleges are in addition to the planned expenditure on education. That money is not at the expense of the maintained sector and I would not want to see that. Nothing that I have said in this debate in any way derails the Nottingham meeting. I have provided a solid framework for the negotiators. They can now go to Nottingham knowing that the Government's position is crystal clear on contractual duties, conditions of service, pay structure, the provision that we will make for spending on teachers' pay and on the level of grants that we will make available to local authorities.

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

I warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend on producing a pay offer worth 25 per cent. over two years. That is good news for teachers and even better news for our children, who have suffered from disruption for far too long. Can my right hon. Friend say how the new offer equates with Houghton, and can he say something more about appraisal?

Mr. Baker

Condition No. 6 at Coventry dealt with appraisal. As I have said, we have made it clear that we want the 19 conditions agreed. Condition No. 6 says: contribute to and participate in formal performance appraisal and review, team planning, self-evaluation, in-service training and professional development in assigned areas of the curriculum, and pastoral arrangements. I hope that appraisal will be introduced this year. As my hon. Friend may know, there is a proposal for certain pilot projects to be put in hand. That is an important advance and is contained in the Education Bill which recently left the House and is now in another place.

I thank my hon. Friend for welcoming this offer. Like me, he is anxious to seek to improve the career structure of teachers. That is the best way to improve the profession and its standing.

Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

Is it not most unfortunate that for two years the Government have provoked the longest strike in the history of education and have now produced a statement delivered in the voice of diktat and threat about what will happen if teachers do not toe the line? The Minister is new to the job and has a lot to learn about it. For years teachers on pitiful wages have carried out voluntary duties. The Government now threaten that those duties will be made contractual and that teachers will be forced to carry them out. That will create again exactly the same conditions that gave rise to the trouble over the last two years. It is useless to say to the teachers that they will get no more. The Government have been dragged, kicking and screaming, from position to position, saying that teachers will get no more, but now they are to get more and the Government are boasting about it as if their action were voluntary.

Mr. Baker

The hon. Gentleman was once a head teacher. As a result of my proposals, head teachers will get rather more than Members of Parliament. In the hon. Gentleman's case, it may be a question of water finding its own level.

I refute the point that he made that the Government are in any way responsible for the breakdown of negotiations. I was appointed to this office in May and since that time I have been pressed every week, almost every day, to clarify the Government's position about teachers' pay. I have now done that and provided a framework which should lead to a settlement.

Mr. Malcolm Thornton (Crosby)

My right hon. Friend's clear and unequivocal statement will be welcomed not only by parents but by the vast majority of teachers. The statement is a result of a failure ever since the Houghton award to deliver what was contained in the last paragraph of Houghton—the teacher unions' willingness to deliver the professional teacher. This is not a case of the Government being dragged, screaming and protesting, up to date. The Minister of State served with me on the Burnham committee and knows that there has been this failure for a long time. This statement is long overdue.

Mr. Baker

I agree with my hon. Friend—this is a special offer and a special settlement. It recognises the importance of the classroom teacher, who is the heart and essence of the education system. We must have a proper career structure so that teachers can see a way forward and be properly rewarded. The offer is a major step forward.

Mr. Jack Thompson (Wansbeck)

In the suggested conditions, has any special consideration been given to the role of the primary school teacher, bearing in mind the recent recommendations from the Select Committee on Education, Science and the Arts about the achievement in primary schools? Has the Secretary of State and his Cabinet colleagues taken account of the likely effect of the offer on other employees in the public sector?

Mr. Baker

I agree that the recent report from the Select Committee on Education, Science and the Arts on primary education was important, and it dealt with wider matters than pay. In the promotion posts that 1 have announced, the first three levels will be available for primary school teachers—that is £900, £1,800, and £2,800. The resulting maximum salary scales for primary teachers, other than heads and deputies, will be £13,600, £14,500 and £15,500.

Mr. Alan Howarth (Stratford-upon-Avon)

I welcome the Government's decision to abolish the Remuneration of Teachers Act 1965. Will my right hon. Friend consider whether it would be better to move away from a centralised, national system of pay bargaining towards a decentralised system under which state-funded schools would be financially self-governing, negotiating contracts with teachers as their employees?

Mr. Baker

My hon. Friend raises a very wide and interesting question. I do not think that his suggestion will arise from the Nottingham meeting. However, he will know that I have made possible the arrangements he suggested for the city technology colleges. They will be independent trusts able to employ such teachers as they wish under the pay and conditions they wish to set.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

Will the Secretary of State take us a little further on the matter of the two lots of 8.5 per cent.? Is that the global total or is it the minimum which would apply to any teaching grade? If it is not the global total, what will be the minimum for each grade? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that imposing the condition of a completely new system of wage bargaining — presumably replacing the present pattern —will make his problems more difficult and not contribute to the welfare of children in the way that he wishes? He is imposing a third condition and, as far as I can gather, he has not made the terms of that clear. He is asking for a blank cheque.

Mr. Baker

I am not asking for a blank cheque. I have said that the Government are prepared to write a very substantial cheque provided that the conditions are met. I want to emphasise that point most strongly. This is a substantial increase in teachers' salaries and the equivalent amount of planned expenditure. It is justifiable only as a result of what we want to gain—which is a restructuring of the basic pay structure of the profession.

After looking at the Coventry proposals on pay and the long scale which went up automatically, I became convinced that that was not appropriate for the teaching profession, and many teachers agreed with me. Teachers on scales 3 and 4—senior teachers—have recognised that that is not the appropriate way to remunerate the profession.

Mr. Spearing

The right hon. Gentleman has not answered the question.

Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (Newbury)

Is my right hon. Friend aware of how much I welcome his constructive proposals and how much I think that they will do to restore morale in the teaching profession? Does he agree that schools should be stable institutions in the lives of our children, and that firm conditions of employment are one way to re-establish the trust between children and teachers which has been so sorely damaged during the past two years?

Mr. Baker

Like my hon. Friend, I deplore what has happened over the past 18 months, when teachers—who children should look up to, who have had the benefit of higher education and who have a responsible position in society—have walked out on their responsibilities and children have had to be sent home from schools. That is simply not acceptable. We believe that the 19 conditions should be reflected in contracts of employment, clearly setting out the duties and obligations of teachers so that they know their responsibilities and the head teacher knows what he can ask teachers to do.

Mr. David Young (Bolton, South-East)

The tone of the Secretary of State's statement was as conciliatory as a shotgun marriage. If his proposals are not accepted at Nottingham, will he impose them unilaterally? Is he aware that the concern of teachers had as much to do with the lack of resources in education as it had to do with the pay structure? In creating a new contract, will he ensure that the resources meet the requirements of staff in the interests of our children?

Mr. Baker

The hon. Gentleman asked about the successful outcome of Nottingham, and I hope that there will be one. However, whether or not Nottingham achieves a negotiated settlement, I must re-emphasise that the Government's conditions will still have to be met if the extra money is to be paid. I am sure that the teachers want their extra money and I hope that the Nottingham negotiators will not stand in their way.

Mr. Alan Haselhurst (Saffron Walden)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that parents will be astonished if teachers cannot find sufficient to requite their legitimate aspirations in this generous package? Can he confirm that the proposed machinery for settlements will have more chance of guarding against pay erosion as a result of the standards he has set?

Mr. Baker

In answer to my hon. Friend's last point, the proposals I shall bring before the House, for an interim advisory committee advising me upon pay, conditions and structure, will provide a better guarantee for teachers than the erosion they have suffered as a result of the breakdown of the Burnham machinery. There is wide agreement across the spectrum that the Burnham machinery is no longer useful.

I fully endorse and agree with my hon. Friend's first point. If, as a result of my statement, the teacher unions decide that they want more, are not prepared to accept the conditions, or they reject the structure and as a result disruption occurs in schools, that action should be universally condemned. The Government are prepared to provide substantial resources provided that we can find a long-term solution to the dispute.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)

Does the Secretary of State appreciate that many parents will be bewildered and angry that the Government have done today what the right hon. Gentleman's unhappy predecessor said for so long was impossible? They have provided new money for teachers' salaries. Does he understand that with the take-it-or-leave-it attitude he has adopted today he has not created the best conditions for genuine negotiation? Does he mean that the money is available only if all 19 conditions are accepted? Is there any room for genuine negotiations? Further, will the maximum bill to fall on local government be 4 per cent.?

Mr. Baker

In response to the hon. Gentleman's point about the 19 conditions, the Coventry heads of agreement said: The basic contractual requirements of the jobs of teachers … should be defined in accordance with the ACAS report on duties and responsibilities. I have not plucked the list of 19 duties out of the air. The hon. Gentleman will find the list in the Coventry report. He will also find greater reservations in that report. These provided the unions with a useful quarry for chipping away at Coventry. I insist that the 19 conditions are absolutely necessary.

What was the hon. Gentleman's other point?

Mr. Madden

The 4 per cent. limit.

Mr. Baker

Of course. The hon. Gentleman raised the question of the rates. The Government have provided new money, and we have provided for an increase in planned education expenditure. However, the increases that I have announced today will have to be met by the taxpayer and the ratepayer.

Mr. Madden

In what proportion?

Mr. Baker

I stated what local authorities could deduct from the block grant in my original statement. However, the rates will rise from between 2 per cent. and 4 per cent. more than they would have increased without the settlement.

Mr. George Gardiner (Reigate)

I warmly welcome the terms of my right hon. Friend's statement. Does he accept that if parents are to be given the long-term reassurance that they seek the professional duties of teachers should be enshrined in statute?

Mr. Baker

My hon. Friend has raised an interesting point. I am anxious that the 19 conditions should be enshrined in the contracts of employment which lie between the local education authorities and the teachers. We would want to see the conditions implemented before any money was paid.

Mr. Ken Eastham (Manchester, Blackley)

Is it not clear from today's statement that the Secretary of State looks upon the teachers less as members of a profession than as manual workers since he insists upon conditions and contracts of employment? Do the contracts of employment clearly state hours of employment, meal break allowances, whether teachers are to be paid for overtime or whether they will be given time off in lieu? Will the right hon. Gentleman say clearly what the position will be for local authorities which are subject to rate capping? Will there be a dispensation if they concede the increases?

Mr. Baker

The one local authority that could be in trouble this year is ILEA because it is not in receipt of block grants. ILEA is the largest spending and most extravagant education authority in the country. I would expect any extra money that ILEA pays this year to be found from its own resources. As for next year, I shall have to look at ILEA's expenditure level.

The hon. Gentleman made a disparaging, unhelpful and demeaning remark about relating teachers to manual workers. That is exactly what I am not doing. In the proposals I am trying to enhance and improve the professional status of teachers.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

May I say to those hon. Members who rose to ask a question that there is a further statement and some Lords amendments to consider which will take us late into the night. I shall allow questions to continue for a further 10 minutes. I shall make a careful note of those hon. Members who are not called and seek to give them preference later.

Mr. David Madel (Bedfordshire, South-West)

Can my right hon. Friend assure me that to pay for the improved pay system the change in the rate support grant system takes account of the different education systems run by the various education authorities and the different numbers of children involved? Does he agree that both matters have a bearing on the number of teachers employed and the salaries that have to be paid?

Mr. Baker

My hon. Friend is right. He raises a wider point about the rate grant system, which many people believe to be less than satisfactory. I wish to make it clear that the block grant in respect of this expenditure will be paid to local education authorities through a supplementary report next year.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (Derbyshire, West)

Does my right hon. Friend accept that his statement today will be welcomed by my right hon. and hon. Friends, in spite of the pathetic attacks from the Opposition's empty Benches? Is it not a sign of the interest in education that the Government side of the Chamber is packed and the Opposition side almost empty? Will my right hon. Friend explain that the 8 per cent. increase that he has announced, with inflation at 3 per cent., is a very definite increase in teachers' pay, far greater than any increase granted by the Labour Government, when inflation was 20 per cent.?

Mr. Baker

The increase is substantial. I emphasise and reinforce my hon. Friend's remarks. The 8.2 per cent. from 1 January next year is on top of a 7.4 per cent. increase in teachers' salaries from 30 March this year. I can think of no group in the public sector that has had a settlement of that sort. The Government are prepared to contemplate such a settlement only because we hope to gain from it the restructuring of the teaching profession.

I agree that the Opposition Benches are thinly attended. I hope that the Opposition will not, because of their thinness, be tempted to support any disruptive action. The thinnest Benches of all are those occupied by the SDP. Until a moment ago there was no one there at all.

Mr. Richard Alexander (Newark)

Will not the chances of a settlement at Nottingham be vastly increased if today's proposals are accepted by the Opposition? Will it not be regrettable if, for narrow party political reasons, the Opposition attempt to undermine the proposals?

Mr. Baker

I thank my hon. Friend. The Opposition Front Bench and the leader of the Labour party have a responsibility. They have pressed me and my predecessor for a substantial commitment of Government funds to resolve the two-year dispute. I hope that they recognise the essential generosity of the offer. I hope that they will say publicly that they support what I have announced today.

Sir Dudley Smith (Warwick and Leamington)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his splendid package will mean that the public will totally reject any move by the teachers' unions not to go along with it? Does he agree that the teachers' unions must agree, because they will never achieve a better package?

Mr. Baker

Many teachers will welcome what I have said today. Many parents will look at the figures and reflect upon them. They will recognise that they have not had adjustments in their salaries or wage packets on this scale. They will recognise that the offer should be accepted.

Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton and Wallington)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the most welcome single element in his statement is the clear decision to bring together, at last, the pay and professional conditions of service for teachers? Does he agree that that is long overdue? Will my right hon. Friend confirm to the House and to those who are worried about the problems of public sector pay that he and the entire Cabinet are determined to stand firm? Does he agree that this proposal should not set a precedent for a repeat of the Clegg awards some years ago?

Mr. Baker

I reinforce that absolutely and totally. The Government are prepared to make the extra provision of Government funding only in very special circumstances, involving the restructuring of the whole pay system for the teaching profession and the establishment of proper contracts of agreement which tabulate, lay down and regulate duties and obligations. I want to emphasise that strongly. This is not the forerunner, and should not be considered to be the forerunner, of any other settlements in the public sector.

Mr. Anthony Nelson (Chichester)

My right hon. Friend is to be congratulated on proposing such reasonable, generous and conciliatory terms for teachers. Is it not a matter for regret that it took the quid pro quo of a much higher pay offer to encourage many teachers to fulfil their responsibilities for covering for other teachers, as many of them have in the past? However, will my right hon. Friend be somewhat cautious in going too far down a statutory path of imposing responsibilities on teachers because that might encourage a work-to-rule mentality which could be detrimental to young people's education?

Mr. Baker

Nottingham allows the teachers' unions and employers to come to an agreement which does not have to be imposed statutorily. I hope that they will take the opportunity to do that. Cover responsibilities are clearly laid out in my letter and are dealt with in the 1,300 hours provision. I do not need to remind the House of the recent court judgment that cover is an existing professional obligation for teachers. That is important.

Mr. Tom Sackville (Bolton, West)

I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement. Does he agree that the vexed problem of the shortage of science and maths teachers will not be fully addressed until teachers are paid, not only in accordance with their performance, but in accordance with the level of demand for their skills?

Mr. Baker

That is one of the reasons why the Coventry deal was so profoundly unhelpful. A scale which operated in a standard manner with automatic progression did not allow for sufficient promotion posts. The five promotion posts that I have recommended today in the pay structure will allow such problems to be dealt with. It is important to deal with it because there is a shortage in those important disciplines. The problem will be addressed in that way.

Mr. John Watts (Slough)

Was my right hon. Friend surprised by the hostile reaction to his statement from Labour Members? Will not parents find it unforgivable if the Labour party or its political friends in the trade unions make any attempt to sabotage such an imaginative basis for a settlement of this long-running dispute?

Mr. Baker

I think that the Opposition Front Bench is in a bit of a muddle over this, and does not quite know how to react. If, after reflecting on my statement, Labour Members take a concerted line condemning what I have said this afternoon, they will bear very great responsibility for any disruption in our schools.

Mr. Peter Bruinvels (Leicester, East)

I welcome this new and most generous pay structure. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that 400,000 teachers, many of whom are Labour party members, will benefit from the genuine career and promotion prospects? Is it not irresponsible of Labour and Liberal Members to deny their support when parents have had enough, and expect their children to be properly taught, without any unrest?

Mr. Baker

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his support, and I endorse what he has said. Parents and families will have high expectations of a settlement in Nottingham and of peace in our schools. We must return to what was always considered to be the natural basis of education in Britain, which means uninterrupted education for the benefit of our children.

Mr. Michael Stern (Bristol, North-West)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that after his imaginative statement there will be even less justification than there ever was for the unballoted industrial action proposed for next week by NAS/UWT? Will he write to that union pointing out the advantages, following his statement, of calling off action before it is too late?

Mr. Baker

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I deplore the action threatened next week, the disruption of half days and the picketing that will take place. It is totally unnecessary, and can only harm education. Moreover, it will severely damage the reputation of those teachers and unions that support it.

Mr. Radice

I welcome the fact that the Government are providing more money but I repeat: if it is available now, why was it not available two years ago? I must ask the Secretary of State again, because he did not answer before, why he said nothing about the Coventry proposals on reducing the size of classes, giving time to the preparation of lessons and providing more opportunities for in-service training? The right hon. Gentleman did not answer that question before. Will he answer it now?

The Secretary of State seemed rather annoyed about my warnings over the nature and tone of his intervention. I asked him to state whether the Government would he prepared to give more money. They have done that, but I do not accept the way that it has been done. At this last moment, is not the Secretary of State asking teachers to keep faith with the contract side of the bargain while at the same time telling employers to tear up the agreement on pay structure that was so carefully negotiated at Coventry and that was specifically designed to reward the classroom teacher?

Finally, is the Secretary of State aware that we are desperately anxious that Nottingham should succeed? For the past two years we have tried to obtain a settlement of the teachers' dispute, and if the Nottingham negotiations fail, it will be the Government's fault.

Mr. Baker

I do not think so. In my statement I mentioned 195 working days and set out the figure that was discussed at Coventry. I understand that the 1,300 hours also featured until very late in the marathon negotiating session in Coventry. Those are very important figures because they deal with class time. It works out at an average of 33⅓ hours for the 39 teaching weeks of the year.

Apparently, the hon. Gentleman now wishes to support Coventry, but he knows perfectly well that ever since that agreement was negotiated unions have chipped away at it. There has been considerable disquiet about it, and it was condemned and strongly attacked in the Main committee. It does not provide a proper basis for the structure of the teaching profession. When the hon. Gentleman has read the letter that I have placed in the Vote Office, and has reflected on it, I hope that his support for what I have said today will be unequivocal.

Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Although questions from Labour Members completely dried up towards the end of this vital statement on education, is it not the convention that the Opposition spokesman should use his second intervention to raise new points, and not just reiterate points because he made them so badly the first time?

Mr. Speaker

That may be, but I am not responsible for what is said.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. It quite often happens that there are general questions affecting England on which there is a statement. That is then followed by a statement involving Scotland. Quite often only a proportion of English Members of Parliament are called. Would it not be appropriate if a similar proportion of Scottish Members were called, as otherwise it might appear that English Members are second-class citizens. I think not of myself but of the general issue.

Mr. Speaker

I cannot give any such guarantee. I am genuinely sorry about what has happened. It would be ideal if I could call every hon. Member who wished to speak on a statement, but that is patently not possible. I do my best to make amends later when these matters are discussed. I keep very careful records.