HC Deb 27 March 1990 vol 170 cc200-2
8. Mr. John Greenway

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what plans he has to establish a new negotiating body for teachers' pay.

Mr. MacGregor

I held a series of constructive meetings with the teacher unions and employers towards the end of last year. I am considering carefully the points put to me and will make a further statement as soon as I am in a position to do so. The immediate priority is to complete the consultation process on the 1990–91 pay settlement.

Mr. Greenway

Teachers are understandably anxious that there should be a new pay body, but does my right hon. Friend agree that the issue of pay cannot be viewed in isolation from the career structure of the teaching profession, the effect of the local management initiative, and the overriding objective of raising the morale of teachers? Does he think that the threat of fresh industrial action will have precisely the opposite effect and will serve only to undermine the good will that has carefully been re-established in our schools?

Mr. MacGregor

I agree with my hon. Friend that these issues relate not just to pay as such but to career structures and to the need for greater local flexibility to enable local school management to operate. My hon. Friend will have noticed that in this year's pay settlement the interim advisory committee carried out the remit that I had given it and produced far-reaching recommendations to deal both with career structure and with local flexibility. As to industrial action, I can only repeat what I said earlier—I do not believe that such action does anything to enhance teachers' standing in the public mind. The vast majority of dedicated teachers want to get on with the job and deserve respect. I regret the fact that the action of the few undermines that hard and dedicated work.

Mr. Flannery

Five years after the Government destroyed the teachers unions' democratic negotiating rights and were condemned for doing so by international law and by the United Nations Organisation, through the International Labour Organisation, are we to have a negotiating body dictated to us which cannot negotiate, or one with teacher representatives democratically elected to negotiate?

Mr. MacGregor

As I have explained on a number of occasions, trying to find the right machinery for determining teachers' pay in the future is what the discussions are all about. There are wide differences of view among the interested parties and the task is to find the best way ahead. Some teacher unions have rather welcomed the outcome of the work that the interim advisory committee has been doing in recent years and have greatly welcomed the fact that through its recommendations and our acceptance of them a much better career structure has been produced.

9. Mr. Jack

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what consideration he has given to findings of the Interim Advisory Committee on Teachers' Pay which were not made in its formal recommendations; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. MacGregor

My hon. Friend has had a number of meetings with teachers in his constituency about the report. I have considered carefully all the points that the interim advisory committee has made. It has produced an excellent report. I am completing the required consultation on the report and will make an announcement in due course when consideration of the responses has been completed.

Mr. Jack

I thank my right hon. Friend for that extremely hopeful answer on the IAC report, but what message does he have this afternoon for the 100 or so teachers in my constituency of Fylde on the subject of teacher morale? Which parts of the IAC report will he act on to help address those problems?

Mr. MacGregor

The IAC report is fundamentally about pay. I have already said that, subject to the consultation process that I am going through at the moment, I am minded to accept the IAC recommendations in full. The committee has said that its recommendations are far reaching, and I believe that to be right. They will produce a career structure which rewards greater responsibilities and which rewards more those who get to the top of their profession. The pay of heads and deputies will increase by about 10.4 per cent. on average and there will be flexibility to deal with local shortages and to reward classroom skills. That is all helpful and, in so far as low morale is about pay, the committee's report takes us a good way forward.

Mr. Simon Hughes

I do not want to undermine some of the IAC's recommendations, but will the Secretary of State accept that the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers has been driven to take strike action, which I do not endorse, by a much larger majority of its members than the right hon. Gentleman's colleagues had as a percentage of the electorate at the last election, because they feel frustrated that they cannot negotiate their pay and conditions? Will the Secretary of State announce the end of the IAC and the beginning of negotiating rights for teachers so that they can negotiate a better deal?

Mr. MacGregor

I have already given my view on the decision to hold a one-day strike and I am glad that the hon. Gentleman takes the same view. Such a strike serves no useful purpose, particularly as I am in the process of consultation on the IAC report, about which I met the NAS/UWT a week or so ago, and on the long-term negotiating machinery, about which I have also seen representatives. It is pointless to have a strike while those discussions are going on. Strikes on such issues are not right in any case for a noble profession and I hope that even now the union will think again.

Mrs. Currie

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the House should condemn those who are trying to get teachers to go on strike over pay? At a time when strikes in industry are increasingly rare, is not it a crying shame that the teaching profession—of which I used to be a member and which is composed of educated people—should be unable to resolve such issues by sitting down round a table and discussing them?

Mr. MacGregor

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. What is more, I believe that that is what the vast majority of teachers think.