HC Deb 27 November 1990 vol 181 cc837-8

Queen's Recommendation having been signified—

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of—

  1. (a) any expenses of the Secretary of State under that Act, and
  2. (b) any increase attributable to that Act in the sums so payable under any other Act.—[Mr. Fallon.]

10.16 pm
Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

I am sure that the right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) is being pressed to depart from the Chamber because he must want to know that the money is under close scrutiny. After all, under the Tory Government, he has been responsible for cuts ever since he was Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

The money resolution uses a curious form of words. It authorises any increase in expenditure attributable to that Act that is, the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Billin the sums so payable under any other Act. That is a broad form of words. Why does the Secretary of State not rely simply on the authority granted by section 79 of the Education Reform Act 1988, which applies to teachers' pay and under which, through negotiations under the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Bill, he is authorised to increase expenditure? As the main source is listed under the financial effects of the Bill, why should the resolution refer to "any other Act"?

What other legislation do the Government have in mind which will be covered by the resolution? The words of the resolution are broad, so we are giving carte blanche to the Government to apply expenditure to any other Act that they may desire to introduce. Perhaps they already have in mind a list of Acts to which the resolution could apply. In that case, they should have listed such legislation in the financial effects of the Bill. That would be a useful explanation to place on the record.

Secondly, schedule 3(3) lists the sorts of expenditure that the Secretary of State is authorised to pay over to the chairman, deputy chairman and members of the advisory committee. The financial memorandum to the Bill makes it clear that the cost of the committee will be offset by disbanding the interim advisory committee. I asked earlier whether the Secretary of State had in mind any increases in the pay and improvements in the conditions of the new committee. If there are significant differences between the money paid to teachers and the payments made to the advisory committee, teachers will be affronted. They are dissatisfied with their pay, not least because it has been removed from a decent pay bargaining framework such as that recommended by the International Labour Organisation, which is affiliated to the United Nations.

We need to know what these people will be paid and what hours they will be expected to work each week. That will give teachers a useful basis for comparison. If the payments are large, the advisory committee will not be independent, because it will be under an obligation to its paymaster in the form of the Secretary of State. The money resolution authorises the Secretary of State to determine those levels of pay, and the House should know what they will be. We should not have to find that information out from press leaks because it has been determined in secret.

The legislation places the negotiations on and recommendations for teachers' pay in the public arena. Everyone will know what the teachers are paid, so we should also know what the advisory committee will be paid.

Naturally, the Minister is a little excited and nervous because he does not know whether he will be a Minister after tonight. I take the view that the right hon. Member for Huntingdon is not clever enough to get rid of him, but one never knows. The Minister of State, who wound up the debate on Second Reading, did not reply to my earlier question, so I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will reply to it now.

10.22 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Michael Fallon)

I hope to be able to satisfy my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) as well as the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer). The hon. Gentleman mentioned two points which were central to the resolution, so it may be helpful if I explain what the resolution does. First, the expenses of the Secretary of State are simply those concerned with the operation of the advisory committee—the cost of its secretariat, its incidental expenses, any payments made to the chairman or members, and the publication of its report. Neither the chairman nor the members of the committee will be paid —they will receive expenses only, although the chairman may receive a fee per diem.

The advisory committee is likely to cost somewhat less than the interim advisory committee which it replaces because it has a narrower remit and a shorter period in which to report, and it is likely to pay fewer visits to schools.

Mr. Cryer

The Minister said that the Committee members will be paid nothing but expenses, and that is welcome. He also said that the chair and deputy chair will be paid a daily fee. What sort of fee does he have in mind?

Mr. Fallon

The same sort of per diem fee as applies to the interim advisory committee—there is no difference.

The second leg of the money resolution is required under procedures of the House because changes in teachers' pay arising from the new machinery will give rise to increases in local authority expenditure. It also covers the Secretary of State's grant to grant-maintained schools, which provides for all their expenses, including the pay of their teachers. I hope that the hon. Member for Bradford, South will be content with that reply and I commend the resolution to the House.

Question put and agreed to.