HC Deb 24 October 2002 vol 391 cc399-400
13. Mr. Colin Challen (Morley and Rothwell)

What plans exist to improve the pay of support staff working in further education. [75278]

The Minister for Lifelong Learning and Higher Education (Margaret Hodge)

In September, I announced an extra £32 million for the teaching pay initiative in further education this year, including £12 million to allow colleges to extend the initiative to support staff.

Colleges have the flexibility to determine how they allocate their share of the £32 million between different groups of staff to meet local priorities. We have already announced that unit funding for colleges will rise by 1 per cent. a year in real terms over the next three years.

Mr. Challen

I welcome that answer and thank my hon. Friend for it. I also welcome the new Secretary of State to his post and express the hope that his predecessor will return swiftly to the Government. One of her legacies is that there is more integration in the further education sector between colleges and schools and other institutions. However, we need more parity in the rewards that people get in those places. In my constituency, we have the Rothwell partnership, in which Joseph Priestley college is working with three high schools. The staff involved need parity. Will the Government look at that issue and reward them appropriately?

Margaret Hodge

I welcome the activities in my hon. Friend's constituency between Joseph Priestley college and a number of schools. Such co-operation puts the individual at the heart of the learning process and ensures that institutional silos do not inhibit that. We have a manifesto commitment to ensure that we raise levels of pay in further education colleges so that we get equal funding between the two sectors. We remain committed to that.

Mr. David Kidney (Stafford)

Will my hon. Friend confirm whether industrial action in further education is still planned for November? Will she confirm that the dispute is about pay and say what she is trying to do to avert it?

Margaret Hodge

It is my view that industrial action is not necessary, given our announcement of the extra £32 million that we have made available to the employers to ensure that they can negotiate and reach agreement with all the unions. That £32 million is the same as 1 per cent. on the pay bill, which is sufficient to prevent industrial action next month.