HL Deb 08 December 1955 vol 194 cc1261-9

4.20 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Strathclyde.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The EARL OF DROGHEDA in the Chair]

Clause 1 [Safety of pupils going to and from school]:


Your Lordships may remember that Clause 1 gives power to education authorities to do work to improve the safety of private roads used by pupils. The expression "private road" is defined as meaning: any road, street or park other than a public road, and includes bridges over which a private road passes. The Association of County Councils have represented that it should be made clear that fords are included in private roads. The purpose of the Amendment is to secure the inclusion of fords. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 10, after ("includes") insert ("a ford and").—(Lord Strathclyde.)


Does the noble Lord not think it would be better if, instead of "ford and bridges," the Amendment read "fords and bridges"? Why singular in this case and plural in the other?


It appears that the drafting authorities consider that the words are quite explicit as they stand.


Is it not open to another interpretation—namely, that the expression "private roads" means any road…and includes roads on which there is a ford and bridges but not a road where there are fords and bridges. Is there any reason why it should not be both?


I will look into the point the noble Lord has raised.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 2 to 9 agreed to.

LORD MATHERS moved, after Clause 9 to insert the following new clause:

Salaries of Teachers

"10. For subsection (2) of section seventy-nine of the principal Act there shall be substituted the following subsection— (2) Before making regulations under this section, the Secretary of State shall intimate his intention to make such regulations to a Council which has among its objects the making of recommendations with regard to salaries of teachers being a council composed as to one hall of its members of persons appointed in equal numbers by him and by the education authorities and as to one half of its members of persons appointed by the teachers employed by the education authorities with in independent chairman appointed by the Lord President of the Court of Session. The constitution of the said Council shall be agreed between the parties represented thereon or failing such agreement shall be prescribed by the Secretary of State and shall make provision for a reference to the Industrial Disputes Tribunal in any case where the members, of the Council are unable to agree on their recommendations to the Secretary of State and the recommendations of the Council or the findings of the Industrial Disputes Tribunal as the case may be shall he binding on the parties represented on the Council.'

The noble Lord said: In what I wish to say to your Lordships I know that I may be transgressing the general rules that very properly have been laid down by your Lordships' House, but every rule knows its exception upon occasion and, as a Scotsrnan, I feel that I cannot rise to address your Lordships on a purely Scottish piece of business without mentioning the name of a most distinguished Scotsman who has so lately passed from our midst I refer to Sidney Herbert, Baron Elphinstone, who until his death was Lord Clerk Register of Scotland and Keeper of the Signet since 1944, Chancellor of the Order of the Thistle since 1949, and who held the honourable position of Lord High Commissioner to the. General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1923 and 1924, and was Captain General of the Royal Company of Archers, The Queen's Bodyguard in Scotland, from 1935 to 1933. His years had recently prevented him from coining much to your Lordships' House, of which he had been a Member since 1893, which means that when he first came here he took his oath of allegiance to Queen Victoria.

That seems to me to be a great record. But we have had the privilege of enjoying his services in the execution of the duties of his high offices in Scotland. A simple man of sterling character, summarises the way in which he was spoken of by the Bishop of Edinburgh at a notable memorial service held last Monday at the Cathedral Church of St. Mary. I had the opportunity of attending and heard the Bishop say that the noble Lord would have found the idea of eulogistic speeches repugnant to him, but I am sure that your Lordships will join me in this brief expression of appreciation of Lord Elphinstone's distinguished services and of our sorrow over the loss that we and his relatives are feeling so acutely at this time, especially the gracious Lady who has been his life's companion for forty-five years. To her and her family especially do we express our respectful sympathy as we mourn with them the passing of a well-loved Scotsman and a great Christian gentleman.

May I now turn to the Amendment that stands in my name on the Order Paper and give some indication of the reasons which moved me to ask that a new clause be added to the Bill? The purpose of this new clause is simple: it is to confer upon the teaching profession an elementary right which is available to employees in almost every other service—namely, the right of voluntary negotiation for the settlement of salaries and conditions of work, with arbitration if agreement cannot be reached. The principle of voluntary negotiation is conceded by all political Parties and its application throughout industry is recognised and accepted by employers and employees alike. Likewise the practice of referring disputes to arbitration is enshrined in the Industrial Disputes Order of 1951.

The nature of the arrangements by which teachers' salaries in Scotland are arrived at is such as to deny them the right of voluntary negotiation. First, the amount of Government grant available for Scottish education depends, through the Goschen formula, on the total educational grant for England and Wales, and in practice it is broadly true that the part of that grant expended on teachers' salaries in Scotland is similarly related to the part so expended in England and Wales. It follows that the so-called negotiating body—that is, the National Joint Council—dealing with the salaries of teachers in Scotland, does not negotiate freely, inasmuch as negotiations must be conducted in the knowledge that the total sum available for distribution has been predetermined. In this connection, it is worthy of note that when the National Joint Council went to arbitration in December, 1953, the independent arbiter made his award contingent upon the immediately previous English award being confirmed.

Secondly, apart altogether from the limitation of the Goschen formula, the system by which salaries of teachers in Scotland are arrived at cannot be described as voluntary negotiation in the ordinarily understood sense of that term. What is the system? It is to be found in subsection (2) of Section 79 of the Education (Scotland) Act, 1946, of which I have a copy here if any noble Lord wishes to see it. In effect, the arrangements are as follows. The Secretary of State prescribes salary scales by regulation, but before embodying these scales in regulations he must have regard to the recommendations of the Council referred to in the section. The Council approved by the Secretary of State for the purpose of the section to deal with the salaries of teachers in Scotland is the National Joint Council, which is composed of representatives of education authorities and the Educational Institute of Scotland, with assessors appointed by the Secretary of State. Other teachers' organisations in Scotland, such as the Secondary School Teachers' Association and the Scottish Schoolmasters' Association, are not represented on the National Joint Council.

Now, although the function of the National Joint Council is to make recommendations to the Secretary of State, the section makes it perfectly clear that these recommendations have no binding force on him; he must "have regard" to them, but he need not adopt them. The constitution of the National Joint Council provides machinery for arbitration in cases where both sides do not reach agreement, and it appears that the findings of an arbiter appointed under its constitution by the Lord President of the Court of Session become the findings of the Council. But, once again, the Secretary of State need not adopt the findings; he need only "have regard" to them.

There is a further objection which is strongly felt by many members of the teaching profession in Scotland. The deliberations of the National Joint Council are held in private and their recommendations are not published before the Secretary of State makes his regulations; in fact, my information is that they are never published at all, as such, by the National Joint Council. In other words, as I understand it, the teachers whose salaries are being negotiated (if such a word is permissible in this context) do not know what is being put forward in their name. This atmosphere of secrecy has given rise to much dissatisfaction.

The scarcity of teachers, and, in particular, male teachers, in Scotland has now reached alarming proportions. The following is a quotation from The Scotsman of Thursday, December 1, illustrating this point. The heading is, "Headmaster appeals for extra staff. Pupils left teacherless," and it says: Appealing for the services of another teacher at Dunbarney Junior Secondary School, Bridge of Earn, the headmaster, Mr. R. W. Seath, told members of the Dunbarney Sub-Committee yesterday that when he left to attend the meeting in Perth he had to leave thirty pupils to their own resources for two periods. He added that to-day he would have to take classes of 49, 53, 45 and 30 successively in the forenoon, and that in the afternoon there would be 'the usual complete muddle.' Requests for more staff to cope with extra pupils have never been satisfactorily answered, he alleged, and while the Director of Education said that classes could be held in the village hall to reduce overcrowding, the whole thing was pointless when there was no teacher to go with the pupils. The committee agreed to support Mr. Seath in a further request for an additional teacher. At the present time the recruitment figure for male teachers is probably the lowest ever recorded. One of the reasons for this is that salaries for male teachers are not adequate to attract men with the necessary qualifications. In other words, the rate paid is not a suitable rate for the job, and under the existing machinery in terms of which salaries are in fact imposed by the Secretary of State, there is no means by which the rate for the job can be ascertained. Schoolmasters as a class are an intelligent and responsible body of men and they cannot be expected to be content with a facade of negotiating machinery which cannot stand comparison for a single mom ant with the arrangements which are freely conceded as a right to all the other major services in the country. So long as the existing system is kept in being, so long will the sense of frustration in the teaching profession continue, and the recruitment figures reflect the fact that teaching is no longer a profession which is an attraction to educated men. It is a truism to say that over the last ten or fifteen years the status of schoolmasters has steadily fallen.

The proposed new clause is intended to introduce into salary negotiations a principle which more than any other might restore the teaching profession to its traditional place amongst the other professions in the country. Therefore I plead for the acceptance by Her Majesty's Government of the principles aimed at in this new clause, which I believe would secure a proper evaluation of teachers' service and, as a consequence, cause The profession to become attractive to many students who presently take up other spheres of work: elsewhere with more attractive conditions of service. Scottish education has had a great reputation. We must strive to make sure that this reputation is not lost. Whatever the fate of this Amendment, I hope that all Scots interested in education will unite to save the teaching profession from further decline. That last word is one that, intentionally on my part, places considerable responsibility upon the organised teachers to lead in the effort to save Scottish education. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 9, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Mothers.)


I feel I must say a word or two on the subject of the new clause submitted by the noble Lord, Lord Mathers. For ten years I was Chairman of the National Joint Council. I am familiar with the set-up and the work of that body, and the noble Lord has told us accurately what it has to do and what is expected of it. The scales of salaries which are now being worked are called the "Teviot scales," and they were instituted about eleven years ago. I resigned from the chairmanship of that body about two years ago. I feel that the time has come when the whole situation with regard to the powers of the National Joint Council and the change in the general life of the people of this country should be reviewed. I feel sure that the substance of the noble Lord's new clause would meet with the approval of the teachers with whom I was familiar.

In the ten years when I was the Chairman of the National Joint Council we used sometimes to get at loggerheads. I sat with great pomp and circumstance with twenty-four representatives, twelve of the Teachers' Institute on the right-hand side of the table in front of me, and twelve of the educational authorities on the left-hand side, together with assessors, secretaries and so on it was a very formidable assembly. At times during those ten years I used to wonder whether we should get through with agreement, but somehow or other we always managed it. Sometimes I would suggest that the two sides should part for a time, one going into one room and the other into another, to talk it over, so that when they came back we might reach agreement, and we always did. The spirit within the National Joint Council was excellent there was never any bad feeling. The whole idea from both sides of the table was to see how we could benefit the situation of education, which the noble Lord so well described in the latter part of his speech.

Therefore, while feeling that his new clause is a little complicated, I believe it would help to overcome some of the difficulties that have arisen in the last few years, and that a great response would come as a result of some such new clause as the noble Lord has suggested, not merely from one side but from both sides of the table that I used to preside over. I hope that my noble friend who is to reply will have great sympathy with the expression of the noble Lord who has moved it, and also with the information I have been able to give him derived from the experience I had over quite a long period. I hope that something of that nature will come from the clause suggested by the noble Lord.


In view of Sir Winston Churchill's call for the increase and improvement of our technological education, I feel that the time is ripe for some consideration of teachers' salaries. It is going to be difficult for poor local education authorities to afford the whole sum. I should like, as a Scottish Peer elected under the guidance of the late Lord Elphinstone, to associate myself with every word uttered about him by the noble Lord, Lord Mathers. I am particularly glad that it came so graciously from the other side of the House.


I had not intended to speak on this Amendment, but having heard the very clear exposition of it by the noble Lord, Lord Mathers, I should like to make one point. We who live in the country deplore more than anything the continual closing up of the small schools, particularly junior secondary schools. It has a detrimental effect on all rural life. The closing of these schools is, of course, due to the shortage of teachers. There are not enough teachers, either male or female, to go round, simply because the teaching profession is not made attractive enough for them, due to the inadequate salaries. There is no doubt, as the noble Lord, Lord Mathers, has explained, that a large section of the teaching profession are underpaid in comparison with other comparable professions. If it is the noble Lord's intention to try to ameliorate the conditions of these people and so bring them back and open up some of the schools in the countryside which have been closed to such an alarming extent in the past, then I think there is a great deal to be said for the Amendment, and I will support it.


I appreciate the very sincere motives which induced the noble Lord, Lord Mathers, to bring forward this new clause, but I have to tell your Lordships, with regret, that I cannot possibly accept it, because what the clause proposes is a most drastic alteration in the manner in which teachers' salaries are now negotiated and settled. No alterations in the present methods are being suggested by the Educational Institute of Scotland, which represents no fewer than 18,000 out of the 23,000 women teachers and 9,000 out of the 11,800 men teachers in Scotland, nor has any alteration been suggested by the education authorities. In a recent debate in another place suggestions on the same topic were put forward, which my honourable friend the Joint Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland undertook to examine. Might I say to the noble Lord that if he saw fit to withdraw this Amendment I would give him an assurance that his proposal would be examined, along with the proposal made in another place?


I realise that the noble Lord, the Minister of State, has not had the opportunity of studying all that is involved in the new clause that I put forward. I agree that it would effect a drastic change in the present position. It was deliberately intended to be a drastic change, because I consider a drastic change is necessary. But, in the light of the statement he has made that this will be considered, along with the other proposition made in another place where our Whitley Council was mentioned, I do not feel that I should be acting properly if I did other than agree to accept the undertaking given by the noble Lord; and I ask leave of the Committee to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

First Schedule [Minor and consequential amendments]:


The purpose of this Amendment is to correct an error in Section 125 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1947, and to substitute the word "sub-committee" for "committee." I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 11, line 35, at end insert— ("In head (ii) of paragraph (a) of section one hundred and twenty-five for the word 'committee' there shall be substituted the word 'sub-committee')—(Lord Strathclyde.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

First Schedule, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining Schedule agreed to.

House resumed.