§ 3.54 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD BOWLES
My Lords, I have been asked by my noble friend Lord Bowden to move the Second Reading of this Bill. In addressing your Lordships' House for the first time, I beg to ask that your Lordships' customary and traditional indulgence may be extended to me. When this House was "another place"—that is, when your Lordships allowed the Commons to sit here in the war after the House of Commons had been destroyed—I made my maiden speech here, in 1942, so when I have finished this speech I shall have made two maiden speeches in this Chamber. May I also ask your Lordships to forgive me for making this, my maiden speech, from the Front Bench?
I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. The purpose of the Bill is to substitute new provisions for Section 89 of the Education Act, 1944, which establishes the machinery for determining the salaries of teachers paid by local education authorities and enables the Secretary of State for Education and Science to give statutory effect to the salaries as determined under that machinery. Under Section 89 of the Education Act, 1944, the Secretary of State constitutes negotiating committees comprising representatives of the teachers, on the one hand, and representatives of the local education authorities, on the other, under an independent chairman. These are the Burnham Committees, and there are at the present time three of them: first, the Main Committee, covering full-time teachers in maintained primary and secondary schools; secondly, the Technical Committee, covering full-time teachers in maintained further education establishments other than farm institutes; and, thirdly, the Farm Institutes Committee, covering full-time teachers in farm institutes and teachers of agricultural subjects on the staff of local education authorities. When a Burnham Committee submits agreed recommendations to the Secretary of State, he may accept them or reject them and, if he accepts them, he may put them into effect by 1024 Order. The salary scales determined in this manner under Section 89 are binding on the salaries of the teachers covered.
In 1961, and again in 1963, the Burnham Committee and the Minister of the day—Sir David Eccles (now the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles) on the former occasion; Sir Edward Boyle on the latter—found themselves in disagreement over recommendations that the Committee had put forward. On each occasion it was evident that the disagreements over the salary provisions themselves were seriously aggravated by the inability of the existing statutory machinery to deal with such contingencies, and the deadlock that arose on the latter occasion was eventually resolved only by recourse to Parliament, which granted the Minister exceptional temporary powers, through the Remuneration of Teachers Act, 1963.
These events, and the discussion of the existing machinery to which they gave rise, pointed to weaknesses in the existing statutory machinery in the following respects. First, the existing machinery provided no opportunity for the Minister to join in the process of negotiation, but gave him an unqualified power of veto after negotiations had resulted in agreement. Given that a Minister of Education could hardly abstain from holding any view on teachers' salaries at a time when teacher supply was a critical problem, this was bound to be unsatisfactory: for if he were to put his views to the Committee at an early stage, when the Act gave him as yet no standing in the matter, this might embarrass the course of free negotiation, whereas if he remained silent until the negotiation was completed and then vetoed its outcome "as a bolt from the blue", the time and patience of the negotiators would have been spent in vain.
The next weakness is that Section 89 provided no legal means whatever of resolving the deadlock that would occur if the Minister rejected the recommendations of the Burnham Committee and the Committee then declined to modify their recommendations in a manner that the Minister would find acceptable. Section 89 also made no provision for the contingency that a committee might fail to agree; and although some might argue 1025 that this provided a valuable incentive to the negotiators to be accommodating, and to reach agreement at almost any price, others would think it preferable to be able to have recourse to independent arbitration in the event of disagreement as is familiar practice elsewhere. Fourthly, Section 89 did not allow a salary settlement that was agreed after negotiation and approved by the Minister to be introduced with retrospective effect. Therefore any serious delay in achieving agreement and approval—and the preceding points indicate that there was plenty of scope for it—would run the risk, for the teachers, of losing the benefit of the improved salary provisions during the period that the delay lasted.
In the course of the debate on Second Reading of last year's Remuneration of Teachers Bill (House of Commons, April 25, 1963) the existence of these weaknesses in the existing statutory machinery was acknowledged by many Members. Sir Edward Boyle, as Minister, said that he thought the time had come to consider whether the existing machinery and procedures were adequate for present needs, and that he proposed to discuss with the interested parties what changes might be desirable. The last Government accordingly held discussions with the representatives of the teachers and of the local education authorities which resulted in proposals put forward by Sir Edward Boyle as Minister and Mr. Hogg as Secretary of State in letters of March 3 and July 28, 1964. Mr. Hogg (as he again is) discussed these proposals with representatives of the teachers and of the local education authorities together on September 22. He did not seek to commit them for or against his proposals, but in summing up at the end of the meeting he expressed his own judgment that sufficient progress had been made to justify the preparation of a Bill for introduction early in the following Session of Parliament.
On taking office the Secretary of State examined the arguments that had led Mr. Hogg to conclude that the time had come to legislate and the proposals that he had put forward as the basis for such legislation. He was at once convinced that Section 89 required to be amended. An intention to legislate to this effect was accordingly mentioned in the Queen's Speech on November 3. The Secretary 1026 of State also judged that the proposals that had been worked out in discussions with the representatives of the teachers and the local education authorities were broadly sound, and he held meetings with them on November 6 to invite their further views. The proposals that the Secretary of State makes in the light of all these talks are embodied in this Bill.
Although the Bill would make significant changes in the machinery established under Section 89, its general principle is to retain and reproduce so much of the former machinery as has stood the test of time and met with general approval and to make changes only where they are required to meet the weaknesses that have been observed. Thus the whole machinery is founded, as was that under Section 89, on the principle of collective bargaining. Secondly, it continues the practice that the forum for such free negotiations shall be a statutory committee under an independent chairman. Thirdly, it ensures that whatever salary settlements are produced by this process shall continue to be made statutory and binding by order. And finally, though this is rightly left open in the Bill, the present structure of three Committees will be retained. Thus what is preserved and continued under the Bill of what has evolved through 40 years of experience of the Burnham machinery is probably of greater weight than what will be altered.
The negotiating committees to be established under the Bill, like those under Section 89, would include representatives of the teachers on one side and representatives of the local education authorities on the other, under an independent chairman to be appointed by the Secretary of State. The important innovation, however, is that representatives of the Secretary of State would join the representatives of the local education authorities to constitute (although the Bill does not use this phrase) a joint management panel. This change frankly recognises the fact that in to-day's circumstances the Secretary of State cannot abstain from having a point of view on teachers' salaries, both as the contributor of a large proportion of their cost and because of their importance to teacher supply, and that his point of view can be most constructively expressed by joining him in the negotiation at the beginning.
1027 The management panels in the three negotiating committees will resolve any differences among their members in private and will each speak with one single voice in the negotiations. The Bill does not lay down how this is to be achieved. But the Secretary of State has discussed these matters with the local authority associations concerned and has reached a general agreement with them. Except on questions of total cost, where it is accepted that the Government must retain the last word, the Secretary of State is not demanding an overriding position. What he and the local authority associations have in mind is that any differences of opinion on questions other than total cost should be resolved by the exercise of free voting, for which purpose the voting strength of the Secretary of State would be rather less than that of the local authority representatives combined. The general intention is that the Secretary of State would have to win the adherence of one of the major associations or its equivalent in individual votes for his view to prevail: this would be reflected arithmetically, in the case of the main committee, by giving the Secretary of State a voting strength of 15 (without, of course, requiring him to appoint 15 persons as his representatives) if the local authority representatives continued to number 26 as at present: and, as your Lordships know, the teachers number 29. Similar proportions would obtain in the other two committees.
This arrangement contemplates that on questions other than total cost the Secretary of State could be out-voted within a management panel and that a management panel view which was contrary to his own could be put forward in negotiation. Moreover, if agreement were then reached with the teachers on the basis of that view, the Secretary of State would remain bound to it and would have no power subsequently to reject or override it. The proposal makes explicit the Secretary of State's belief that "the man in Whitehall" does not necessarily know best on all occasions and that if, on a matter affecting the distribution of a salary award among different kinds of teachers, he finds himself in disagreement with the great majority of the local authorities' representatives, then he may well be wrong and should accept their judgment.
1028 As regards the teachers' panels, the Bill makes the Secretary of State responsible for deciding which associations are to be represented and how many representatives each may have. If the associations could have proposed a distribution of representation which was acceptable to all of them, the Secretary of State's task would have been easy. They have, however, been unable to do so, and the Secretary of State has accordingly informed them that he proposes, at any rate for the purposes of the immediate negotiation, to continue the present representation in each of the three teachers' panels unchanged. Each panel will be under the obligation to resolve any internal differences, by whatever process they choose, in order to be able to speak with a single voice in negotiation with the management panel.
The Houses of Parliament were to be lobbied this afternoon by representatives of the National Association of Schoolmasters, but I gather that this has been called off. However, in view of the fact that I understand the noble Lord, Lord Colyton, is speaking later and is possibly going to raise this subject, I think, although it may involve my speech being a little longer, it would be right if I put on the Parliamentary record the letter which was written by the Secretary of State to Mr. Casey on January 13. With your Lordships' permission, I think this might be the appropriate moment to read the letter. It is addressed to "T. A. Casey Esq., General Secretary, National Association of Schoolmasters" and it says:My attention has been drawn to Press reports of the National Association of Schoolmasters' meeting at Brighton last Saturday. We have both met and corresponded recently about the matters in question, but in view of the decisions reached at your meeting on Saturday, as reported in the Press. I am writing to you again to set out my position on each of the three main questions which arise. These are the composition of the teachers' panel on the new committees to negotiate teachers' salaries, the Amendments introduced in the House of Commons at Report stage to enable the Secretary of State to change the composition of the committees and the confidentiality of the proceedings of the new committees.On the first point, I made it clear to the various teachers' associations that I would adopt their proposals for the composition of the teachers' panel if they could reach agreement among themselves. This did not prove possible, and it fell to me therefore to consider the composition. In doing so I took into account representations put to me by the associations. Some, like the N.A.S., 1029 claimed increased membership. Others indicated that if any changes were made they also would claim increased membership.In these circumstances I judged that the only way to get an early start on the negotiations over future salary scales was to constitute the teachers' panel on the same basis as the present Burnham main committee.I have made it clear to all the associations that, in doing this, I am not pre-judging the long-term composition of the panel and that I would consider with an open mind any representations that any of them might make when the first negotiations under the new machinery have been completed.Secondly, it is suggested that the reason why the Bill now before Parliament to provide for the new machinery (the Remuneration of Teachers Bill) was amended in December, so as to give me power to exclude associations from representation, was in order that I might be able to exclude the N.A.S. This is quite wrong. It is clear that the Bill must provide for a. power to change, the. composition of the committees unless the composition as first determined by the Secretary of State after the Bill becomes law is to last for all time. I should have thought your Association would particularly value this. One of the local authority associations wrote to me querying whether, as drafted, the Bill achieved this aim. On legal advice, I proposed Amendments to remove all doubt that changes could be made.On the third point—negotiations under the new machinery—it is my personal view that while negotiations are going on it is a sound principle to keep them confidential. But the application of this principle to the negotiation of teachers' salaries is a question, not for me alone, but for the new committee as a whole when it first meets.The fact that the National Association of Schoolmasters feels justified in refusing to participate in the forthcoming negotiations and are calling on their members to strike on the 21st January makes these points of concern to the general public and I am therefore sending a copy of this letter to the Press.(Signed, Michael Stewart.)The Secretary of State will be made a party to the negotiations under the new machinery, and as he will be bound by any agreement reached in the manner just described, even though he may disagree with some parts of it, it follows that any recommendations reached by agreement ought to be put into force automatically. This is what the Bill provides. The Bill deals at some length with the way in which this is to be achieved. Discussions of the details would not be appropriate on Second Reading, but it may be noted that the Secretary of State is obliged to consult the negotiating committee on the drafting of the document through which he proposes to put their recommendations into effect, and to accept any agreed 1030 representations about the draft that they may make to him.
The next major innovation in the Bill is the provision for arbitration in the event that agreement cannot be reached between the two sides of the negotiating committee. The Bill does not go into detail as to how the arbitration is to be managed, but requires that there shall be arrangements which the Secretary of State is responsible for making after consultation with the constituent associations. The Secretary of State has in fact begun this consultation by sending the associations a draft of the arrangements he has in mind to make. It would not be appropriate to disclose these while the associations are still considering them, or to discuss them on Second Reading, but one point may be noted. The Secretary of State is most anxious to guard against two separate dangers: that a question might be rushed to arbitration prematurely without full and proper negotiation on it, and that the purpose of arbitration might be defeated if either side were in a position to induce perpetual deadlock. The arrangements the Secretary of State has proposed avoid both dangers by giving the independent chairman of the negotiating committee the power to decide when deadlock has been reached and the conditions for arbitration fulfilled.
As the Secretary of State will be a party to the arbitration by virtue of his membership of the management panel, it might be invidious for him to appoint, pay and service the arbitrators. It is a familiar and well-understood function of the Minister of Labour to set up facilities for arbitration in a manner that all concerned accept as impartial, and the Bill makes it possible for him to act in this way in respect to teachers. Although the Bill is permissive and not mandatory on this point, the Secretary of State firmly intends to employ the good offices of the Minister of Labour should the need for arbitration arise.
It is, of course, to be expected that in all but the most exceptional circumstances the recommendations of arbitrators will be accepted by all concerned and put into effect; and as I shall show later, the Bill obliges the Secretary of State to do so by the same technical means as are employed for implementing agreed recommendations. Both for 1031 reasons of constitutional propriety, however, and as a matter of prudence in the national interest, the Government could not accept a legal duty to implement, without possibility of escape or variation, whatever recommendations independent arbitrators might decide to submit. It may be thought unusual to provide explicitly in a Statute for the recommendations of arbitrators to be rejected. But it is equally unusual for a Statute to place a legal obligation on a Minister to implement arbitrators' recommendations. There is no such legal obligation in the matter of the police or the National Health Service. The two things go together: the obligation on the Minister must include an escape clause, and it is the obligation rather than the escape clause that is so unusual. The Bill accordingly provides for the contingency that exceptional circumstances might justify the rejection of the arbitrators' recommendations. To limit the use of this power and to safeguard against its-abuse, the Bill provides two separate safeguards: (i) the decision to use it is not to be rested in the Secretary of State, but in Parliament, and requires an Affirmative Resolution, not merely acquiescence in both Houses of Parliament; and (ii) the criterion by which Parliament must judge a proposal to reject the arbitrators' recommendations is whether national economic circumstances require it.
There can be no doubt that these two requirements taken together offer a very effective safeguard of the teachers' interests in all save exceptional circumstances. Since it is in the nature of exceptional circumstances that they cannot be foreseen with any exactitude, the circumstances which would justify its employment could hardly be any more narrowly defined in the Statute, and the Secretary of State is confident that the safeguards the Bill provides should reassure any who might have misgivings about the inclusion of such a power in the Bill at all.
However remote we may consider the contingency of such Parliamentary action to be, the Bill must leave no hiatus but must provide means by which matters may still move forward to a final determination of the required salary settlement. If the negotiating committee in question were willing to meet again and 1032 to negotiate afresh in the light of the Parliamentary decision and the arguments advanced in the debates on the matter, then they should be given an opportunity to do so, and if those negotiations led to an agreement this would be a satisfactory outcome. But it is quite possible that, in the exceptional circumstances which the Parliamentary action itself implies, the negotiating committee might be either unwilling to resume negotiation or unable to agree; and some means would then be needed of resolving the resulting deadlock. The Bill deals with this situation by first obliging the Secretary of State to consult the negotiating committee, thus giving them an opportunity to resume negotiation if they are willing, but then by putting him in a position to determine the matter by himself if in the last resort there appears to be no alternative. In the latter case, the Secretary of State must again show his draft to the committee, but he is not obliged (as with agreements or arbitrated settlements) to accept their representations.
It has never been possible in the past to make salary changes with retrospective effect. The Bill enables this to be done, subject to a proviso which ensures that no teacher's pay can be reduced retrospectively. The proposal to make this change has been welcomed by all concerned.
It is desirable to repeal Section 89 of the Education Act, 1944, from the date of passing of this Bill, since otherwise the Secretary of State would be under legal obligation to establish two parallel sets of negotiating committees simultaneously; and the Bill provides for this repeal. The position concerning the Remuneration of Teachers Act, 1963, is rather different. For one thing, it was not concerned in any way with negotiating machinery: it touched neither Section 89 nor the Burnham committees. But it does provide, through the orders made under it, the statutory basis of the current salary provisions, and it is important that this statutory basis should be maintained until orders under the new Act come into force to supersede it. The orders under the 1963 Act could, of course, be kept in force after the repeal of the Act itself if that were desired, but there could be some advantage in retaining the order-making power of the 1033 Act as a bridge across the period until new machinery under this Bill is actually in operation, since otherwise there would be no legal means whatever of making even small technical amendments in the present provisions. Under the terms of the 1963 Act, of course, the order-making power automatically expires on March 31, 1965. In these circumstances, the most prudent proposal is clearly to keep the 1963 Act in being until a complete new statutory basis has been provided under the new Bill, and to repeal it from that date: and this is what the Bill provides.
My Lords, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill I think I should refer to the urgency of the timetable. When the present salary provisions were introduced in 1963 it was understood by all the parties concerned—the teachers, the local authorities and the Minister at the time—that the provisions would remain in force for two years; that is, until March 31, 1965. Even though the proposed power of retrospection would enable the proceedings to continue a little after April 1, 1965, without loss of earnings to the teachers, it is most desirable that the new machinery should be constituted, and negotiations under it begun, at the earliest possible moment. It is for this reason that the Government, in their legislative programme, have given priority to the Bill, and they are gratified that it made good progress, with the support of Opposition speakers, through the House of Commons. Your Lordships might therefore recognise the urgency as well as the importance and merits of the changes proposed and agree to give the Bill a Second Reading to-night, and so help us to move nearer a civilised country where the Secretary of State for Education is more important than the Secretary of State for War. I beg to move.
§ Moved, that the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Bowles.)
§ 4.22 p.m.
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, I am very happy to have the privilege of following the noble Lord, Lord Bowles, and to congratulate him, I am sure on behalf of all your Lordships, on an excellent maiden speech. The noble Lords comes to us with a distinguished reputation from another place, where he was Deputy Chairman of Ways and 1034 Means, and he now occupies the dignified post of Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard. I know that all your Lordships will welcome him and will hope to hear him on many other occasions.
He has given us a very concise and clear account of the provisions of this Bill, and I would assure him straight away that we support it most warmly. Therefore, there remains not very much for me to comment upon. I would begin by saying that we recognise the urgency with which this Bill is required, and congratulate the Government on bringing it forward early in their legislative programme. At the same time, I am sure that if I offer my bouquet to noble Lords opposite, they, in turn, will agree that the previous Government deserve a great deal of credit for this Bill. In particular, I would mention my right honourable friends Sir Edward Boyle and Mr. Quintin Hogg (the noble Lord did mention them), who undertook much of the painstaking negotiations which eventually resulted in agreement on the clauses of this Bill. In fact, it was Mr. Quintin Hogg's decision to accept the principle that the Minister should not have parity of voting powers on the managerial side of the committee, except in respect of the global sum to be awarded, which finally led to agreement between all the parties concerned.
My Lords, we agree on the urgent need for this Bill. The old Burnham Committee did its work very well for many years, but in the course of time certain weaknesses emerged. The noble Lord, Lord Bowles, listed those weaknesses in full, and I need not repeat them: but I think that it is a satisfactory way of proceeding to accept what was good in the old Burnham Committee procedure and to eliminate the weaknesses.
There are just two matters which were mentioned by the noble Lord on which I might perhaps be allowed to comment. The first is the difficulties that have arisen with the National Association of Schoolmasters. The first point that occurs is their claim to a larger representation on the Committee, in view of the fact that they claim a membership of 35, 000 and claim to be the second largest body representing teachers. On the face of it they certainly seem to have a good case there and one well worthy of consideration. But I fully accept what the noble Lord told us when he read out the letter of January 13 1035 addressed by the Secretary of State to Mr. Casey, that there are considerable difficulties, as the teachers' organisations themselves have not been able to agree on the different proportions of their representation. Much the most sensible thing for the moment, in order to get this machinery working, seems to me to build on the old distribution that existed at the time of the Burnham Committee.
On the second point raised by the National Association of Schoolmasters, the powers of the Secretary of State to determine which bodies shall represent teachers and to vary his decision from time to time, I would say merely that in my opinion this seems to do no more than spell out what have always been the Secretary of State's powers. Someone has to make this decision as to which bodies shall be represented on the committee, and it seems to me that the Minister is the only person who can do so. In fact, had the Minister not got this power, the representative of the National Association of Schoolmasters would never have been added to the committee. Moreover, he must also have power to vary the number of representatives of the different bodies, and this can be done from time to time as seems necessary in light of the facts. Here again, if the National Association of Schoolmasters are to succeed in their desire for greater representation, then the Secretary of State must have these powers to alter the number of representatives.
So, although I appreciate the fears of the Association, they are, I hope, groundless. We have heard from the letter which the noble Lord read that the Minister is fully aware of his responsibilities and does not wish in any way to expel any organisation of teachers, and I am sure that no Minister would ever wish to take such an unpopular action. As I have said, I have some sympathy with the Association on the question of representation, but not so much with their other complaints. In any case, I hope that they will pursue their case in a statesmanlike way and will not withdraw precipitately from the Committee. I cannot believe that this would be in the best interests of the teachers they represent.
My Lords, the other point I was going to mention was the question of arbitration. I was hoping that the noble Lord might be able to give us more details as to what these proposals were. 1036 The Bill is, of course, necessarily vague. It speaks of arrangements to be made for arbitration… in such manner as may be so provided.But he did explain that the Minister was consulting with the bodies concerned, and therefore, presumably, cannot give us any more information at the moment. But I was pleased to hear that the chairman of the committee will have an important rôle to play before a dispute is referred to arbitration, because I agree with the noble Lord that, while it is obviously desirable to have arbitration available in the last resort, every effort should be made to reach an agreed solution before referring to arbitration.
So, my Lords, in general we welcome this Bill, and we hope that it will provide satisfactory machinery for the settlement of teachers' salaries. All of us on this side of the House recognise the importance of the teaching profession in our national life and want to see our teachers fairly rewarded for their services.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ LORD COLYTON
My Lords, I should first also like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bowles, on his maiden speech and on his introduction of this important Bill. There are many of us here who have affectionate recollections of him in another place, where he used to preside over our Committees with dignity and efficiency.
My Lords, I also welcome this Bill which, with one reservation to which I shall refer later, has my full support. It has been said already that it is really the product of my right honourable friends Mr. Quintin Hogg and Sir Edward Boyle, who spent many difficult hours on negotiations, and I think they, too, as well as the Government, should be congratulated on the results. Its main features, as the Minister said, are the participation for the first time of representatives of the Government on the negotiating bodies, the provision for arbitration in the event of a deadlock, and the proposal for making salary awards retrospective: all three extremely important and a great improvement on the old machinery. But it is this first proposal, the direct participation of the Secretary of State through his representatives on the negotiating bodies, eminently desirable though this is, which has led to difficulties and on which I feel bound to express my anxiety.
1037 During the course of the passage of the measure through another place, at a very late stage in the proceedings, on the Report stage, an Amendment was introduced which now forms Clause 1 (3), and it states as follows:The Secretary of State shall determine which bodies to which paragraph (b) or paragraph (c) of subsection (1) of this section applies are to be represented on each committee constituted under this section, and the number of persons by whom any such body is to be so represented, and may from time to time vary or revoke any such determination.This, as I understood it from the explanations given in another place, was alleged to be simply stating in precise terms what powers the Secretary of State or the previous Ministers for Education already held. Nevertheless, I believe that in practice no Minister, from Mr. Butler onwards, has ever claimed to exercise any power to expel an association from the negotiating bodies.
However this may be, this subsection to my mind in fact represents a major change in the position. Whatever the powers of the Secretary of State or the Minister may have been previously, it seems to me that the position has been entirely altered by the fact that he, or rather his representatives, will now be participating on the employers' side on the negotiating bodies, with this explicit power, laid down in the Bill, to determine which bodies are to be represented on the committees, and to vary or revoke such decisions from time to time. It seems to me that in effect what this will do will be to make the Secretary of State both plaintiff and judge in his own cause. I understand that in fact this is regarded as a contravention of Convention 87, Article 3, and Convention 98, Article 4, of the International Labour Organisation, both of which Articles protect workers, and indeed employers, from interference with one another or by one another. It also, I would venture to suggest, to some extent represents not an attack on, but at least some divergence from, generally accepted free trade union principles.
The Secretary of State, in his speech in another place on November 20, said:If I cannot claim that this is a measure on which all the parties concerned are wholeheartedly agreed. I can claim that nobody takes the view that the Government are proceeding in an unreasonable or dictatorial manner, or that they have not fulfilled their duty carefully to consult those concerned before putting 1038 proposals before the House."—[Official Report, Commons, Vol. 702 (No. 17), col. 787.]Unfortunately, this is no longer true. As the Minister has said, the National Association of Schoolmasters, which represents 35, 000 schoolmasters, consider that by the insertion of this Amendment the Government are in fact proceeding in an unreasonable and dictatorial way. They have felt so strongly about it that they have in fact decided to carry out a one-day strike in protest. Whether one considers that a strike is the best way for teachers of the young to press their case against the Government I am not quite sure, but that certainly is not the issue. The real issue is that the National Association of Schoolmasters feel that, after struggling very hard for, I believe, 40 years up to 1961 for recognition, which was finally granted by my noble friend Lord Eccles, there is a real danger in this clause of their future representation, or the representation of other associations, being placed in jeopardy.
For this reason they feel that some amendment to the Bill as it now stands is necessary, either by the deletion or the amendment of Clause 1 (3) as it was passed in the other place, or by the addition of a new clause and perhaps a Schedule to the Bill, laying down the list of associations to be represented on the committees. This list could, no doubt—and here I am seeking to meet the point made by my noble friend Lord Aberdare—be altered by Order in Council with the safeguards provided by an Affirmative Resolution of both Houses of Parliament.
I have been so impressed by these arguments, as retailed to me by a number of representatives of the National Association of Schoolmasters in the South-West, that my intention is, when the Committee stage comes, to move an Amendment or to put down a new clause to cover this point, and I will therefore refrain from pursuing the issue at any greater length to-day. I fully recognise the urgency of the Bill, but at the same time I feel that the case of the National Association of Schoolmasters—and it is not only their case; it might be the case of other associations, now or in the future—is sufficiently important that I 1039 am obliged to put down an Amendment to cover the point.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ LORD SANDFORD
My Lords, I do not think there is any doubt that this is a good Bill and a Bill which we can all welcome. But there is no hiding the fact that it has got off to a very bad start. The Bill, as it says, sets up machinery for determining the remuneration of teachers, and this is perhaps as much as a Bill can do. But in this case in is rather less than half the battle. Something else is required if the remuneration of teachers is to be determined satisfactorily and to be accepted without constant fuss and squabble. And that further thing which is required is confidence by all the parties concerned that the machinery, the very much better machinery which is no proposed in this Bill, is going to be fairly and justly used. I would say that it is this confidence which the Government have so far failed to secure.
The Government have here a Bill which will set up much better machinery. They had most of it worked out for them already. But they have, I would say, impaired the confidence and the harmony which was essential if the machinery in this Bill was to work satisfactorily. They are fortunate that they have not on their hands to-day a strike by the schoolmasters of the National Association. No one wants to make this unfortunate situation any worse. I am sure the National Association of Schoolmasters would not want to do so; the Opposition do not want to do so. The Government have time to make affairs better, and they could do so now, before this Bill goes any further, and at any rate during its later stages, if they would explain their actions a little more fully than they have already done. I think this is what needs explaining.
When the Minister saw the representatives of the National Association of Schoolmasters during the passage of this Bill through the other place, and explained to them why the Government did not want to change the balance of the teachers' representation at this early stage, why they wanted to get straight on with negotiations, why did the Minister at that stage, at that moment, not make it clear that the Government were about to table the clause which they in fact 1040 tabled at the Report stage, giving the Secretary of State for Education explicit powers to make such changes as he wished to make in the teachers' panel? I believe the reasons for doing this are quite clear, quite obvious and quite sensible reasons. But the fact remains that the Government failed to include them in the original draft; they failed to include them at the Committee stage, and they failed to mention to the representatives to the National Association of Schoolmasters that they were about to do so on the Report stage.
In all the circumstances, and taking into account the unhappy background of the relationships between the two Associations of Teachers, surely it is not the least bit surprising that what the Government have done has been misunderstood and suspected. I beg the Government to make clear that they have throughout this Bill so far acted in good faith, that they have no ulterior motive designed to impair the representation of the National Association of Schoolmasters, and that there is nothing more in this than a little inept handling. Unless they can do this—and the sooner they do it the better—then I think that this suspicion and this sense of injustice will remain; and, despite this better machinery which we shall have, the future of our great teaching profession, on which so much depends, will be marred, and will continue to be marred, by unseemly squabbles in public and in Parliament, and that is the one thing which we all deplore and the one thing which the Burnham machinery was built up to avoid.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR EDUCATION AND SCIENCE (LORD BOWDEN)
My Lords, I think the first and most important thing that I have to say is that it is obvious to everyone that this Bill, except for perhaps one or two minor points that need clarification, has the support and, I think, in general, the confidence of all your Lordships and in fact all Members of all Parties both in this House and in the other place. It is of course in large measure due to the enormous amount of highly skilled work which that great constitutional lawyer, Mr. Quintin Hogg, engaged in when he was Secretary of State for Education that this Bill 1041 is in the state we now find it. Certainly the greater part of it is right, is known to be right, and is strongly welcomed by everyone; and it gives us great confidence on this side of the House that your Lordships should have spoken so warmly about it.
The Burnham Committee was one of the most remarkable creations of the Government machine, and for many years it commanded the confidence of everyone in the educational world. I think that we must mention the great work which was done by Sir Thomas Creed, who was its chairman until recently when he retired to become Vice-Chancellor of the University of London. It was his skill which made it possible for it to work in the changing circumstances which have come about as a result, first of all, of the enormously increased cost of education, and, secondly, because of the obvious need for the Secretary of State to have much more power in the negotiations than the original Burnham Committee had.
The noble Lord, Lord Bowles, in that extremely lucid maiden speech of his, described the history of the Bill and its function quite clearly and there is really little I can add to it. But I must, I think, take up one or two points, particularly this vexatious question of representation. The first and most difficult part of the whole position is that the Secretary of State has become involved in this despite himself, not because of himself. He had hoped that the various associations of schoolmasters, the National Union of Teachers and other bodies representing the teachers would themselves have been able to work out a satisfactory method of negotiation, and he had hoped that they would be able to determine among themselves the numbers of their representatives on the Committee.
He found himself in the embarrassing position that it was not possible for them to come to an agreement. He had, therefore, quite arbitrarily to do something in a hurry lest the whole process of negotiation should be indefinitely postponed, and I think your Lordships will agree with me in thinking that it was better to make an arbitrary decision and to get negotiations started than to devote an indefinite time to a decision about the numbers of people on the Committee to represent the different parts of the scholastic profession. 1042 One of the embarrassing things in the present situation is that many teachers are members of more than one association. Some of them, I believe, are members of as many as three or four. This makes calculations based on the exact count of heads rather misleading. None the less, the Secretary of State was obliged to make an arbitrary decision, and he decided that the only thing to do was to carry on as before, at least for the time being. I wish to make it clear that in so doing he made no commitment at all beyond the present round of negotiations about to be begun, which it is reasonable to presume might be completed in six months' time. The next round will be begun a year or so after that, and by then let us hope that this vexatious difficulty will have been resolved and that everyone will be satisfied with the representation that has been given to him.
The Secretary of State went to considerable length to pursuade the teachers to agree on their numbers, and he found that almost every one of the groups involved felt that it was under-represented, and it was this, I think, that caused him to feel with some confidence that his proposals were reasonably equitable. On the other hand, the Amendment which apparently changed his powers seems, so far as I can make out, to have been regarded in the first instance as merely a legal clarification of a point which he thought implicit in his powers in any event, and the arguments which were brought forward by the noble Lord, Lord Colyton, from the international bodies have not been heard by the Government before, so far as I am aware. When he moves his Amendment on the next stage of the Bill the Government will then have considered its implications and will have decided whether or not they can accept the proposal which he makes.
I would assure your Lordships that there is nothing in the least sinister in the intention of the Secretary of State. It is most necessary that one should be able from time to time to vary the number of representatives. For example, supposing—this, I think, is a most remote possibility, but I think I may raise it hypothetically—that the N.U.T. absorbed all but one member of the National Association of Schoolmasters, this body would not then be entitled to two places on the new Committee.
1043 I feel, therefore, that it must be possible in the end for the Secretary of State to determine the numbers, and even that there should be some method by which membership to the Committee can be denied to a body which ceases to have a substantial number of members. It may be that there is a better method by which the membership can be determined than that which the Bill proposes, and the Government will consider any suggestions which may be made in this House on the next stage of the Bill. I do not think there is much more I should say in winding-up this debate. There has been much support for the Bill, and many noble Lords have spoken in support of it. It seems to command the confidence of your Lordships. I think it is essential that it should be passed expeditiously. It is obviously important that negotiations be started on this most important question of teachers' pay as soon as may be. For that reason I commend the Bill to your Lordships.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.