§ 5.7 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. In commending the Bill to your Lordships, I can be relatively brief since it is tolerably straightforward. Its purpose is to establish new salaries negotiating machinery, and this, as well as being of topical interest, is a matter of some importance. Perhaps, first, I might briefly explain the situation which has given rise to the need for new salaries negotiating machinery.
The present negotiating body, the Scottish Joint Council for Teachers' Salaries, consists of representatives of the education authorities and of teachers, with an independent chairman. The Secretary of State, under existing legislation, appoints the negotiating body and has the duty of prescribing in regulations the salaries that education authorities must pay to their teachers; but he has no part in the negotiating processes. It is this latter aspect 1635 that has given rise to considerable difficulty in recent times.
To illustrate how the present machinery works, let us assume that the teachers want their salaries to be increased. They lodge a claim with the teachers' panel of the Scottish Joint Council, and they in turn present it to the employers' panel. The two panels then engage in negotiations, and after several meetings extending over weeks or months they may reach agreement that certain increases in salaries should be granted. The next stage is for the Scottish Joint Council to submit their agreement in the form of a recommendation to the Secretary of State, who, however, at present, is quite free to accept, modify or reject a recommendation from the Scottish Joint Council.
It is not difficult, my Lords, to envisage the vexation and frustration that can be caused by the rejection of a recommendation from the Council. Nevertheless, it can happen that the Secretary of State, for wider considerations than the Council have taken into account, is unable to accept their recommendation. This indeed happened in connection with the last revision of salaries, just as it happened under the previous Administration.
It seemed to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State that the time had come when the whole salaries negotiating machinery ought to be revised with a view to remedying the defects in the present arrangements. Apart from the difficulty apt to arise because the Secretary of State is not involved until after the negotiating processes are concluded, it was clear that the present system could, and did, lead to delays in reaching a final settlement. Accordingly, the Secretary of State put proposals for new negotiating machinery to the local authority and main teachers' associations last summer. These proposals were subsequently discussed in detail with the interests concerned and general agreement was reached. It is with this new negotiating machinery that the present Bill is concerned.
I now turn to the Bill itself. There are three main features in the proposed negotiating machinery which distinguish it from the present arrangements. First, the Secretary of State, through officials of his Department, will be represented on the 1636 management side of the new negotiating committee; secondly, agreements reached in the committee will be binding on the Secretary of State; and, thirdly, if there is disagreement between the two sides of the committee the issue in dispute will go to arbitration, and the findings of the arbiters will be binding on the Secretary of State, save in exceptional circumstances. The provision for the appointment of arbiters has been the subject of some controversy in another place and I shall return to it later.
As will be apparent to your Lordships, under these proposals the Secretary of State no longer will have the all-powerful position that he has at present. He is quite prepared to accept this, subject to certain essential safeguards, in order to secure speedier and more effective negotiating procedures. The main safeguard is that his representatives on the management side will have control over the total sum which can be offered to the teachers' side for the purpose of a salaries settlement but not over its detailed distribution. This matter has already been discussed with the local authority associations, and they fully appreciate that the Secretary of State could not undertake to participate in the new negotiating machinery in a minority position, as is proposed, unless there were some arrangement whereby the Government had the controlling say as regards the total cost of a salaries settlement.
Clause 1, it will be observed, provides for the constitution of one or more negotiating committees. The intention is, however, to proceed at the outset with only one such committee. This is in deference to the wishes of the majority of the bodies concerned. This single committee will have within its purview the salaries of teachers in primary and secondary schools and in further education colleges. This clause also places on the Secretary of State the duty to determine the bodies to be represented on the new committee, and the number of representatives. The main interests are already agreed as to their prospective representation. Before I leave Clause 1 I might refer to subsections (4) and (6) which cater for the possible need to remove a body from membership of the negotiating committee. In such a circumstance, the Secretary of State's determination for this purpose will have to 1637 be embodied in an order which would be subject to the Negative Resolution procedure in Parliament.
What happens when the negotiating committee get down to business is dealt with in Clause 2; and herein lies the second main feature of the new arrangements to which I have already referred: that if the committee reach an agreement their recommendation must be implemented by the Secretary of State. It is also proposed in future to dispense with the practice of prescribing salary scales in regulations. Instead, the Secretary of State will lay down the salary scales in the less formal and more comprehensible style of a memorandum which will be given mandatory effect by means of an order made by him under subsection (6).
Clause 3 deals with the situation that will arise if the committee find themselves unable to reach agreement. To prevent deadlock from continuing the clause provides for arbitration; and, as I mentioned earlier, it was this provision that gave rise to the only real controversy on the Bill in another place. What was at issue was not the proposal for arbitration of an effective kind, which is the third main feature of the new machinery proposed in the Bill. This indeed was welcomed by all the local authority and teachers' associations, particularly when it is compared with the present Scottish Joint Council's arbitration arrangements which do not commit the Secretary of State in any way whatever. The difference of opinion has arisen over the Government's proposal that the appointing authority for arbiters should in future be the Minister of Labour. The Educational Institute of Scotland have taken exception to this proposal. They want the arbiters to be appointed by the Lord President of the Court of Session, as happens at present in the context of the limited arbitration available under the Scottish Joint Council's constitution.
My Lords, the Government's intentions in this matter are quite simple and open. They wish to see introduced in the wholly new arrangements of the future the familiar procedure whereby the Minister of Labour provides the facilities for arbiters and appoints the arbiters. This is an arrangement that has won acceptance over the years, both in the public and private sectors. On the other hand, the services of the Lord President of the 1638 Court of Session are invoked for the appointment of arbiters in salaries negotiations only in the case of Scottish teachers; and, as I have already pointed out, the resultant arbitration is of a limited or non-committal kind. In the Government's eyes there is no justification for importing the present arrangement into the quite different process proposed in Clause 3 whereby the results of arbitration will be binding on the Secretary of State.
The Opposition in another place argued the E.I.S. case at length. This case was based mainly on the premise that arbiters appointed by the Lord President of the Court of Session would be seen by the teachers to be completely impartial, whereas arbiters appointed by the Minister of Labour, a colleague of the Secretary of State, would be seen, shall I say, to be less completely impartial. The fact is that arbitration under the auspices of the Minister of Labour is recognised to be wholly impartial: indeed, I have never heard any suggestion to the contrary; otherwise it would not have stood the test of time in the way that it has done.
I now move on to Clause 4, which deals with the action to be taken following a reference to arbitration. The nub of this clause is that the results of arbitration are binding on the Secretary of State unless by virtue of subsection (2) it is resolved by each House of Parliament that national economic circumstances justify the setting aside of the arbiters' recommendations. As your Lordships will appreciate, no Government could bind itself by Statute to accept, without safeguard, whatever findings independent arbiters might reach. But the safeguard provided by subsection (2) is one which cannot be invoked lightly by the Government. Indeed, before the arbiters' recommendations could be disregarded by the Secretary of State two hurdles would have to be surmounted. First, the Government would require an Affirmative Resolution, and not simply the acquiescence of each House of Parliament; and, secondly, each House must be satisfied that national economic circumstances justify the course proposed. If Parliament on any occasion should resolve that an arbitration award ought to be set aside it is then left to the Secretary of State, under subsections (3) and (4), to determine what changes, if any, 1639 would be justified in teachers' salaries at the particular time.
My Lords, Clauses 1 to 4 are the important and substantive clauses of this Bill: the remainder are largely consequential and supplementary in character, and I do not think I need elaborate on them. I am sure your Lordships will agree that this Bill will meet what is the earnest desire of all concerned with teachers' salaries: the teachers themselves, their employers (the education authorities) and the Secretary of State whose interest derives from the fact that the larger part of the cost falls on the Exchequer. What is desired is negotiating machinery of an effective kind; machinery that will obviate troubles of the kind that have surrounded several salaries settlements in recent years, and machinery that will shorten the time between the presentation of a claim and the final implementation of an award. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Hughes.)
§ 5.21 p.m.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, for his clear explanation of the Bill and the way in which he has presented the case for it. As he made plain, the Bill in its main provisions has the assent of all parties, all those concerned in Scotland, and it is really only on one issue that there is a certain amount of controversy. The noble Lord told us that these proposals had been put to the education authorities in Scotland and that with the exception of this particular proposal they had received general assent. The fact that these proposals are identical, or practically identical, with the actual terms of the Remuneration of Teachers Act 1965, applying to England and Wales, is neither here nor there. If these proposals are likely to work in Scotland, the fact that they are applied elsewhere should not in any way be taken as a disadvantage; in fact if there has been satisfactory experience of them elsewhere that would be rather an advantage. But I do not think that that can yet be claimed for these proposals.
My Lords, there are one or two minor differences from the English Act to which I may perhaps be allowed to refer. One 1640 is that Section 7 of the English Act empowers the Secretary of State when making an order under Sections 2 or 4 to makesuch transitional, supplementary and incidental provisions as the Secretary of State may consider necessary or expedient.No doubt the Government have decided that they do not need this power in Scotland, and perhaps the noble Lord will tell us why that is so. Then Clause 6 of this Bill has no counterpart in the English Act. This clause empowers each education authority to pay teachers not covered by the scales set out in orders under Clauses 2 and 4 "such remuneration as they think fit". I should like to ask whether the noble Lord can say who are these teachers, and why it has not proved possible to devise arrangements to cover them in Scotland, when apparently it has been possible to do so in England within the framework of the negotiating machinery. I am not suggesting that the arrangements should be the same, but as it has been possible to do this in England one wonders why it is not possible to do it in Scotland.
As the noble Lord said, the present Scottish system has one inherent defect, which is that the Secretary of State, who has to find most of the money has at present no part in the negotiations. Perhaps I should rather describe that as one of the main inherent defects. The noble Lord has indicated, as I understand it, that what is likely to happen under the proposed system in negotiations is that there will be a management side and a teachers' or employers' side. The noble Lord has said that, so far as the management side is concerned, the representatives of the Secretary of State (of whom I understand there are to be two; it will be a small minority in numbers, but a very powerful one) will state what is the maximum amount of money available for distribution. I hope that by saying that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, is not intending to give the impression that this amount is not negotiable; that it is the maximum amount, which the Government have fixed for good and all, and that no negotiation is available upon it. I hope that he is merely giving an indication to the management side of what their starting figure or target figure may be. Does the noble Lord, Lord Hughes wish to intervene?
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, it is a point of considerable importance, and ties in with what I shall say in a moment or two.
I should like, in passing, to ask whether it would normally be one of the Government representatives, the Secretary of State's representatives, who would conduct representations on behalf of the management side. I hope that on the teachers' side also there will be an agreed spokesman in the negotiations. No one can force, and certainly no one ought to try to force, all teachers to belong to one organisation. But if there is more than one organisation representing a substantial number of people in the profession it is only right that they should be represented on the committee.
I do not want to say very much on the question of keeping negotiations confidential while they are in progress—an issue to which the noble Lord did not refer—or on the question of making agreements subject to the confirmation or rejection of the constituent organisation. I would only urge that the Secretary of State should be as liberal as he possibly can on both points; and that the organisations, for their part, should be prepared to make concessions. There must be conventions about these things, of course, but it is not asking too much to expect all concerned to adjust their constitutions and practices in order to enable them to observe the conventions. On the other hand, it must be possible for negotiators to consult the appropriate committees and secure confirmation of what they have done, just as after signing a Convention the Government seek the confirmation of Parliament before ratifying it, if any change in the law is involved. It is all a question of the point at which agreement is reached, and I doubt whether agreement will ever be achieved unless an opportunity is given to the various organisations, including representatives of the Secretary of State, to refer back proposals before finally agreeing to them. I would ask the noble Lord what further progress has been made on these issues which I know the Government have been doing their best to resolve.
My Lords, if agreement is not reached, as the noble Lord says, Clause 4 pro 1642 vides for arbitration on matters in respect of which agreement has not been reached. I take it that this means that while broad agreement may be reached, there may be outstanding matters, matters of detail, on which it has not been possible to reach agreement; and where agreement cannot be reached the matter will be referred to arbitration. Under Clause 3(1) the Secretary of State has tomake arrangements whereby, in such circumstances and subject to such exceptions as may be provided by the arrangements, matters in respect of which agreement has not been reached in a committee in accordance with the foregoing provisions in the Bill may be referred to arbitration.From what I understood the noble Lord to say, invariably they would be so referred. Perhaps he will confirm that.
It may well he that one or more of the three organisations on the teachers' side (I understand that there arc to be three, or it is hoped that there will be) will not be able to agree with proposals acceptable to the rest, and it seems likely that reference to arbitration will be quite frequent, at least on some points, because of the disparity of interests of the three teachers' organisations. This underlines the importance of ensuring that the arbitration procedure is universally accepted. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has explained the Government's approach to this matter and the reasons for replacing the Lord President of the Court of Session, as the person who appoints the arbiters, by the Minister of Labour, thus following the pattern of the English Act. I thought that he made a better case for this than had previously been made in another place. Even so, there are causes for some doubt.
The arguments put forward in another place for not opposing the change were that the only people who opposed it were the Educational Institute of Scotland. But of the teachers' organisations the Educational Institute has had the longest experience of the present method of appointment. I am not sure whether the Government have asked the other organisations which method they would prefer. My information is that one would prefer the present arrangement. The remaining organisation has closer links with the corresponding English organisation and for that reason is perhaps more ready to accept the change.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lord, I take it that when the noble Lord is referring to "other organisations", he is speaking only about teachers' organisations and not about local authority organisations.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
That is so, my Lords.
The other argument is that the Lord President has no experience of this field and no special competence in appointing arbiters for salary negotiations. He has had to do it on several occasions, however, and, as the Government admit, he hasexercised his present function with the highest distinction and judgment."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, col. 1497; 25/4/67.]If the Lord President's choice of arbiters commands the approval of the Government and the organisations, it does not seem to matter whether he consulted them before making the appointments or not—consultation being quoted as another point of advantage in changing. The E.I.S., I gather, would in some ways prefer not to be consulted on the choice.
The point on which the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has laid great stress is that circumstances have now changed, and the position now under Clause 4 is that the Secretary of State, except in the circumstances indicated in subsection (2), will be bound by the decision of the arbitral boards (to use the term of the Prices and Incomes Board). Surely this makes it all the more important that the arbiters should be wholly acceptable to all parties. I am bound to say that I think it is for the Secretary of State to convince the teachers' organisations, which he has failed to do so far, that this is the best way of doing it. He has failed in particular to convince the Educational Institute, which represents four out of five teachers in Scotland.
The Government have so far refrained from referring to the Report of the National Board for Incomes and Prices, No. 15 (Cmnd. 3005). I am glad to see the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, in his place, because the care with which the noble Lord went into this matter was, I know, greatly appreciated in Scotland. The Report says:We conclude that the only rational way of determining an increase in teachers' salaries in either England and Wales or in Scotland is through a separate examination of the problems of each … we recommend that the 1644 Government, in developing the two different educational systems of Scotland and England and Wales, should not regard themselves as bound either way to negotiate with one group of teachers the same average salary increases as have been negotiated with the other".The Report went on to make the point that negotiations for teachers' salaries in Scotland and in England and Wales should be conducted at approximately the same time, provided it is recognised that awards to teachers should be related to the needs of the educational system in which they are employed, rather than to awards made to teachers in a different system. I regard that as an important proviso. Negotiations have started in England and it is not easy to get these two adjusted, especially as the Bill provides that these matters are capable of being raised at any time, either by the teachers or by the Government, and the committee machinery set in motion.
They also suggested that legislation for new negotiating machinery in Scotland should be framed so as to make possible the appointment of the same chairman to the two arbitral bodies. I would ask the Government whether, in preparing these proposals, they accepted the principle of these conclusions of the Prices and Incomes Board. Are they prepared to accept that, even though the negotiations of salaries in the two educational systems are governed by almost identical legislation, the level of remuneration in one system should not be tied to the level in the other if the needs in the one differ from the needs in the other at any given time? Do they accept that there should be the same chairman of both arbitral bodies and that the task of these bodies is to see where the systems differ and, in consequence, where remuneration differs, rather than keep them in line so far as the total of increases is concerned?
If they accept both these propositions, there may be something to be said for making the change proposed in the Bill and having the same chairman to preside over both arbitral bodies, not in order to keep the awards in line but, on the contrary, to ensure that the two systems are treated differently where they need different treatment. If we can get this point clear, it should go a long way towards meeting the objections that have been made. If the Government do not accept these propositions, I hope that the noble Lord will be able to persuade the E.I.S. 1645 of the need for this change. For my part, I recognise that the system already adopted in England has advantages over the existing system in Scotland, but it does not follow that the Scottish arrangements should follow the English in every particular; nor does it follow that merely because the Ministry of Labour procedure has been found widely acceptable it is necessary to replace a system which has been found acceptable in Scotland, although admittedly, as the noble Lord said, in slightly different circumstances.
So far as the change in the arbitration arrangements is concerned, there is the strongest opposition in the E.I.S., which represents, as I have said, four out of five teachers in Scotland. They consider the reasons for the change that have so far been put forward not plausible—in fact, so implausible that they believe there must be some more cogent reason which the Government are unwilling to disclose. The noble Lord, by implication, addressed himself to that suspicion, but the fact remains that this suspicion has not yet been allayed. What matters, surely, is that these arrangements should get off to a good start. At the moment it looks as if, should it prove impossible to resolve this difficulty one way or another to the satisfaction of all parties concerned, they will never get off the ground at all. Therefore, I strongly urge that the Government should either accept the responsibility of convincing teachers that the change is for the better, or else should give way and keep the present machinery.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, for the past twenty years or so there has been in the teaching profession in Scotland a considerable unease, to put it mildly, over their salaries and remuneration. I welcome this Bill as being a step forward. Over the last five or six years considerable progress has been made towards getting better agreement with the teaching profession as to their remuneration. That is why I think it is a pity that at this juncture (and I propose to speak only to this point) there should be inserted into this Bill the provision that when a final decision has to be made and an arbiter is appointed there should be a change from the arbiter appointed by the Lord Pesident of the Court of Session to the arbiter appointed by the Ministry 1646 of Labour—a requirement in the English Bill.
One of the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, was that the Lord President appoints an arbiter for wages only in the case of teachers. I do not find that a very convincing argument. The teachers are working in a separate educational system from that of England, and their salaries are rather different from the wages negotiated by trade unions. I can see the Government's point in trying to make things legislatively tidy: that is something that Government offices love to do. So we have one arbiter appointed both for Scotland and for England.
In this connection I would refer to the evidence that Sir Roy Wilson, the President of the Industrial Court, gave to the Royal Commission on Trade Unions and Employers' Associations. Among other things, he said:In the first place, I have always regarded it as axiomatic that under the voluntary system of arbitration which exists in this country arbitrators should be entirely independent and free from the advice and influence of the Government or a Government Department. I believe this to be the universal and the correct view. The Industrial Court should remain entirely independent of its decision. That independence could, in my view, be modified only by Parliament.This is what four-fifths of the teachers in Scotland have got their teeth into: they have their teeth into this principle of an independent arbiter, and that is why they want to continue the existing practice of the arbiter being appointed by the Lord President of the Court of Session.
The present arrangements have worked well in this respect. There have been something like four or five arbitration cases, and only one of those has gone in favour of the teachers. This being so, it might have been thought that they would want a change of arbiter but they do not. They want an arbiter in Scotland who can go ahead, without any tiresome delays, and whose decisions will be clear-cut and objective. We have a well-tried and trusted system. To change this system, which the teachers of Scotland like and want to continue, at the moment when we are winning their confidence on this difficult question is the greatest pity.
The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, said that this Bill is substantially the same as the English Bill. We in Scotland have no objection to copying what is done in 1647 England if it suits us. But that is no reason why we should have imposed upon us something from England which does not suit us. At this particular juncture in the history of Scotland the thistle of Scotland is particularly prickly. It must be remembered that the educational system of Scotland is different from that of England, just as the judicial system of Scotland is different from the judicial system of England.
I wonder whether the English will ever learn. You English can lead, you can guide, and you can greatly influence other nations with which you are associated; hut you must remember that you cannot drive us. In no small measure the breakup of the British Empire has been due to this failure of the English to recognise this in time. The process started, of course, with Ireland and the failure to recognise, until too late, that Home Rule was the right action; and so half a century ago the British Empire began to break up. In this Bill we see—I would almost say a deliberate attempt, but perhaps I should not say that it is deliberate—something that is being done to impose on Scotland a crucial and controversial matter, and one which differs very much from its counterpart in England.
Many of us in Scotland feel that to have a common chairman for the two different arbitral bodies is wrong. If this is not the intention, then let the Government say so. But in doing so, they must say that they disagree with the National Board for Prices and Incomes Report No. 15, which deals with the Scottish teachers' salaries. There it says:If the same chairman were appointed to the two arbitral bodies this would ensure that arbitration was governed by the same criteria, subject to the fact that there were two structures and levels of salaries and two different systems of education.Two structures, two levels of salaries and two different systems of education; but one arbiter from England. Can anything be more absurd or more calculated to raise the hackles of the Scots? Can any stupidity of Government be more meant to raise the national passion? I am not a Scottish Nationalist in the narrow sense, but with many other Scots I have a passionate desire to see our country retain its own distinctive ways. Some of them are much better than the English, and some of them are much worse. But we 1648 should like to have our own faults: they are our own.
Last Tuesday, the fiery cross was out in Scotland. In the results of the local government elections yesterday heads rolled in the mud: two Lords Lieutenant, and at least one (I am not sure if it was not two) Convener of Counties. I would plead with your Lordships to take heed of this before it is too late. I do not want to threaten your Lordships, and I certainly do not want to threaten the Government. I merely want to remind you of two things. The first is that the teachers of Scotland will, in the long run, make a much deeper mark on the future of Scotland than any Act of Parliament. The second is the pictures in the corridor of your Lordships' House, painted last century. The subject of the debate of two of them was Home Rule. My Lords, beware!
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I did not anticipate wrongly that, if there was going to be disagreement on anything in the Bill, it would follow the pattern in another place, and I thought objection or discussion would be very largely confined to the arbitration procedure. I did not expect to find that the Scottish National Party was on the verge of obtaining so distinguished a recruit. But if I might first of all deal with the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, I would say this. He said that we have no equivalent to Section 7(5) of the English 1965 Act. This is because the draftsmen considered that we did not need this kind of provision to cover the transition from the present procedure to what the Bill proposes. The transition in England was a rather different one: it went from a different starting point. For example, the salaries had never been prescribed in regulations in England. So it is a purely drafting procedure and, of course, draftsmen nowadays are not encouraged to put things in Bills unless they are absolutely essential; and they themselves are not anxious to put things in unless they are essential, because they are over-burdened with work as it is.
The other point raised was that there was no counterpart to our Clause 6 in the English Act of 1965. The explanation is a reasonably simple one. The 1649 Scottish salaries regulations apply only to full-time certificated teachers. There is power in Section 83(2) of the Education (Scotland) Act enabling education authorities to pay what salaries they think fit to part-time teachers and to uncertificated teachers. Clause 6 merely continues this power if Section 83 of the Act is repealed. There was no corresponding statutory provision in England when the 1965 Act was considered.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord two questions? First of all, is the situation the same in England, that it is left entirely to the discretion of local education authorities in England what they pay to such people? Secondly, are there no discussions going on at the present time to ensure some measure of uniformity in this matter?
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, on the noble Lord's first point, I am afraid I do not know what the English position is. I think it would be wrong to say that there are discussions going on at the present time to achieve some measure of uniformity in these matters. But it would be wrong to conclude from that that there was any terribly wide divergence as between one local authority and another. The noble Lord is well aware that, as soon as one local authority takes a decision favourable to a particular section of employees, it does not need the fiery cross to enable that piece of information to get to the knowledge of anyone who could seek to take advantage of it. Therefore, there is not uniformity, but there is not terribly wide disparity in what is done at the present time. The nearer authorities can get together in this matter, the better. But beyond that I am afraid I cannot go at the present time.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord again, but is not the difference in this case that these particular people have no association of any kind to represent them, and that therefore the chances of what is done by one local authority being repeated by another are not so great as where there is a union or association representing the parties concerned?
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, there is a certain measure of truth in what the noble Lord has said, but, of course, it 1650 is not for any of us here to dictate to the teachers' associations whether or not they should think it is proper to represent these people. We know that there are very strong views held on the employment of uncertificated teachers by some, perhaps all, of the teachers' organisations. I regret to say this, but I think we should probably serve the interests of these people better by leaving the matter as it is, rather than by attempting to bring them into a machinery which perhaps some parties at least would not welcome.
The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, also referred to Government control of the total sum, and expressed the hope that this would not be a completely rigid operation. Of course, as the noble Lord is aware, this is not a completely new feature of negotiating machinery. In the Whitley Councils for the Health Service the arrangements throughout have been that the Government, the Ministry or Department, have taken part in these negotiations. Obviously the negotiations would fail at some time or other, perhaps more frequently than otherwise, if the Government representatives arrived always on the basis of saying: "This is the amount. You may argue as much as you like, but this is the one thing about which there will be no negotiations." So long as it is accepted by the other members of the negotiating body that the Government are coming forward with a realistic proposal, that there is not a sort of horse trading, and that the Government will give reasons for putting the sum forward in the first instance, obviously there will he from time to time room for negotiation of the total sum.
It would be ridiculous to have the arrangements breaking down solely on, perhaps, the point of another £50,000 or another £500,000—I am talking very loosely, and the figures must be related to what the total would otherwise be. If the negotiations were going to break down only for the lack of something of that kind, it would be ridiculous of the Government representatives not to take it into consideration. I have a feeling that as I have mentioned figures I could get into dangerous ground. Let me make it quite clear that £50,000 in relation to an award of £5 million would be comparatively unimportant; £500,000 in relation 1651 to an award which might otherwise be £750,000 would be totally unreasonable. I am quite certain that the noble Lord is right in expecting that reasonable working of the machinery would require that this should not be an absolutely inflexible sum in every set of circumstances that arises.
On the subject of keeping the negotiations confidential, this is a matter which is not comprehended in the Bill, but to which some thought has been given. The Secretary of State in this regard has suggested that the standing orders of the new committee might provide that as full and informative statements as can be agreed by the two sides, and compatible with the pursuit of further negotiations, should be issued for publication after each meeting of the committee. A broad measure of agreement on this proposal has already been reached in discussions with all the main interests, except the Scottish Schoolmasters' Association. That Association are as yet undecided whether they can agree to their representatives being fettered in any way from divulging information to their general membership. The Secretary of State has made it clear to the Association that he would like to see them represented on the new negotiating committee, but that if they elect to come in it must be on the basis that they abide by the new committee's rules of procedure. No other course, I am sure your Lordships will agree, would be feasible.
The second point was on the subject of the ratification of the decisions. This was the point the E.I.S. had raised. It was reported in last week's E.I.S. journal that the Council of the E.I.S. have agreed not to pursue their claim for ratification. So it would not appear that that was any longer an issue between us. The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, asked whether we accepted that teachers' remuneration should not be tied to remuneration in England and Wales. We intend that there shall be separate salary negotiations. This, after all, is the purpose of the Bill, which can take account of the distinctive educational systems North and South of the Border. There would be an advantage in negotiations for teachers in Scotland going on at the same time as those in England and Wales, in order that they could be considered in 1652 the same economic climate. It is the Government's intention to bring the two sets of salary negotiations into phase at an appropriate time in the future.
Having said that, may I say that I do not wish to go beyond that just now, because I should like to look carefully at what the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, and the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, said in their references to the Prices and Incomes Board. I am quite certain that I am at one with them, on this matter of the arbitration procedure, in seeking to have something which can be agreed by the E.I.S. It is true that it was said in another place that it was only the E.I.S. that objected. When one then proceeds to look at it on the basis—as the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, said—that the E.I.S. represents four-fifths of the teachers concerned, the "only" would appear to be misplaced. But that is not so when one considers that the teachers are one side of the organisation and the procedure, far from raising the hackles of Scottish local authorities, did not seem to arouse any mistrust in them at all because, after all, they are familiar with the operation of the other procedure.
It was not any incipient Scottish nationalism on the part of the teachers that led them to object to the alteration. It was the fear that they were exchanging a system of arbitration, which they felt was completely independent, for one which they felt might not be so. I do not wish to say overmuch on this subject because there are obviously further discussions to take place with the E.I.S., and as I said in my opening remarks I hope that in all the circumstances they will find it possible to modify their stand.
However, I must say this. There is no system being imposed on Scotland which it does not have at the present time. This present system of arbitration through the arbiters appointed by the Minister of Labour works very satisfactorily in fields far beyond manual workers. It is applied over a wide range of provisions, and I have not heard any criticism of this system by those who come under it. I could understand the objections of the E.I.S. if the suggestion was being made—and I do not think they have made it, and I am quite certain that noble Lords here have not made it—that the Minister of Labour was going to 1653 recruit as arbiters the services of professional men who have such little regard for their own integrity that they would be prepared to accept arbitration on the basis that they were working to specified instructions of the Minister. It would be the very negation of arbitration, and no one has ever suggested that. It would be an insult, a completely unjustified, unwarranted insult, to men who have rendered valuable service in the arbitration field, to suggest that their integrity is complete until they come to look at Scottish teachers' salaries and then, for some reason completely unstated, they change character and throw overboard all the things which should be inherent in an arbiter.
It cannot be suggested that in those circumstances the Minister of Labour can, or would, wish to bring any influence to bear on them. However, I recognise the fact that people may hold suspicions quite sincerely that there is some ulterior motive in a change, even although they may not he justified in doing so, and I accept what the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, has said. The Government must pursue this matter further, and if they wish to continue on the lines laid down in the Bill there must be further efforts to persuade the Educational Institute of Scotland that what is in the Bill is suggested because the Government believe that it will be in the interests of teachers to have this done, and not because they have any ulterior motives in the matter.
I would remind your Lordships of what I said in my opening remarks. The Secretary of State is divesting himself of exceedingly wide powers, and he does this gladly. To do so, and then to have the whole exercise nullified by turning it over to false arbiters would indeed be the height of folly, because the arbitration would only have to be once of the character which some people fear—that it is not fair arbitration—for the whole machine to be completely discredited. I think this is the best safeguard that the E.I.S. can have, and I am quite certain that they, with the Education Department, will be prepared to look at this matter 1654 again. If they accept the fact that the motives of the Department and the Secretary of State are not ulterior, I do not think they will have difficulty in the end in accepting this principle.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for a moment? I think the point at issue is that one of the main apprehensions of the E.I.S. is that there will be one and the same arbitrator for England and for Scotland. If he has the background knowledge for England, he will not have the same background knowledge for Scotland, and vice versa. If we appoint a Scotsman as arbiter, the poor English will suffer. I think this is one of the main misgivings so far as the E.I.S. is concerned.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I had intended to come to that point. I think it is useful that the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, has laid particular stress on this, because I can assure your Lordships that my honourable friend finally responsible for education matters at the Scottish Office will be looking carefully at what is said in this House to-day; and I am quite certain this is a point which he will feel is worth exploring further with the E.I.S. If it should be on that point that their difficulties are entirely centred, then I think we are much nearer a possible solution than might otherwise be the case.
I think I have covered most, if not all, of the points which have been raised during this debate. I hope that by the time we come to the next stage it will have been possible to reach agreement on this one outstanding issue. I can assure your Lordships that if we have not reached agreement, it will certainly not be because the Government have neglected any opportunity of doing so. We think that this Bill is so very much worth while that we should not like to lose the advantages of it if there is any possibility of obtaining agreement on the one point at issue.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.