HL Deb 18 February 1970 vol 307 cc1170-2

3.50 p.m.


My Lords, with permission, I should like to repeat a Statement being made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education on the present state of the negotiations for an increase of teachers' pay:

"At the last meeting of the Burnham Committee on February 13 the Management Panel reaffirmed their previous open offer of an 11.6 per cent. increase for the lowest paid teachers tapered to 5 per cent. on the maximum of the basic scale together with the contingent commitment to arbitration on it under the conditions offered by my right honourable friend the First Secretary and myself. These conditions were:

  1. 1. The chairman would be a per-son of the highest possible status and unquestionable independence—possibly a judge.
  2. 2. A firm assurance that the Government would not seek under the Remuneration of Teachers Act to set aside the award.
  3. 3. An assurance that paragraph 94 of the White Paper on Prices and Incomes Policy, which specifically mentions teachers, enabled general comparability with other groups of workers as well as all other factors to be taken into account by the arbitrators.
  4. 4. An assurance that Burnham itself could redistribute the global sum awarded if it so desired.
"The teachers again rejected both the open offer and arbitration. The Management Panel then offered to begin an immediate review of the structure of teachers' salaries, to bring forward the next general settlement from April 1, 1971, to October 1, 1970. They said they had in mind a substantial overall increase, provided it was based on a structural review of salaries from October 1 and that in the financial year 1970–71 this would produce a substantially greater increase than the open offer from April 1. I believe that this offer would give teachers, particularly those who make teaching a lifelong career, much better salary prospects than ever before.

"The teachers neither accepted nor rejected this proposal until they had more information. It was agreed that there should be informal exchanges between the two Panels and a meeting of the full Committee on March 11. This delay of one month between the meetings of Burnham appears to me to be rather too long and I have written to the Chairman and the leaders of both Panels to see whether an earlier meeting can be arranged. I have also told the Teachers' Panel that immediately the present dispute is settled I am ready to open talks with all parties on the reform of the Burnham machinery.

"In the meantime and in spite of the latest offer the teachers' organisations have decided to continue with their strikes and indeed there are reports of plans to escalate them. I very much regret that the teachers have not agreed to call off their industrial action in view of the new offer which has been made to them; to do so would be in accordance with accepted negotiating practice. I now invite them to look at the matter again so that serious consideration can be given to working out a solution in a calmer atmosphere and damage to the education of thousands of children avoided. In making this appeal I believe I shall have the support of the whole House."


My Lords, the House will be very grateful to the noble Lord the Leader of the House for repeating that Statement. I know that all of your Lordships are deeply concerned over this strike, particularly as its effect is not on anybody's pocket but on the education of the children. Already to-day in the Press we read that over 300 schools are indefinitely closed in Birmingham. I am sure it would be most unwise of me to be in any way critical of any of the parties to the dispute at this stage. All I should like to do is to welcome most warmly the Secretary of State's wish to push the negotiations forward as quickly as possible. I can see no reason for the Burnham Committee's delaying this meeting until March 11.

If I may ask just one question, it is this. Have the Teachers' Panel totally rejected arbitration, or are they willing to accept it on certain conditions?


My Lords, so far the Panel have rot accepted arbitration. I would hesitate to use the word "total" but the rejection appears to be total as of now. The. form of the arbitration proposals which are put forward is of the kind which I should have thought had met some of the objections that might have been brought to bear on this matter. But so far they have not accepted it.