HL Deb 05 August 1980 vol 412 cc1328-9

2.43 p.m.

Viscount SIMON

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, following the Answer given on 25th June [Hansard, col. 1595], the pay proposals agreed between the University Authorities' Panel and the Association of University Teachers have yet been approved.


My Lords, these proposals are under discussion in the negotiating committee which met on 29th July and yesterday. I cannot anticipate the result of the negotiations, which are continuing, but a statement will be issued when agreement has been reached.

Viscount SIMON

My Lords, I am greatly obliged to the noble Baroness for that reply, though it does not take us quite so far as I had hoped it might. May I ask her to say whether my information is correct; namely, that the parties concerned—that is, the union and the representatives of the employers—agreed on terms some two and a half months ago and that those were within the Government's pay limits? If so, why has it taken so long to get to the next stage of the discussions, and why cannot the Government accept what has been agreed within the pay limits without further discussion?

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, the joint proposals of the Association of University Teachers and the university authorities were received on 20th May. The relationship of the cost of the universities' existing cash limits is of course only one factor in this whole question and other factors to be considered would include the general economic situation.


My Lords, is it the intention of the Government, if the present discussions are not successful, to allow the matter to go to negotiation? Will the noble Baroness also remember that, on a previous occasion five years ago, the university staff felt badly let down because of the sharp cut-off on the negotiations?

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I cannot comment on the first part of the noble Lord's supplementary because it is hypothetical. In reply to the second part, in which he spoke of fears of another 1975 pay anomaly, the Government have no plans at present to introduce a statutory wage freeze, but the general level of pay increases must be lowered to what can be afforded.


My Lords, if the Government are not able to reach agreement on this matter, may I ask whether they would be willing to consider a reference of the dispute to arbitration?

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, again that is a hypothetical question on which I cannot comment at this stage.

Viscount SIMON

My Lords, will the Government consider carefully in the course of these negotiations, which we hope will reach a satisfactory conclusion very shortly, that in no circumstances should the university teachers be put in a worse position than the teachers of higher and further education in the local government sector?

Baroness YOUNG

I thank the noble Lord for that comment, my Lords, which I am sure will be noted by the negotiating parties.


My Lords, may I ask the Minister what she meant when she said there were no plans at present for a wage freeze? Does she realise the difference between a wage freeze and an incomes policy?

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, the reference must be taken in conjunction with the reply I gave to the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, who was referring to what happened in 1975, and I wish to indicate that the situation is different now.