HL Deb 11 March 1985 vol 461 cc7-8

2.54 p.m.

Lord Beloff

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will be putting forward proposals to amend the Remuneration of Teachers Act 1965.

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, the Government have no such plans.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for that very informative reply. May I ask him whether he does not consider, at a time when very many children are being deprived of important educational opportunities, that the dispute continuing with some of the trade unions in the educational world is a matter of the first urgency? Is it not further the case that it must in the end be established in that as in other occupations that salaries are proportionate to work and endeavour, and that to try to separate contracts of employment from salary negotiations—as the National Union of Teachers has been doing—is inimical to the education service and to the welfare of children in this country?

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, my right honourable friend is prepared to listen to the arguments for change, and I note those put forward by my noble friend today. That is why he met representatives of the local authority associations at their request on 6th March. At that meeting they made plain their dissatisfaction with the present machinery, and he repeated his readiness to consider the case for change. But before coming to a firm view on the matter, he would want to be satisfied that any new arrangements would offer the prospect of a real improvement on the existing arrangements.

Lord Somers

My Lords, is the noble Earl not aware that responsible teachers all over the country are absolutely disgusted at the action of other teachers? Will he say whether it is possible to make the teaching profession a non-striking profession?

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, I believe that would require legislation.

Baroness David

My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl the Minister how long his right honourable friend is going to retire to his tent in the Department of Education and Science? The situation is a serious one. Teachers have been working under very adverse circumstances with local authorities having so little money, and local authorities are in difficulties because they have no money. It is up to the Secretary of State. After all, he has the veto on the Burnham Committee and he has his weighted vote on the Burnham Committee. Is it not his duty to improve industrial relations and to reach some solution to the present troubles?

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, my right honourable friend can hardly be accused of retiring to his tent in the DES. As I said in answer to the supplementary question of my noble friend Lord Beloff, it was only on 6th March—Wednesday of last week—that my right honourable friend met with representatives of the local authority associations. He is considering very carefully what they said to him on that occasion.

Lord Davies of Leek

My Lords, is the Minister aware that, despite his remarks about the teaching profession, it does not lead itself to contractual agreements? The services given time and time again by members of the teaching profession to the boys and girls and young people they have taught have never been recognised. They did not want paying for those services: they performed them because of their love of their work.

The Earl of Swinton

Yes, my Lords, and I am very grateful for what the noble Lord has said. Indeed, I believe that such did happen in the past but perhaps it is not happening so much at present.

Lord Taylor of Blackburn

My Lords, once this dispute is settled, would not the time be right to scrap Burnham completely and start with new negotiating machinery? I am sure that is long overdue. Burnham is completely out of date and is not satisfactory to anyone at this time.

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, it is fashionable to blame Burnham. I would not have thought that it was necessarily the machinery that was at fault; perhaps it is goodwill that is lacking.

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