HL Deb 12 December 1989 vol 513 cc1273-88

6.53 p.m.

Viscount Davidson rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 7th November be approved [31st Report from the Joint Committee, Session 1988–89].

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I should like first to express a warm welcome and my congratulations to the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, on her first appearance on the Opposition Front Bench. With respect, I can say to her colleagues on that Bench that her presence there will without doubt enhance both the appearance and the intellectual quality of it. I look forward to our exchanges in future.

Section 6 of the Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act 1987 provides that the Act shall expire on 31st March 1990 unless it is continued in force for a further year by an order laid before and approved by resolution of each House. The order now before the House, which was approved in the other place on 5th December, provides for the Act to continue in force for a further year, until 31st March 1991. This is necessary to enable my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science in due course to give effect to the teachers' pay settlement for 1990–91, following the report of the Interim Advisory Committee due next January, and consultation on its recommendations. If the life of the Act is not extended in the way proposed it will not be possible to deal with the 1990–91 pay settlement.

The Government always hoped to be able to put new permanent pay determination arrangements in place in time for the 1990–91 settlement. But we have never expected that it would be easy to devise new pay determination arrangements which to be worth while would need to be permanent, stable and effective. The deep differences of opinion between the six competing teacher unions, the employers and the Government which were very evident during the events which culminated in the failure of Burnham, the passage of the Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act 1987 and the establishment of the Interim Advisory Committee made that only too clear. The problem is not to obtain complete agreement on new pay determination arrangements—that is probably unattainable in any circumstances—but enough to ensure that they can operate successfully and are likely to endure. More time is needed to achieve that. So it is necessary for the present arrangements to be in place for one more year and that is why the order has been laid before the House.

In 1987 the Government's immediate concerns were to bring pay and conditions together and to establish a proper career structure for teachers. This was achieved in the 1987 settlement which gave teachers a 16.4 per cent. pay increase. Aspects of that settlement which were controversial at the time are widely welcomed now. Incentive allowances have proved their worth, and following the recommendations of the Interim Advisory Committee their introduction has been speeded up so that there are now some 170,000 available in schools. The effectiveness of the Interim Advisory Committee itself has been widely praised, and rightly so. I should like to pay tribute to the committee for all the hard work it has put in and is currently putting in.

In October 1987 the Government published a Green Paper discussing the question of new permanent teachers' pay machinery. In it were stated three key principles relevant to the establishment of new teachers' pay determination machinery which are in the interests of the education service and the nation as a whole. First, it should be designed to provide that settlements have due regard to the need to recruit, retain and motivate sufficient teachers of the right quality; secondly, it must ensure that settlements support effective management of the schools and provide for proper career-long development and incentives for teachers; and, thirdly, it should be designed to ensure that settlements have due regard to affordability and to the needs of the national economy.

The Green Paper discussed a number of different possible future pay determination arrangements and proposed the establishment of a teachers' negotiating group with the Government in a majority on the management side and with an ability for the management side to break deadlock by imposing its proposals subject to the approval of Parliament.

It became clear from the written responses to the Green Paper from the interested parties and from the views expressed during meetings which the then Secretary of State held in the autumn of 1988 that there continued to be widely differing views about the best way forward. In particular, there was no basis of agreement on such fundamental features as the role and powers of the Government, how to deal with a breakdown in negotiations and how to cover the interests of heads and deputies.

There was no prospect of meeting the original aspiration of having new permanent machinery in time for the 1990 settlement, and no advantage in trying to rush things to this end. The subject is too important and too much hangs on getting things right for it to be sensible to do that.

It was against this background that the then Secretary of State announced in July that he was arranging a further series of meetings with the teacher unions and employers at which he saw the discussions as ranging more widely than the proposal for a teachers' negotiating group set out in the October 1987 Green Paper. He recognised that it would not be easy to find a solution which was acceptable to all parties but reaffirmed the importance of getting the new arrangements right. He recognised that this would take time and said that he was accordingly asking the Interim Advisory Committee to sit for a further year to give that time. He also said that he would in due course ask Parliament to approve a consequential one year extension of the Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act 1987. That is what we are considering today.

Your Lordships will rightly be concerned whether the extension which is proposed today will enable the Government to bring forward legislation to establish new permanent machinery in the next Session. I cannot today anticipate what will be in the next Queen's Speech, but I can reaffirm what my right honourable friend the Secretary of State told the other place last week—that that is his aim.

At the meetings held in July three new options were outlined for consideration: first, negotiations between employers and unions with necessary safeguards for the Government's interests; secondly, a permanent IAC-type body, possibly linked to a no-strike agreement; and thirdly, a movement towards greater local flexibility which might lead to individual LEAs or schools opting out of national negotiations.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State has just completed a helpful and constructive round of meetings with the teacher unions and employers at which he has heard their views on each of these options. Needless to say, there is a wide variety of views. He now needs to consider the position taking into account the responses he is receiving, not only from those he has met formally but from others who are putting forward views. I am sure that that will include the views put forward this evening. The Government do not underestimate the difficulties, but my right honourable friend believes that there is a strong desire on all sides to make progress. He has made it clear that he intends to pursue this vigorously.

In the meantime, this order is needed to pay teachers an increase next year. I commend it to the House and ask that noble Lords give it their approval.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 7th November be approved. [31st Report from the Joint Committee, Session 1988–89].—(Viscount Davidson.)

7 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Viscount for his kind remarks. I greatly look forward to debating with him on many future occasions. However, I am afraid to say that I do not think I shall be able to reciprocate the kindness he expressed in his general comments in what I have to say about the proposals in the order before us today. This is a sad day for education and a sad day for teachers. I say "sad" because we are witnessing yet another broken promise to the teaching profession.

I do not wish to seem pompous, but governments who fail to fulfil their commitments and do what they promise to do eventually lose the support of those who elected them. Noble Lords may have noticed that the opinion polls are, perhaps, reflecting that fact at present.

The fact that the Government have yet again reneged on their promise to restore a fundamental right in a democratic society that employees, or the representatives of employees, should be able to negotiate their terms and conditions of service is yet another nail in the coffin of their credibility. Why should teachers, or others for that matter, believe what the Government say when their promises are not fulfilled?

Perhaps I may remind noble Lords of the sorry history of this matter. The last time teachers were able to negotiate their pay was way back in 1986. Then, early in 1987, the Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act came into force. Few people will want to defend the old Burnham Committee, which had become an over-cumbersome shambles. I recognise too the great difficulty in replacing it; indeed, it is a very complex matter. However, the shambles of Burnham is not the point at issue here. The point is that, when the Act which we are now being asked to extend was introduced, it was made absolutely clear that it was a temporary measure. In 1987 in answer to a Question in another place, the then Secretary of State said: I do not think it will be possible to get agreed new permanent machinery by April 1988. However, that does not mean that we will not be able to get it in place by April 1989—that is, before 1990—and we must strive to do that". Clearly the Secretary of State did not strive very hard, since we are nearly nine months past April 1989, by which time he implied it would be in place. Little progress has been made since that date, or earlier, in developing proposals for a new system—despite what the noble Viscount said about recent meetings with trade unions. Indeed, all Mr. Baker's strivings consisted of was one round of meetings with interested parties in the summer of 1988 and some tentative proposals given across the table to the unions in July 1989 which showed little sign of having been thought out. In fact, they were really very much lacking in coherence.

What on earth was the Secretary of State doing for all that time? It is difficult to know whether it was deliberate procrastination, whether it was mere inefficiency, or whether it was a case of too many eye-catching initiatives and gimmicks, so loved by the previous Secretary of State, leading him to neglect something less publicity generating but more important like devising the proper machinery for teachers' pay negotiations.

While nothing was apparently going on in his department, the last Secretary of State and his Minister of State continued to assure Parliament that new proposals would be in place. Early in July 1988 the Minister of State, Mrs. Rumbold, when referring to the interim arrangements lasting until 1990, said: The Government have always made it clear that that was the target date for establishing and having in place the permanent machinery and that remains so". In January 1989 the Secretary of State, Mr. Baker, also in reply to a Question in another place, said: The Government hope to introduce new permanent machinery in time for the 1990 settlement". As a consequence of the extension of this Act by order and of the Government's broken promises to Parliament and the unions, it will now not be until 1991 that teachers' fundamental rights are restored. Will the noble Viscount now assure the House that there will be no further delay in the matter? I heard what he said about the Queen's Speech next year, but this matter has gone on for far too long. Can he assure us, therefore, that by 1991, after five years of having their salaries imposed from above, teachers will be treated as proper partners in the pay negotiation process? If not, and if the noble Viscount cannot confirm this, I have little doubt that the unions will make a further complaint to the ILO. Should that happen, Britain's reputation in Europe, and elsewhere, as a model of fairness in the application of democractic rights will be dented yet again. Indeed, it has been dented quite often during the past 10 years.

When the teachers' organisations first complained in 1988, the Government were found to be in breach of ILO Convention 98, Article 4. I am afraid to say that the Government's defence was dismissed. The ILO ruled that the Interim Advisory Committee, set up after Burnham was abolished, did not give effect to the fundamental principle of voluntary negotiation of collective agreements contained in the convention. I do not doubt that the Interim Advisory Committee has been doing its work to the best of its ability but it should not be allowed to continue.

The ILO also asked its committee of experts on the application of conventions and recommendations to follow developments in the situation. No doubt it is doing so at present. However, for how much longer will the Government continue to ignore an international convention to which they are a party? Do we want our signature to be seen as worthless by the rest of the world? Can the noble Viscount, therefore, say how the Government will respond to further questions from the ILO?

The frustration and anger created by denying teachers the right to negotiate their pay and conditions must be seen against a growing demoralisation in the profession. In turn, this is leading to a serious shortage of teachers which is worse in some subjects than in others and worse in some parts of the country than in others.

Teachers are faced with a wide range of changes at present; for example, the national curriculum, new forms of assessment and local financial management. Those are enormous changes, which require very significant adjustment. Moreover, much extra work is entailed. At the same time, because of under-investment in buildings, many teachers often have to work in pretty poor working conditions. In the inner cities they are at the raw end of conditions which prevail in the most deprived areas. They also have to cope with difficult children and great skill is required to motivate and teach such children effectively.

Large numbers of teachers are leaving the profession. Four out of 10 teachers leave within five years of entering. Three out of 10 who qualify as teachers do not enter the profession the following year. Moreover, the proportion of graduates who entered teaching fell from 8 per cent. to 4 per cent. between the years 1980 and 1988. If that trend continues, we shall be in a most serious situation.

We have already witnessed the appalling spectacle of children being sent home from school because there are no classroom teachers available to teach them, especially in some parts of London. Thousands of secondary school pupils are being taught subjects such as physics by people who have no qualification in the subject.

One of the reasons the Government have been so reluctant to participate in the Lingua programme is that we are so short of modern language teachers. In fact, it will be most difficult to deliver the national curriculum requirements in modern languages, let alone the Lingua programme, because of those shortages. If we are to avoid a really serious crisis there must be greater recognition by the Government of the central role of teachers in our society and more appreciation of the efforts they make on our behalf.

I welcome some of the comments made by the noble Viscount opposite as regards the measures which the Government intend to take to restore teachers' morale. Perhaps he will also say how we can get out of the current mess in which the number of people with teaching qualifications who are not teaching is equal to the number of those who are doing so.

One way of resolving the problem must be to pay teachers more. I welcome the increase to £600 million in the envelope provided for the Interim Advisory Committee. However, I doubt that it will be enough. Moreover, I cannot see that it is desirable to set such cash limits before discussions about needs have even begun. What is required is a radical restructuring of teachers' pay to provide much more generous rates than at present. The pay of teachers relative to that of other occupational groups is much worse than in many other European countries.

I welcome the fact that in his remit to the IAC the Secretary of State has asked it to look at the special problems of inner London and the pay of head teachers and their deputies; but it is the experienced classroom teachers who should be paid more if we are to attract more people into the profession and, what is more important, keep them when they arrive. If teachers or potential teachers are to feel that they have the respect they deserve they cannot continue to have pay settlements imposed upon them without proper negotiations. For those reasons, this side of the House cannot support the order.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

; My Lords, I too should like to thank the noble Viscount for his clear exposition of the matter that we are discussing. I cannot give it any warmer welcome than has been given by the Benches next to me. I echo everything said by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone. What worries me in particular is that weighty matters such as this are discussed in your Lordships' House at a time when there is a small presence, the House cannot be given the opinion of a large number of your Lordships and we cannot vote upon it. These matters are weighty. We are prolonging by a year the suspension of negotiating rights for an important profession. When the Bill was first brought in in 1987, a number of us were concerned at the possibility of that happening. It has happened as we feared. We devoutly hope that it will not continue happening.

There is no need for me to rehearse everything said about the situation in the teaching profession by the noble Baroness. The education service is going through dark times. For all the much vaunted improvements of the Education Reform Act, there is a serious shortage of teachers, especially in London, where children are being sent home because they do not have a teacher. That is an appalling condemnation of the Government's policy over the past few years. I need say no more about that aspect, but it is evident that one of the first steps that could and should be taken to encourage teachers and restore their morale is to restore their negotiating powers.

So far as I can gather from the NUT, the events of the past few years have been as follows. The Teachers' Pay and Conditions Bill was published in November 1986. Immediately afterwards there was a meeting between the big teacher unions (the NUT and the NAS) and the Secretary of State to protest at the abolition of teachers' rights. In April 1987 the first order for teachers' salary structures, levels and conditions of service was issued by the IAC. In July 1987 there was a deputation from the TUC-affiliated unions to the Secretary of State. In October the Green Paper was published. A deadline for responses to the Green Paper was set for January 1988. From then until September 1988 nothing apparently happened. The Secretary of State received the responses in January 1988 and nothing happened until September when the NUT met the Secretary of State for Education to discuss the proposals in the Green Paper; and then nothing happened again until July 1989 when there was another meeting between the NUT and the Secretary of State for Education.

Those time lapses are unaccountable. Perhaps the Minister can explain them. It is exactly what we feared would happen when we discussed the Bill. The months would go by and the Government would know perfectly well that all they had to do was to choose a quiet time such as now and obtain the extensions that they required.

It is over three years since the publication of the Bill. Meanwhile, as the noble Baroness has said, in May 1988 the ILO found the UK in breach of Article 4 of Convention 98 on free collective bargaining. Three main proposals were put forward in the Green Paper. One was for a national joint council which was favoured by all the teacher unions except the Professional Association of Teachers. Another was that there would be a review body. That was supported by the Professional Association of Teachers only. I agree that the situation is awkward. Finally, the Government's option was a teachers' negotiating group. The union found that difficult to accept because it had no ultimate opportunity for arbitration.

Paragraph 7.44 of the Green Paper states: It could not be right for the management side to submit to arbitration when it has already offered the maximum that can be afforded". That is the stumbling block for the union. Somehow those difficulties must be got over. It may be my stupidity, but I cannot understand why it is necessary to postpone the ending of the committee and the setting up of negotiating machinery for a whole year to bring into effect the pay settlement for 1990–91 agreed by the committee. How long will that continue? The Opposition fear that it could go on indefinitely.

The committee has spoken highly of the teaching profession. Its words have an important resonance to me. The committee says in paragraph 6 of its introduction to the second report of the Interim Advisory Committee which was produced in February this year: As last year, the Committee has been impressed by the commitment and dedication of teachers in all types of schools visited. Despite some of the public criticisms aimed at teachers over recent years, which happily Government spokesmen are now going some way to redress, we found a high degree of professionalism in support of the education of the nation's young people". Those are important and impressive words from the committee considering the matter. I hope that the Government will take those words to heart and with all speed restore teachers' basic rights to negotiate their own pay.

Lord Dormand of Easington

My Lords, even for this promise-breaking Government, the order plumbs new depths. Ministers have given unequivocal undertakings to restore the negotiating machinery by March 1990. Some of them were given outside Parliament and some in another place. We assumed that they would be implemented. The Secretary of State has talked about, the deep differences of opinion between the six teacher unions as the main reason for not having the new arrangements in place for April 1990. I believe the argument to be suspect, to say the least.

The NUT and the NAS/UWT, separately or jointly, through the TUC have met the Secretary of State on no fewer than five occasions to discuss the restoration of negotiating rights and/or the Government's proposals for new negotiating machinery. That is one indication that there has been plenty of time for the Government to have new negotiating machinery in place in time for the 1991–92 pay round.

Responses to the Green Paper had to reach the Secretary of State by 29th January 1988, but consultations with the unions did not begin until September of that year. That point has already been made by my noble friend and by the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie. To repeat it emphasises how important it is. We are entitled to know why there was such a long delay, particularly when the Government keep repeating that they regard this issue as of considerable importance and urgency.

There has never been more agreement among teachers' unions simply because the Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act 1987, is an affront to the principles of trade unionism. We are not talking about the details of what that pay and those conditions are. We are talking about the right to negotiate, which all modern civilised societies accept as normal—rights which in other countries are taken for granted.

Perhaps on this side we have been a little naive. This is the Government which took away from workers at GCHQ the right even to belong to a trade union. And there have been no fewer than six employment and trade union Acts which have eroded the rights of trade unionists on a wide range of issues. Noble Lords will know the kind of thing I am referring to. The difference in this case is that the Government have broken a firm commitment for the flimsiest of reasons. It is no wonder that the teachers' unions are united as never before.

That is not the whole story. The Interim Advisory Committee has been told that there is a limit to what it can do. The Secretary of State says that he has provided for the teachers' pay bill for 1990–91 to increase by the "fair and substantial" sum of £600 million. He calls it "fair and substantial" against a background of teacher shortage and the lowest morale in the profession ever known. Again, that has been stated already in the debate.

I am sure that the members of the IAC are most worthy and intelligent people; but I sometimes wonder how they react to being asked to do such an important job with both hands tied behind their backs. I was interested to read an exchange in another place on 4th July when the then Secretary of State, the right honourable Kenneth Baker, said that conditions could not be so bad in the teaching profession because 25,000 people had been recruited to teaching. When pressed to say how many people had left in the same period, he replied 25,000. So much for dealing with the teacher shortage. How is the IAC, in its straitjacket, to deal with the problems? The answer is that it cannot. The whole structure is as artificial as it is unnecessary.

I turn to the breach of the ILO Convention 98, Article 4. On 26th May, following a reference by teachers' organisations, the Government were found to be in breach of ILO Convention 98, Article 4. The ILO ruled that the Interim Advisory Committee system for determining teachers' pay and conditions of service did not give effect to the fundamental principle of voluntary negotiation of collective agreements which, as your Lordships will know, is contained in the convention.

In evidence to the Select Committee on Education on 28th October, the present Secretary of State said: The ILO have indicated that they are satisfied within the terms of the convention with what we are currently doing about the discussions with employers and unions". The National Union of Teachers informs me that the information officer at the ILO office in London told it that there had been no statement from the ILO saying that it was satisfied with the Government's progress. The NUT has therefore lodged a further complaint with the ILO over the Government's delay in conforming with the ILO's ruling and the extension for a further year of the Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act.

There is a fundamental difference here of the utmost importance, a difference which calls for an immediate explanation from the Minister. I hope that we receive it when he replies to the debate. I hesitate to say that the House is being misled; I certainly do not say that. But the Government must make it abundantly clear where they stand on the ILO's ruling.

It will not be the first time that this Government have decided to pick and choose from their international obligations. But this is at the very heart of the order before us tonight. We are entitled to a full account of how the situation has arisen. In June 1988, the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, replied to a Question in your Lordships' House concerning the Government's response to the ILO decision by saying that, as a party to the ILO convention naturally we take into account its pronouncements. That is what we intend to do in the context of the present teachers' pay and conditions negotiations".—[Official Report, 24/6/88; col. 1055.] That clearcut, unequivocal statement was made 18 months ago. Here we are today, after promises and yet more promises, having to listen to still more excuses from a government who are bringing a new definition to the word "truth". Any objective observer would recognise the justifiable grievance which teachers have about the way in which they have been treated since the imposition of the Act. They have worked hard to implement the many and fundamental changes which are taking place in education such as those to which my noble friend from the Front Bench referred. They have done it without disruption. I suspect that other professional organisations would not have given the Government such an easy ride as they have had.

Despite this co-operation, the teachers see a government depriving them of basic rights and imposing a cash settlement which incidentally reduces their standard of living. While pretending to be a government of law and order, they are flouting in the most disgraceful way a clear directive from the International Labour Organisation.

I have always felt that one basic reason for troubles in the world of education under Tory governments is that they have no real commitment to state education. They send their children to private schools where the system is cocooned from the kind of trouble we are debating today and from other issues constantly referred to in your Lordships' House.

This is yet one more sad day, not just for teachers but for the education of the children of this country. The Government are placing what might well prove to be an intolerable strain on the professionalism and dedication of our teachers. Let the Government say tonight in the clearest possible terms that this really is the last occasion on which teachers will be asked to forgo such basic rights. I get no comfort from what the Minister said tonight. If I heard his words correctly, he said that the Secretary of State was aiming to put it right next time. I find that quite a disturbing phrase. If the Government do not, they themselves will have to accept the consequences.

7.28 p.m.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, I see that we still have to deal with the Scottish clergy widows. Widows are very impatient people these days, so I had better be brief. There has been trouble over teachers' pay ever since I can remember. That dates back to about 1912. I had my share of it 13 years ago when, at this time of year, a committee over which I presided was beavering away late into the night in order to get a report completed and printed by Christmas and a £ 100 advance on arrears of pay in the pockets of every teacher. For several months before that when we had our lunches alongside our work there were bottles of Teacher's whisky on the table. None of us dared touch it. Not until we had completed our report did we drink any of it, and then there was soon none left. But the serious part of this is that we were trying to do an impossible job in too short a time. I believe the same thing will happen again. Whenever there is a target that can be extended, it is nearly always extended. When there is a target that cannot be extended, there is nearly always a desperate rush at the last minute. That appears to be human nature.

I regret two things about my inquiry. One is that we were not allowed to deal with conditions of service and the second is that I was not allowed to say what I wanted to say in the chairman's introduction. As regards conditions of service, no one seemed to want them dealt with alongside pay. There was some magic about teachers which decreed that they were in a professional vocation and they did not have conditions of service. They worked, they taught and they did, but they needed no conditions of service. Teachers are very proud of what they call voluntary services. They carried out voluntary services with a feeling that they were doing something special. They also thought that, in case of difficulty, there was something they could threaten to withdraw.

I had never been used to negotiating pay without conditions of service because they are very closely tied together. However, in the event we did not do so. Perhaps I should have mentioned a third thing I was disappointed about. That was that there was no time to consider the future structure of staff and employer relations in the teaching profession; in other words, to see what could be put in the place of Burnham, which had proved a failure. If that had not proved a failure, we would not have been appointed at all. We were appointed to do what Burnham's system had failed to achieve. It was not the first time that Burnham had failed to solve the problem. I remember this problem from years before when Burnham was under constant criticism. It was always difficult to find the answer.

However, everyone was in a hurry. The Government wanted the report quickly and the Scottish teachers were already on strike. They were nearly always on strike. The English teachers were restive. They have nearly always been restive. We were told that we must get the report out by Christmas. We did it but, by Jove, it was a difficult job. I have never met a committee—and I have presided over many—that worked so hard to find an answer to the problems. What is wrong here? We hear that the Minister responsible for the matter is trying hard and that he has issued a list of firm principles. We hear that he is holding discussions and other things, but in his speech in another place the Minister said he was heartened by the present round of talks with the unions that had begun in July. Those talks must presumably be bearing fruit by now.

Some blame the difficulty in getting a satisfactory machinery for settling teachers' pay upon the unions. They say there are too many unions, that they are in conflict with each other, that they seek members from each other, and other such things. I admit straight away that there is a great difficulty there. Some of the teacher unions are where they are for historical reasons and not for vocational reasons. They derive from the past. As unions they have wanted to maintain their livelihoods and work and so they have adjusted themselves to the new situation without a clear role. However, it is not the unions which are the trouble here. I can say from experience that it does not matter what diversity there is among unions; one can get unity among them if one sets about it the right way. The right way is that at the end of the day there has to be one voice or one set of voices. That is the basis of negotiation, and it rarely ever fails.

However, the real trouble with teachers' pay occurs on the other side, among what are called the employers. Instead of one employer we have a three-headed monster which comprises the local education authorities, the Department of Education and the Treasury. Those are the employers. It is astonishing that all the local education authorities—there are lots and lots of them under different management, with different outlooks and in different geographical locations—have been rolled into one for the purpose of negotiations on teachers' pay. They are the employers. However, they are dealing with the hybrid state of funding the education service. This hybrid state comprises local authority interests, because of local government control to an extent and the obligation for financial support to a considerable extent, and the Government, who have a very big interest in their side of the account.

When the employers can become one, when they are able to settle their position as employers and deal with the employees and when they can settle their differences and come as a body for negotiation, then there is a very good possibility of getting agreement. However, it does not work that way. There is so much bickering going on between local authorities, the Treasury and the Department of Education that the unions do not know where they are. To deal with this matter comprehensively and satisfactorily would involve a complete change in the funding of our education service, or at least a big change in the funding of salaries and conditions of service of teachers. That does not necessarily mean that education as a system would be controlled by central government. However, it means that one body would be responsible for the recruitment, the salary structure, the requirements and all the other conditions of employed teachers. That would also introduce a great deal more mobility into the teacher service.

It is quite ridiculous that jobs have to be advertised to the extent that they are and that applicants have to appear before local education authorities in large numbers before appointments are made. One finds an element of political influence at work which is quite disturbing. The Royal Commission on Standards in Public Life discovered some very worrying procedures in local government. In one local authority appointments for school caretakers were dished out to the different wards in the local Labour Party and no one else got a look in. I am not saying that the same thing occurred with teachers' appointments. But there is not the slightest doubt that the outlook of local education authorities on politics and social affairs finds its way into the selection of teachers.

However, I do not suppose that what I have proposed will come about, so the Government and the teachers' organisations will have to grapple with the system as it is. They will find that to obtain a satisfactory system is a very tough job. I wish them well, but I sincerely hope that we shall not have this matter dragging on. It makes teachers feel that in some way they are unfit for the responsibilities of negotiation of their salaries and conditions of service. They feel that they are sub-teachers in terms of prestige, standing and sense of responsibility. That is very bad. There are so many factors in the education service at the moment which are lowering morale among teachers. The spirit of the teaching profession is too low for comfort from the point of view of the efficiency and well-being of the education service. Teachers now have to grapple with a flood of circulars and directions, guidelines and the rest of it from the Ministry about the curriculum and all those matters for which the Minister now has responsibility under the Education Reform Act. That is very unsettling.

Some posts which have been securely fixed in the local education system are apparently to be floated out to contract. That is because no local authority wants to maintain the posts on the payroll if they can be put into roving commission and the services obtained when needed and paid for by the authorities as they go along. I refer in particular to teachers who are looking after children with special needs. It looks as if in some education authorities their posts are to be put into a floating pool without the security that the teachers would ordinarily have. All that is most unsettling.

Teachers believe that when head teachers apply their minds to their budgets they will try to persuade the senior staff who are at the top of the incremental scale to leave so that someone can be appointed who is at the bottom of the scale in order to balance their budgets.

There are all sorts of uncertainties and fears abroad in the teaching profession at the moment. One of the issues which must be settled is the machinery through which teachers can raise all their troubles and express them in terms of negotiated conditions of service and remuneration. That is most important. However, as soon as the Government have a review body of this kind they become lazy. They think that it will see them through. The Minister thinks that it will last for his time and he will be in another post before the period expires. It will then be somebody else's job to deal with the problem and he will be so pleased at being promoted that he will not mind finding a tough nut waiting for him.

I find the situation most dispiriting. It does not help to reward those who were engaged at different times. That does not solve the problems which neither the profession nor the Government seem able to solve themselves.

I ask forgiveness for burdening the House with this diatribe. However, having seen what has happened in the 13 years since the report was published, and its aftermath, I have had a good deal to worry about. Somehow or other the biggest pay rise given to teachers, which had the right spirit behind it and was accompanied by a pretty good indication of what was required of teachers to meet the needs of the new situation and justify the higher level of pay that was being given, seemed to get lost. It got lost very quickly. It must have been because the employers felt that the amount of public expenditure had risen so much that they did not want to do any more than they need in the next few years.

I was accused by Sir Douglas Wass, who was the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury, of wrecking the Labour Government's economic policy with the report which I brought out 13 years ago. The action was amply justified at the time. The catching up process is a cruel thing to have to try to achieve, from everybody's point of view. It costs too much; there is too much leeway to make up. However, we made up that leeway and we put teachers on a level from which they could go forward. But they slipped back and we then had all the same troubles of falling behind. It was not possible for the Government to meet the bill for catching up at that time.

I have said enough. I wish that I had had an opportunity to do more for the teachers rather than having to do the rush salvage job that we did 13 years ago. It might have made a great difference. However, one does not always have the opportunities that one seeks. After 30 years in the Civil Service I thought that I knew what to do about teachers' pay, their position and conditions of service.

7.45 p.m.

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, and the noble Lords, Lord Dormand of Easington, Lord Ritchie of Dundee and Lord Houghton of Sowerby, for their contributions to this debate. The debate has ranged far more widely than the subject of the order and I do not intend to stray from the order in my brief reply. As I said in my opening remarks, my right honourable friend is considering all the views that have been put forward and will no doubt include in his consideration the views that have been put forward tonight.

Perhaps I may first remind the House that the order we are considering this evening is needed if teachers are to receive in their pay packets next year whatever increases flow from the recommendations of the Interim Advisory Committee. If the order is not approved the Secretary of State will not be able to make the necessary provision to achieve that. For that reason alone I am sure that your Lordships will wish to agree the order.

We have heard much about the remit given to the Interim Advisory Committee this year. Perhaps I may remind noble Lords opposite of a few facts. Teachers' pay has gone up by 40 per cent. in cash terms since March 1987. It has risen by 30 per cent. in real terms since 1979. The Government have increased the number of incentive allowances from 100,000 to over 170,000 since 1987. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State has provided for the teachers' pay bill for 1990–91 to increase by the fair and substantial sum of £600 million—55 per cent. more than this year's remit and twice last year's. The committee has been asked to report by the end of January and I am sure that its report will be of the same high standard as its two previous reports.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State is aware of concern about teachers' morale. That point was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone. He is keen to do all that he can to assist. He has made it clear on many occasions, most recently in a letter to all head teachers, that he believes that teachers deserve gratitude, recognition and respect for their professionalism and the commitment that they show their pupils.

The vast majority of teachers support the aims of the national curriculum, which is founded on current best practice. I acknowledge that its introduction, together with other education reforms, places extra demands on teachers. My right honourable friend has responded to pleas that further reforms might overstrain teachers' goodwill and commitment. We intend to ensure that we implement the reforms at a reasonable pace while retaining the momentum already gained. The evidence shows that teaching is a very attractive career for many people. About 25,000 people enter or re-enter the profession every year. Applications this year for entry to primary initial teacher training are up by 15 per cent. The population leaving teaching for other paid employment is less than I per cent. a year.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, and the noble Lord, Lord Dormand of Easington, asked me about the situation vis á vis the ILO. We are well aware of what the ILO has said. The ILO in turn is well aware that our aim is to re-establish permanent pay machinery. That is what we are working hard to achieve. The three new options tabled this summer and the Secretary of State's recent constructive meetings with unions and employers bear witness to that. The new arrangements must operate effectively to stand the test of time. That is unlikely to be achieved unless there is sufficient consensus about what the arrangements should be. The Secretary of State is therefore considering very carefully all the points that have been put to him in his recent discussions and will reflect on what has been said this evening. As he made clear, no decision has yet been taken on the best course to pursue.

The noble Baroness. Lady Blackstone, and the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie of Dundee, asked for an assurance that new permanent machinery will be put in place for the 1990–91 settlement. As I said earlier, that is our clear aim. However, I do not underestimate the difficulties of achieving it given the wide difference of view among the six competing teaching unions. The task now is to find a way ahead that commands the widest possible acceptance, and we are indeed aiming for legislation. What matters—I think the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, would agree—is getting the new arrangements right.

The Government are anxious to find workable and lasting new permanent arrangements for determining teachers' pay. They will be pursuing that vigorously with the interested parties over the next few months. In the meantime this order is needed to ensure that teachers can receive next year's pay rise. I commend it to your Lordships.

Lord Dormand of Easington

My Lords, before the noble Viscount sits down, will he be so kind as to say a little more about the points that some of us made concerning the ILO? He has just said that the ILO is aware of what the Government are doing to achieve the ultimate objective of free negotiations. The ILO has said that the interim action—the body which has been established—is in contravention of the ILO convention. That is the point. Will the Minister say something about that matter, because he is missing the point?

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, no. I have already moved the order. I shall write to the noble Lord.

On Question, Motion agreed to.