HL Deb 17 December 1991 vol 533 cc1268-71

7.52 p.m.

Lord Cavendish of Furness rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 20th November be approved [4th Report. from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in each of the past two years, Parliament has approved continuation orders extending the life of the Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act 1987. On the first occasion, two years ago, that was because a sufficient measure of agreement had not been reached about the way forward and new machinery. Last year an order was needed to ensure that the recommendations of the Interim Advisory Committee on teachers' pay in 1991–92 could be given effect. The IAC reported for the last time in January of this year and, under the terms of the 1990 continuation order, the 1987 Act is due to expire on 31st March 1992.

Those of your Lordships who were present on 6th December last year may recall that in moving the 1990 continuation order I said that it would be the last occasion on which the Government would ask the House to approve an extension of the 1987 Act and that there would be no further need for the Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act 1987 by this time. The days of the 1987 Act are indeed numbered, but the timetable is not quite as I envisaged this time last year. The essential point, however, is that new arrangements for deciding teachers' pay are now in place. The School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act 1991 received Royal Assent on 25th July 1991. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has appointed the eight members of the School Teachers' Review Body under the chairmanship of Sir Graham Day. On 20th September my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science asked the review body to submit its first report in January 1992, making recommendations on teachers' pay and conditions in the year commencing 1st April 1992.

Because the arrangements which we now have in place for determining teachers' pay and conditions are not those which we envisaged at the end of 1990, the timetable for repealing the 1987 Act has also changed. There are technical reasons why that Act needs to continue in force not just until 31st March 1992, but for a few weeks beyond that. Perhaps I may explain.

Before my right honourable friend makes the order giving statutory force to the 1992 school teachers' pay and conditions document he is required under the 1991 Act to consult interested parties on the review body's recommendations on the Government's proposals for implementation. He has also agreed, following the practice adopted in previous years and as specifically requested by the employers and the teacher unions, to consult the same interested parties on the details of the draft pay document giving effect to the Government's recommendations. As your Lordships may recall, during the passage of the Bill which led to the 1991 Act, my noble friend Lord Belstead assured your Lordships that the review body's recommendations—and the Government's implementation of them—would be subject to a wealth of consultation. That was welcomed on all sides. We shall, of course, move as quickly as possible on those consultations, but it is most unlikely that the Secretary of State will be in a position to make the first pay and conditions order under the new Act immediately upon the expiry of the 1987 Act on 31st March 1992.

Until the first new pay and conditions order is made under the 1991 Act the 1987 Act needs to be kept in being for a very short time for a very specific and limited purpose: namely, to ensure that all teachers continue to be covered by the existing pay and conditions order made under that Act. Section 6(3) of the 1987 Act provides for statutory conditions of service to continue to apply to existing contracts until new provision is made; teachers who enter with new contracts of employment after the Act expires would not, however, be covered.

It is clearly desirable to ensure that there is a smooth transition between the old and new pay and conditions orders, and in particular to ensure that the provisions of the 1991 pay document will continue to apply in the case of contracts of employment entered into between 31st March 1992 and the date on which the new order giving effect to the 1992 pay and conditions document comes into force.

That is why we are obliged to take your Lordships' time to seek approval for the final continuation order. It affords continued statutory protection to the very small number of teachers taking up new contracts of employment during any hiatus between the current date of expiry of the 1987 Act and the coming into force of the first pay and conditions order under the 1991 Act. The 1987 Act will finally be repealed alongside the making of the first pay and conditions order under the 1991 Act.

Perhaps I may stress what my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State said in another place last week: The continuation order has no bearing on arrangements for next year's pay settlement. The new schoolteachers review body is hard at work. It has received evidence from the teachers' associations, the employers and the Department of Education and Science, and has listened to the representations of all those bodies. As I have already explained, it will present its first report to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister around the end of January next year. That report will make recommendations on the pay increase to be given to schoolteachers next year … It will also consider how the pay of schoolteachers might be more closely related to their performance, in line with the principles of the citizens charter".—[Official Report, Commons, 9/12/91; col. 703.]

As we discussed very clearly when the Bill was passing through this House, the review body will recommend precisely as it thinks fit. The Government for their part have given a firm commitment to implement the recommendations of the review body unless there are clear and compelling reasons to do otherwise. I am confident that the work of the review body will reinforce teachers' professionalism and raise still further the esteem in which society holds our teachers.

In the meantime this order is required simply to ensure a smooth transition between the old and new statutory arrangements, and to ensure that there is no hiatus in statutory provision for the pay and conditions of school teachers. I commend it to the House.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 20th November be approved [4th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Lord Cavendish of Furness.)

Lord Peston

My Lords, for the second time this evening, I thank the noble Lord for his explanation. I accept that we are discussing the order today for purely technical reasons. It is two years since I last spoke on the subject and made my farewell speech to the Interim Advisory Committee. My noble friend Lady Blackstone made her farewell speech to the committee a year ago. I now make my final farewell speech on this occasion. Whatever we feel about some aspects of teachers' pay, it would be wrong if, certainly from our side, we did not thank everyone who has worked on the Interim Advisory Committee for what they have done and for their efforts to do something useful for teachers. I wish to place that thanks on record.

The noble Lord referred to the pay review body. Again, we must wait to see what it has to say. For our part, we certainly hope that it will make recommendations that make it easier to recruit teachers. That will raise the morale of the teaching profession and will ultimately lead to better education. As we have argued in respect of the Bill going through this House at present, what matters in the end is the end product; not those who do the work, but what they achieve. We look forward to that. As 1 understand it, we are not certain to be able to debate what that review body proposes, but I certainly hope that between us, via the usual channels, we shall have an early opportunity to debate pay and conditions, or at least the first report.

Finally, perhaps the noble Lord will tell us whether he has any information for us. We assume that the new body is working extremely hard. Everyone says that we shall hear from it in January. Are we at all close to being told when in January we might see its recommendations? Subject to that question, I reiterate my congratulations to the Interim Advisory Committee. We on this side of the House would not dream of opposing the order.

Lord Rochester

My Lords, I shall be brief. As the noble Lord, Lord Cavendish, told us, when the Government introduced the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Bill earlier this year they expressed the hope, and indeed the expectation, that the Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act 1987 would expire on 31st March 1992. I am disappointed that that hope is not to be fulfilled, although I understand that it is largely for technical reasons, as we have been told. For the rest, I am content to accept the order on behalf of my noble friends.

Lord Cavendish of Furness

My Lords, again, I should like to thank both noble Lords for the way in which they have received the order. I should also like to associate myself with the valedictory and congratulatory remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Peston, about the IAC, which did a superb job. He asked when the review body's recommendations would be known. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State has directed the review body to report to the Prime Minister and to him the results of its examination of the matters referred to it with its recommendations and such other advice relating to those matters as it thinks fit in time for the Government to take a decision on the report by the end of January or, at the very latest, early February 1992. He will then arrange for the report to be published, as the Act requires him to do.

I cannot go further than that. As I said, the order is required to ensure a smooth transition between arrangements under the 1987 and 1991 Acts and to ensure that statutory provision for the pay and conditions of service for all teachers applies equally and fairly.

On Question, Motion agreed to.