HL Deb 04 July 1991 vol 530 cc1111-20

3.35 p.m.

The Paymaster General (Lord Belstead)

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Belstead.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 1 [Establishment of review body to consider statutory conditions of employment of school teachers]:

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 1: Page 1, line 6, after ("body)") insert ("whose membership shall include persons with relevant knowledge or experience as specified in paragraph 1 of Schedule 1 to this Act,").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 1, which is a paving amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 7. The amendment asks that the Prime Minister shall appoint as members of the review body not fewer than two persons having the relevant knowledge or experience in education. It recognises that the review body will play a similar role to that of the interim advisory committee which was established under the Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act 1987. Indeed, the amendment to Schedule 1 is similar to the wording set out in Section 2(2) of the 1987 Act.

It was as a result of the wording of the 1987 Act that the interim advisory committee included people with the required knowledge and experience to enable it to give good, well-informed advice to the Secretary of State. Those committee members had a good understanding of the vital role of teachers in the education service. The Bill's proposed review body should also include people with detailed knowledge and experience on the provision of the education service.

At Committee stage in another place the Parliamentary Under-Secretary said that the amendment was unnecessary and would be out of line with the arrangements which operate for other review bodies where membership is not dependent on relevant experience. He suggested that the Prime Minister would be constrained by his choice if the proposal in the amendment was carried. He claimed also that the membership of the other review bodies was not constrained in that way.

The proposed review body for teachers will be different from the other review bodies in a number of crucial ways. By far the most important difference is that the review body for school teachers will cover teachers' statutory conditions of employment; in other words, those conditions which relate to their professional duties and working time. Those statutory conditions are contained in a school teachers' pay and conditions document. Anyone who has referred to that document, as I have, will appreciate the complex nature of the detailed provisions relating both to professional duties and working time. The review body's deliberations on those detailed and complex provisions will be greatly facilitated if it has within its membership people with the relevant knowledge, expertise and experience.

The second way in which this review body differs from others is that it is to be established through primary legislation. To my knowledge no other review body has been set up on that basis. The legislative process gives the opportunity to lay down broad safeguards that appropriate persons will be appointed. Thirdly, unlike other review bodies, this review body covers non-governmental employees: people who are employed by the local authorities.

In many respects it is a continuation of the interim advisory committee. That was confirmed by the Minister of State at Committee stage in another place when he stressed the Government's intention of giving the review body the same kind of latitude to make recommendations across the whole range of teachers' statutory pay and conditions, as has been given to the IAC. We should note that the IAC had two former head teachers among its seven members.

The amendment simply asks for the acceptance of commonsense. It is surely commonsense to include people with some expertise on a review body concerned with conditions of service. In the Minister's response to the Second Reading debate I thought I detected agreement that he shared this view. I hope that my interpretation was correct and that we shall not be disappointed by his response. I beg to move.

Lord Renton

The noble Baroness is right when she says that it is commonsense that there should be two people with knowledge or experience of education on a review body of this kind, which is to consist of not fewer than five and not more than nine members. So much is it commonsense that I cannot imagine that the Prime Minister will fail to appoint two such people.

I suggest that it is not necessary to write that provision into the Bill because it could be dangerous. We are up against the well-established rule of interpretation of statutes: that if we specify one factor, we are deemed to have excluded others. We do not want to reach a position in which having specified knowledge or experience of education, we shall be deemed to have excluded other valuable experience on the review body. For example, it might be a great advantage to have a retired civil servant on the body who had no direct experience of education. It might be a great advantage to have someone with experience in the arts, sport, industrial relations and even business if one may dare to say so. Although I have great sympathy with the aim of the noble Baroness, I do not believe that it is necessary to amend the Bill in the way that she has suggested in order to achieve that aim.

Baroness Young

The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, mentioned to me last week that she was thinking of tabling an amendment on these lines. When I saw it on the Marshalled List I considered it very carefully because, like the noble Baroness, having read the debate at Second Reading, I was not sure what line the Minister intended to take on the matter. However, I have considered it very carefully in the ensuing days. I cannot support the amendment. One of the reasons is that which my noble friend Lord Renton has just given. I find it very difficult to believe that there will not be anyone on the review body with the qualities referred to. Therefore, the amendment is unnecessary.

I have looked at some of the subsequent amendments on the Marshalled List. The noble Baroness has moved Amendment No. 1 and spoken to Amendment No. 7. The amendments imply that we are to have representatives of specific groups of people. I believe that to be the one situation that we want to get away from in this legislation because it will be unhelpful to education generally if we returned to something that looked like Burnham Mark II. The new body has to be different. I feel quite certain that my noble friend the Minister will argue, as his colleague did in another place, that no other review body has had a specific representative introduced in this way. For all these reasons, I cannot support the amendment. I can understand exactly what lies behind it, but: it is unnecessary and unhelpful in the present circumstances.

Lord Rochester

I support the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone. My name is included against the amendment on the Marshalled List. I always listen with great respect to both the noble Lord, Lord Renton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, on these matters. As regards the noble Lord, Lord Renton, it is fair to say that there is need for an amendment of this kind if only because, as he probably knows, concerning the health service review bodies, people with knowledge or experience of the health service are specifically excluded from membership. As concerns the noble Baroness, Lady Young, I deny that the amendment involves having on the body representatives of different interests. That was one of the factors which attracted me to the amendment. It does not say, and it does not necessarily mean, that there must be local authority or union representatives, for example. All that is asked for in the amendment is that educationally—in the well—worn phrase-the people on the body should "know their stuff".

For me the conclusive pointer in favour of the amendment is that, unlike all other review bodies, this one will be concerned not only with the remuneration of school teachers but with those employment conditions which, in the words of Clause 1(2), relate to their professional duties and working time". I have no direct experience of teaching in schools, but I have enough experience of education and training generally to appreciate that the review body's deliberations on provisions relating to the professional duties and working time of teachers will be detailed and sometimes complex. Therefore, the body will benefit greatly if, in considering those provisions, its members include people with relevant knowledge or experience.

3.45 p.m.

Baroness Phillips

I support what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Rochester. For some reason teachers have never had true status such as that enjoyed by other professions. I am trying to envisage a review body concerning accountants' pay and conditions. Of course there would have to be accountants on the body. My favourite people are barristers and one can envisage a review body concerned with their pay and conditions. It is fairly obvious that they never have a review body and that is why they get such good pay. The situation is insulting to teachers—I put it as strongly as that—if one does not consider that they have enough intelligence and knowledge of the outside world.

I am speaking not only as an ex-teacher, but also for all the teachers with whom I am in contact. They feel that they have been badly treated. They are totally demoralised. In that respect, they are second only to employees in the health service. I hope that when they get the opportunity to vote, they will remember the way in which they have been treated by the Government.

This is a very simple and straightforward matter. Pay and conditions are best understood by the people who have to submit to the pay and conditions. It is not suggested that the review body should be made up of all teachers. However, of the number of persons sitting on the body, it is not unreasonable to say that two of them should be professionals who are concerned with the matter. For heaven's sake, for once let us behave as if teachers are what they are—that is to say, highly responsible, very intelligent and very useful people in the community!

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

I apologise for not being present at Second Reading of the Bill. Regrettably, I had to be absent from the Chamber on that occasion. The regrets are very much mine because I have had the privilege to serve on three of the four interim advisory committees. They were chaired by my noble friend Lord Chilver. I believe that over the years we and our colleagues gained the confidence of the teachers, whose commitment and achievement we came to admire very much. I support the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, in her remarks about the high standards which teachers maintain. We learnt that the perception of teachers' skills was less than the actual fact. Unfortunately, we came across teachers who undervalued themselves.

Therefore, I am delighted that a review body is proposed which recognises that teaching is a valued profession. However, my experience leads me to speak against the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, requesting that the review body has at least two persons on it with relevant knowledge or experience of education. That may sound extremely strange as we had two very able people on the IAC from that world. For me, it highlighted the potential difficulties. As has already been said, there are so many interests in education and each feels somewhat threatened by the others. To specifically appoint in that area increases the discontent. Moreover, should the report come out with benefit to those parties whose knowledge has been present, then the review itself may be at risk.

It was very obvious when taking evidence that organisations felt that with the involved members, even though retired, that they had a friend at court and addressed us accordingly. It is a tribute to those two people on the interim advisory committee that credibility was retained; but it was not without a possible complication. I fear that we could not count on always being able to reach people of such ability. I suggest that the review body will take its responsibilities extremely seriously and that all the necessary experience and advice will be called on. Therefore, I cannot support the amendment.

Lord Desai

Like the noble Baroness, Lady Denton, I too should like to apologise for my absence at Second Reading.

I am somewhat surprised by the reactions of some Members of the Committee opposite. The amendment states: relevant knowledge or experience". It does not state "union representatives" or "persons representing narrow interests". For some time people have thought that teaching is something on which almost anybody, except teachers, can give advice. That is not so. Although I have not been a school teacher, I have served on many school governing bodies and have begun to appreciate what a complex and hard task teaching is. What is more, in relation to the future of the country and the quality of its people, it is the most important job that one can do. It is very important that, in relation to teachers' pay and conditions, we have on this body not necessarily teachers but people with the relevant knowledge or experience. I think that the composition of the body is being drawn too narrowly. I urge the Committee to support the amendment which is broad-based and sensible.

Baroness Cumberlege

I too should like to apologise for not being present for the Second Reading debate. I actually missed the debate by a whisker, a badger's whisker—the following debate was on badgers and I was present for that.

I am not a teacher but I have some quite detailed knowledge of the workings of two of this country's review bodies: the doctors and dentists review body and the nurses and midwives review body. Although I appreciate that there are differences, as has already been said in this debate in those two bodies, the professions are actually excluded from membership. Between 1979 and 1990 doctors' and dentists' pay increased by 243 per cent. against an increase in the retail prices index of 152 per cent. This year the increase has been 10.2 per cent. against a fall in the retail prices index. A study of what has happened with regard to nurses and midwives is perhaps more appropriate in terms of levels of pay and the numbers in the country. Between 1984 and 1990 their pay increased by 77 per cent. against an increase in the retail prices index of 42 per cent. This year nurses have had an increase of 9.7 per cent. against a falling retail prices index. So one could say that monetarily they have done very well indeed.

The argument has been put today that this review body is a different concept in that it includes working times and other aspects of the professional duties undertaken by teachers. I have weighed up that argument. I think that the dangers of including representation outweigh the advantages. There are four disadvantages in including teachers on these bodies. First, I fear that we shall see the re-emergence of confrontational negotiations, which in turn lead to entrenched positions, and the need for those who perceive themselves as taking part to win their side of the argument. That is divisive. Secondly, those who are appointed and believe that they represent their members or the profession generally feel they have a duty to keep their members informed. We know that the quickest and most effective way of doing that is through the use of the Media. That immediately gives the whole negotiation a totally different feel. It politicises matters, and what should be a managerial negotiation then loses the stability that it needs.

Thirdly, impartial reviews are much more likely to reflect what is reasonable and needed in order to win the support of the general public, who have been very anguished by some of the strife that has taken place in the past. Fourthly, teachers are much more likely to do better monetarily and enjoy a much more needed enhancement in public esteem if they are not directly party to these negotiations. I should like to oppose this amendment.

Lord Belstead

The amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, seeks to put a statutory requirement on the face of the Bill that the Prime Minister, in appointing members to the review body for teachers' pay, should have members with relevant knowledge or experience in education.

The establishment of this review body will put the teaching profession on the same footing as other groups whose pay is already determined in this way, including health service professionals, the armed forces, senior civil servants and members of the judiciary. The noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, knows a great deal about the education world at first hand. She said what a great pity it has been that over the years the teaching profession has not been recognised by having a review body. I must say that, from listening to the recital of my noble friend Lady Cumberlege concerning the beneficial way in which those who have had review bodies have been treated, I think the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, was absolutely right. However, the whole point of this Bill is to meet the point made by the noble Baroness opposite.

In setting up this review body, I think it is right to look to the example of the other review bodies mentioned by my noble friend Lady Cumberlege when considering what the membership of the body should be. The intention is that the Prime Minister should appoint to this review body the people he considers best fitted to give him independent advice, just as he is committed to doing in respect of the existing review bodies. I would remind your Lordships that, in making appointments to those bodies, my right honourable friend is not constrained in the way that this amendment seeks to constrain him. The health service review body specifically excludes from membership representatives of professions whose pay it determines. It does not fall foul of the unwritten rule, of which my noble friend Lord Renton reminded us, because that review body along with other review bodies is not put on the face of statute. I am not aware of any doubts about the competence or independence of the other review bodies which are composed in the way that I have just mentioned; on the contrary, they and the other review bodies command the respect of the professions with which they deal.

The noble Baroness in moving this amendment said there is a further very important point. This is a review body which will be different. Because it will consider professional duties as well as remuneration, the Prime Minister should be obliged to appoint certain kinds of people to serve on it. With respect, I still do not agree. Of course this is not to say that the review body should not include certain members with knowledge or experience of education—how right my noble friend Lord Renton was to make that point—only that personal qualities and abilities of the individuals concerned ought to be of paramount importance. I know that this is a tedious repetition, but let us remember that that is the way in which the Prime Minister makes appointments to the existing review bodies, and I believe that this is the way that the appointments to this review body should be made.

Nonetheless, the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, whose name is also down to the amendment, said that the review body will be dealing with detailed and complex matters in looking at professional duties. That is precisely why those appointed to serve on this body should be of the very highest calibre. They will be served—and this point has not been mentioned in this short debate—by a highly professional secretariat provided by the Office of Manpower Economics which already has expertise in the area of conditions of service through providing the secretariat for the police negotiating board. The secretariat will be able to commission any independent research should it conclude that to be necessary.

There is one further criticism which I have from this side of the House and which, very briefly, I shall deploy. It has been picked up already by my noble friends Lady Young, Lady Denton and Lady Cumberlege and is that, if Amendment No. 7 were to be put on the face of the Bill, we should run into the danger of having a body with a representative element. The noble Lord, Lord Desai, was absolutely correct in pointing out that the amendment as it is drafted does not require representation. All I can say is that if the amendment went on to the statute book and if the people who were chosen were not in some way representative, the larger teacher unions would have something to say about that. Indeed one only has to look at the very next amendment on the Marshalled List—Amendment No. 2 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rochester—to see that the noble Lord's intention is to try to import onto the review body representatives of local education authorities and teachers; that is, two out of the three composite elements which used to form the old Burnham Committee. But the demise of the Burnham Committee was greeted with a sigh of relief all round. That is the reason that we are debating this particular Bill.

Having said that, perhaps I may give the Committee an assurance this afternoon. Of course, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister will be ready to consider people with knowledge and experience of education when considering the appointments of those best fitted for the school teachers' review body. However, let us not, for goodness sake, put it on the face of the Bill. If we do, I believe that we shall run into the danger to which my noble friend Lord Renton referred. In any event, the other review bodies —for reasons which I think are good reasons—do not have that requirement. Like them, I believe that we should rest assured that the main concern of my right honourable friend is to appoint the best people for the job. That means not agreeing to this amendment.

4 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone

I must say that I am disappointed with the Minister's reply and somewhat puzzled by some of the contributions from the other side of the Committee. There seems to be some disagreement on the matter from that side. It appears that some Members of the Committee think that it is a good idea to have people with knowledge and experience on the review body, but a bad idea to put it on the face of the Bill. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Renton, represented that view; others seem to think that it is a bad idea altogether. I believe that the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, put forward that view.

However, perhaps I may deal first with one misunderstanding which was especially apparent in the remarks made by the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege. A review body is not about negotiation. With the abandonment of Burnham, we abandoned the process of negotiation between the teachers' union and the employers. Therefore, the whole idea that this would lead to confrontational negotiations seems to me to be totally misleading. Similarly, the amendment is not about keeping people informed. I believe that that suggestion also came from the other side of the Committee. A review body does not play that role. It is certainly not the intention of this amendment to accept representatives from the teachers unions or indeed the local authorities or any other interested group.

The purpose of the amendment is to try to ensure that the process of reaching decisions on teachers' conditions in particular should be facilitated by having people on the review body who have knowledge and experience in this area. It is interesting to note that the 1987 Act—and I repeat this fact—makes it absolutely clear that such people should have been members of the interim advisory committee. From the Minister's reply, I begin to wonder whether he feels that those people who were appointed on that basis did not play an independent and thoughtful role or that they were in some way incompetent. If that is not so, why have the Government changed their position?

Lord Belstead

With the leave of the Committee, perhaps I may answer the noble Baroness. I do not think anything of the sort. However, I do think that we are in the business of setting up a review body and not another interim advisory committee.

Baroness Blackstone

I have already quoted the remarks of the Minister of State in another place. He admitted that the task of the review body would be very similar to that of the interim advisory committee and that in practice there would be very little difference in their actual functions. Should the amendment be accepted, can it really be said that it would be a constraint on the Prime Minister if he intends to have such people on the review body in any event?

Finally, perhaps I may return to a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Renton. He said that it was common sense to have such people on a review body of this kind, but that it should not be written on the face of the Bill. If the noble Lord is right, there are many other aspects of the Bill which are common sense, including a great deal of the content of Clause 2. Therefore, should all of that come out of the Bill? Of course, in some senses this provision does not have to be included in the Bill; but it is a safeguard to ensure that people with the right kind of knowledge and expertise are appointed to carry out what will inevitably be a difficult job. However, it is a job which should be done with both independence and competence. In the light of the Government's response to this amendment, I feel that I must test the opinion of the Committee.

4.5 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 72; Not-Contents, 128.

Division No. 1
Ardwick, L. Jenkins of Hillhead, L.
Aylestone, L. Jenkins of Putney, L.
Baldwin of Bewdley, E. Kagan, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Leatherland, L.
Blackstone, B. Listowel, E.
Blease, L. Lockwood, B.
Boston of Faversham, L. Longford, E.
Bottomley, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Mallalieu, B.
Callaghan of Cardiff, L. Mayhew, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Molloy, L.
Carter, L. Monkswell, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Murray of Epping Forest, L
David, B. Nicol, B.
Dean of Beswick, L. Ogmore, L.
Desai, L. Peston, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Phillips, B.
Falkland, V. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Fitt, L. Prys-Davies, L.
Gallacher, L. Rea, L.
Galpern, L. Redesdale, L.
Gladwyn, L. Richard, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.] Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Rochester, L. [Teller.]
Hampton, L. Sainsbury, L.
Hanworth, V. Seear, B.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Sefton of Garston, L.
Hilton of Eggardon, B. Serota, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B. Shackleton, L.
Holme of Cheltenham, L. Stallard, L.
Howie of Troon, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Jeger, B. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Tordoff, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Varley, L. Wilson of Langside, L.
Wallace of Coslany, L. Winchilsea and Nottingham, E
White, B.
Abinger, L. Huntly, M.
Aldington, L. Hylton-Foster, B.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Jeffreys, L.
Ampthill, L. Joseph, L.
Arran, E. Killearn, L.
Astor, V. Kimball, L.
Astor of Hever, L. Kinnoull, E.
Atholl, D. Knollys, V.
Attlee, E. Lane of Horsell, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Lawrence, L.
Beloff, L. Layton, L.
Belstead, L. Liverpool, E.
Blake, L. Long, V.
Blatch, B. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Blyth, L. Mackay of Ardbreknish, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Macleod of Borve, B.
Bridgeman, V. Mancroft, L.
Bridges, L. Marlesford, L.
Brigstocke, B. Marsh, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Merrivale, L.
Butterworth, L. Mersey, V.
Caithness, E. Monk Bretton, L.
Cavendish of Furness, L. Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Clanwilliam, E. Morris, L.
Cockfield, L. Mottistone, L.
Coleraine, L. Mountevans, L.
Colnbrook, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Cottesloe, L. Moyne, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Munster, E.
Cumberlege, B. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Darcy (de Knayth), B. Nelson, E.
Davidson, V. [Teller.] Nelson of Stafford, L.
Denton of Wakefield, B. Newall, L.
Dudley, B. Norrie, L.
Eccles, V. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Eccles of Moulton, B. Oppenheim-Barnes, B.
Elibank, L. Oxfuird, V.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Pender, L.
Elton, L. Plummer of St. Marylebone, L
Erroll, E. Quinton, L.
Erroll of Hale, L. Rankeillour, L.
Faithfull, B. Reay, L.
Ferrers, E. Renton, L.
Flather, B. Renwick, L.
Fortescue, E. Rodney, L.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Savile, L.
Gainford, L. Shannon, E.
Gainsborough, E. Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Grantchester, L. Strathclyde, L.
Gray of Contin, L. Strathmore and Kinghorne, E.
Greenway, L. Sudeley, L.
Gridley, L. Terrington, L.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. Teviot, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Halsbury, E. Thurlow, L.
Hastings, L. Trumpington, B.
Henley, L. Ullswater, V.
Hesketh, L. [Teller.] Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Hives, L. Waddington, L.
Holderness, L. Wade of Chorlton, L.
Hood, V. Wise, L.
Hooper, B. Young, B.
Howe, E.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly

Lord Cavendish of Furness

I beg to move that the House do now resume

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.