HC Deb 26 April 1990 vol 171 cc267-8W

1. Following the useful series of meetings I had with the teacher unions and employers before Christmas I have been reflecting on the best way forward. My immediate priority has been to complete consideration of the IAC's recommendations for the 1990–91 settlement, but now that that is nearly out of the way I can bring forward my proposals for permanent new pay determination arrangements.

2. In formulating the proposals set out in this letter and its attachment I have sought to reflect as far as possible those areas where there was broad consensus. If parties to these consultations share the objective that the new machinery should be introduced on the basis of the maximum possible amount of agreement, we shall need over the next month or so to move forward together constructively.

3. The best way ahead appears to lie with the restoration of negotiations between teachers and their employers in a way which gives sufficient scope to negotiate realistically from one year to the next, while at the same time providing essential safeguards in the public interest against the kind of stalemate and long term disruption which characterised the Burnham arrangements, and on overall cost. Enclosed with this letter is a note setting out my proposals in detail. Their main features are:

  1. (a) direct national negotiations between local authority employers and teacher unions, with no Government presence at the negotiating table;
  2. (b) separate sub-committee for heads and deputies;
  3. (c) a firm deadline for the completion of negotiations;
  4. (d) reserve powers for the Government to refer back to the negotiating body with its reasons aspects of agreed settlements with which it is unhappy and in the last resort, if reference back does not produce an acceptable outcome, to impose its own views; but
  5. (e) an undertaking that the Government will not normally override on cost grounds a settlement falling within the inter-quartile range of non-manual private sector settlements;
  6. (f) if the deadline is passed without a negotiated settlement being achieved, consideration of that year's settlement to be taken out of the hands of negotiators and referred to an IAC type body for advice;
  7. (g) provision for individual LEAs or the governing bodies of GM schools to apply to me to withdraw from the national arrangements and determine the pay and conditions of their teachers locally.

4. While my preference would be for a restitution of national negotiations between teachers and their employers, and I would expect discussions to concentrate on how best to achieve this, I would not want to rule out at this stage further consideration of the alternative possibility of an independent advisory body broadly similar to the present IAC but on a permanent basis, should any of the parties want to propose that.

5. My main concern at this stage is to develop in consultation with the local authority employers and the teacher unions a permanent mechanism for determining pay nationally. At some point in our discussions, however, we will have to consider how best to handle the 1991–92 pay settlement. The three broad options appear to be to deal with it in the new machinery, retrospectively if necessary, once that has been put in place; to run the new machinery on a voluntary, shadow basis in anticipation of the passage of any necessary legislation; or to ask the IAC to make recommendations. The first of these would bring on the new machinery at the earliest possible date, but probably at the price of significant delay to the 1991–92 settlement. 'The second would only be possible if all the parties involved were willing to participate. The third would ensure a timely settlement, but delay for another year the operation of the new permanent machinery.

6. Accordingly I should like to arrange an early meeting with your association. My Private Office will be in touch about a date. In the meantime my officials stand ready to explore any of these issues with you in further detail if that would be helpful. If we are to be ready to legislate at the start of the next session of Parliament, we need to finalise our proposals well before the summer break. I must therefore ask that your association complete its representations by Friday 15 June.

7. I am writing in similar terms to the General Secretaries of the other teacher associations and to the Chairman of NEOST.