School Building and Teacher Shortage

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th March 1963.

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Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West 12:00 am, 26th March 1963

I will put it as simply as I can. The plain truth is that to stay at school until 18 presents an economic crisis for many working-class homes today. The only way to increase the figure the Minister gave—the 9 per cent., or slightly over—to 20 per cent., as I believe it should be, is for the Government to face up to the need for adequate maintenance allowances in secondary schools. That would at once increase the pool of ability available for us to recruit for the teaching and other professions. It is not only a matter of social justice, but of elementary human rights for the individuals who are concerned.

The Minister of Education came to office—and, for that matter, so did his Parliamentary Secretary—with much good will; an astonishing degree of good will from the education world.

He knows that the National Union of Teachers and other educational bodies, the local education authorities, and right hon. and hon. Members on these benches, gave a warm welcome to his appointment. No Minister, during the past ten years, has started off with more good will than the right hon. Gentleman. It is six months ago since he became Minister. [HON. MEMBERS: "Twelve months."] I take the average and say eight months. Eight months ago, I was one who had high hopes of the right hon. Gentleman. I said so in the House and I said so, as some of my hon. Friends know, in their constituencies, to the teachers.

As the Minister knows, I paid high tribute to him in various parts of the country. I respected his moral courage on another occasion, and I have always respected his ability. But the Minister has completely dissipated that good will. He has been irresponsible, to an astonishing degree, in his relationships with other people equally responsible with himself for the conduct of education in this country.

Would the right hon. Gentleman deny that the teaching profession is an able profession, that it has always co-operated on major issues with the Ministry? Have not local authorities co-operated with the Ministry? How does the Minister expect to recruit teachers and to have the help of the teaching profession in recruiting teachers when he himself behaves rudely and inconsiderately to their elected representatives who serve them on the Burnham Committee? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am able to substantiate what I say, and I am speaking with due care for every word that I utter.

The Minister of Education, I believe, has every right to take his place in Burnham. He provides a lot of the money—well, let him be there. But he did not say, at the beginning of the last Burnham negotiations, "I want to take my part in the negotiations." However, he is saying it now. He is imposing his will, as I shall show in a moment. But the Minister had his representative sitting at the table for every word of the deliberations that went on for seven months and the Minister knew, as well as Sir Ronald Gould and Sir William Alexander, every stage that was reached in the negotiations on teachers' salaries.