Teachers (Dispute)

Oral Answers to Questions — Education and Science – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 4th February 1986.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North 12:00 am, 4th February 1986

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on the teachers' current pay dispute.

Photo of Mr John Evans Mr John Evans , St Helens North

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on the teachers' pay dispute.

Photo of Mr Jack Dormand Mr Jack Dormand , Easington

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on the teachers' dispute.

Photo of Mr Derek Spencer Mr Derek Spencer , Leicester South

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on the latest position in the teachers' dispute.

Photo of Mr Patrick Nicholls Mr Patrick Nicholls , Teignbridge

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the latest position on the teachers' dispute; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

As I said in my statement yesterday, I welcome the provisional agreement reached at ACAS which holds out the promise of a settlement of the 1985 dispute, a return to normal working in the schools and constructive negotiations on pay, pay structure, duties and conditions of service.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

Will my right hon. Friend join me in hoping that the unions which have already agreed with the ACAS deal will ratify it with their members? Does my right hon. Friend remember that the National Union of Teachers for many years, while it had the controlling majority on the teachers' panel on the Burnham committee, forced its views on the other unions so that they had to accept them whether they liked it or not? Will my right hon. Friend join me in urging the NUT to accept the majority deal, about which the other unions are happy, whether it likes it or not, now that the boot is on the other foot? That would be democratic.

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

I remind the House that the employers as well as the unions concerned have undertaken to consider ratifying the proposal. I, and I expect all hon. Members, hope that the NUT will call off disruption and co-operate in the negotiations.

Photo of Mr John Evans Mr John Evans , St Helens North

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that, under the terms of the so-called provisional agreement, many thousands of teachers will receive an offer of less cash than they could have had last October? Does the right hon. Gentleman seriously expect intelligent male and female members of the NUT to accept such a ridiculous proposition? Why will he not recognise that the only way to bring peace and tranquillity to the education system is to produce much more Government finance?

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

I ask the hon. Gentleman to reflect on the fact that it was the NUT's actions that led the unions to reject, after a mere 20 minutes, the offer to which he now rather yearningly refers.

Photo of Mr Jack Dormand Mr Jack Dormand , Easington

In view of the possible settlement of the teachers' pay dispute, will the right hon. Gentleman say how much additional money is available for the 1986–87 settlement? How much importance does the right hon. Gentleman attach to the fact that the NUT—the biggest teachers' union—is undertaking its 14th ballot of members and that the previous 13 ballots have strongly supported all the actions taken by the union?

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

The first annual instalment of the £1·25 billion over four years, less the amount of money reserved for midday supervision, would be available during 1986–87 to be added to rate support grant if the agreement were made in sufficient time for that to be practicable and were a bargain within the terms laid down by the Government to be struck. We all very much hope that will happen. I recognise the way in which the NUT has proceeded with ballots, but I still believe, first, that it is wrong for the teachers to disrupt the education of children, and, secondly, that, despite constant information available to the teachers, not all the teachers necessarily recognise how much difference to career and promotion prospects the money conditionally on offer from the Government would bring about.

Photo of Mr Derek Spencer Mr Derek Spencer , Leicester South

Does my right hon. Friend agree that for some members of the NUT this is a blatant political strike and that their sole intention is to cause the Government to reorganise their economic priorities? Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is essential that that view should not prevail?

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

I believe that that is true of some members of the NUT, but I remain convinced that most members have the interests of the children at heart and must be appalled at the damage that is being done to children's education.

Photo of Mr Patrick Nicholls Mr Patrick Nicholls , Teignbridge

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the fact that all the teachers unions but the NUT have agreed a settlement means that there is a changed situation? Is there not a distinction to be drawn between the unions which, belatedly, are facing their responsibilities, and other unions, such as the NUT, which do not even know the meaning of "responsibility"? Is this not the moment—perhaps for the first time —for the Government to make a gesture and to do something about extra funding for 1985–86, even if it is only a minimal gesture?

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

I agree with the first part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question, but not with the latter. It was the NUT which, in December 1984, wrecked the prospect—by walking out of the then negotiations—of extra money from the taxpayer, if the Government had found that the bargain that they seek for extra pay for teachers had then been met.

Photo of Mr Michael Meadowcroft Mr Michael Meadowcroft , Leeds West

If the formula that has been engineered by the ACAS intervention is impossible to implement because of the lack of resources available to local education authorities, what other channels for a settlement will there be? Will the Secretary of State tell the House what assurances he gave to ACAS on the possibilities of funding to meet any settlement that it engineered?

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

No such assurance was sought or given. The hon. Gentleman is wrong in concluding that the outcome must founder on the question of resources. It will be for the local education authorities, in considering all the pressures that are upon them, to decide what they can afford in the light of the instalments that might be available over four years, if the conditions set by the Government for the bargain are satisfied.

Photo of Mr Anthony Favell Mr Anthony Favell , Stockport

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the great concern for the safety of children who are forced to leave school premises without notice being given to their parents? Will he issue guidance to education authorities and to teachers on how the matter should be tackled, both now, during the dispute, and for the future?

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

I am aware of the tragic incident that occurred in my hon. Friend's constituency. However, we cannot be absolutely sure that the child concerned would have been accompanied but for the disruption. I am aware of all that and of the dangers to children. I shall consider whether there is any guidance that I can give. I am sure that the teachers' unions concerned are well aware of the dangers that they are risking and causing for children, and I condemn them again for the disruption that they are creating.

Photo of Mr Giles Radice Mr Giles Radice Shadow Secretary of State for Education

The Secretary of State has told the House yet again that he is not prepared to give local education authorities extra money to help pay for the provisional agreement for 1985. Does he understand that unless he provides more resources, better pay for teachers —which he says he supports—is likely to be at the expense of the provision of books, equipment and the carrying out of school maintenance? Why does he not spend his remaining weeks as Secretary of State arguing the case for more money for education?

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

The Government accept that more money in aggregate from the taxpayer is legitimate for teachers in return for what the hon. Gentleman has changed his tune about. Only a short while ago the hon. Gentleman supported the Government in regarding the acceptance by teachers of their duties as part of that which the Government should seek. He has now departed from that. He has said that pay alone should be considered, and he has rejected the Government's view and, I believe, that of the country, that pay should go with what pay is for, and that duties should be part of the bargain.

Photo of Dr John Marek Dr John Marek , Wrexham

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will seek to provide additional sums of money to resolve the teachers' pay dispute.

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

The Government have already set aside additional resources for an increase in teachers' pay to recruit, retain and motivate teachers of the right quality and to improve the pay structure and clarify teachers' duties. I very much hope that we are about to see progress in negotiations which will justify the release of those resources.

Photo of Dr John Marek Dr John Marek , Wrexham

Will the Secretary of State tell us how much these resources would mean to the teacher on the average salary, in percentage terms, if they were accepted for 1986–87? Will he tell us also whether he believes that the teachers who belong to the National Union of Teachers have children's education at heart?

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

It is not possible to give an exact figure without knowing whether the individual teacher would receive promotion. The offer made by the employers in September, based upon the additional extra money available from the taxpayer, would have permitted 74,000 additional promotions. The general answer to the hon. Gentleman is that, for a substantial number of teachers, a substantial increase in pay would have resulted.

As to the motivation of members of the National Union of Teachers, I can go only by the speeches of their leaders, who tend to speak at great length, when they have the opportunity, about the teachers' dispute, without once mentioning the children.

Photo of Mr Michael McNair-Wilson Mr Michael McNair-Wilson , Newbury

What is the current basis for teachers' pay? From his discussions about pay, does my right hon. Friend believe that an independent review looking to the future and having regard to the dispute could only be beneficial for the future structure of teachers' pay?

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

The Government accept that the necessary basis for pay to teachers should be such as to permit the recruitment, retention and motivation of people of the right quality. That means changes to the present career and pay structures, as well as an aggregate increase. Regarding the inquiry, we hope to see the ACAS procedure fulfilled, subject to ratification. The point about an inquiry is that those who inquire are not responsible for finding the money. At least with the ACAS procedure, those who would have to pay —the local education authorities —are involved as well as the teachers' unions.

Photo of Mr Martin Flannery Mr Martin Flannery , Sheffield, Hillsborough

Does the Secretary of State realise that there are well over 50 questions on the Order Paper that mention the teachers' pay dispute? Will he stop weeping crocodile tears about our children, when the House knows that it is he who is disrupting our children's education? Until he gives more money to the teachers in their just cause, he will be keeping our children out of school. It is time that he went and that we had a new Minister who would see to it that our teachers received more money and that our children go back to school.

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

This particular Minister has persuaded his colleagues in the Cabinet that some extra money is legitimate for teachers on aggregate, but only on condition that they carry out their duties.