Advisory Committee on School Teachers' Pay and Conditions

Orders of the Day — Teachers' Pay and Conditions Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:31 pm on 26th February 1987.

Alert me about debates like this

Lords amendment: No. 1, in page 1, line 16, after "an" insert "Interim".

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley 4:10 pm, 26th February 1987

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

With this we shall discuss Lords amendments Nos. 12 and 13.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

These three amendments, which were agreed in the other place, insert the word "interim" into the full title of the Interim Advisory Committee on School Teachers' Pay and Conditions. It allows us to make a clear statement of where the Government stand on the issue of school teachers' pay and why we believe that the interim advisory committee will have an important contribution to make.

I shall not rehearse at length the history of discord and lack of progress over the past few years, but attempts to reform the outdated salary structure have a long and undistinguished history. In 1981, a Burnham agreement established a joint working party to review the salary structure. That went on for five years without reaching a negotiated settlement satisfactory to all parties.

In July 1986, the ACAS-assisted Coventry negotiations led to heads of agreement signed by five out of the six teacher unions. On 30 October last year I made a statement setting out the Government's conditions, promising a huge amount of extra money and outlining a pay structure that we regarded as necessary to reward and motivate good teachers. On 21 November, an agreement was signed by four unions, but within a fortnight two of the initial signatories had withdrawn.

In January, the chairman of the Burnham committee wrote to me saying that a majority of both the management and teacher panels wanted to see the ACAS proposals implemented if the Government would provide the resources. I had made clear the Government's position from the start and the fact that an effective pay structure was needed to recruit, retain and motivate good teachers. As there was no significant move towards meeting my concerns, I made it clear that the Government would not be prepared to make funds available to support the ACAS proposals. Teachers have to recognise the uncomfortable truth that their representatives were unable to agree on a set of proposals that I could defend to Parliament, the parents and the taxpaying public.

I have been considering the alternative proposals about pay structure that have been put forward, including suggestions by the National Association of Head Teachers and the Professional Association of Teachers. I have also been considering the implications of the settlement in Scotland where the outcome is similar in many respects to the Government's proposals for England and Wales. Once this Bill has received Royal Assent, the Government intend to bring forward proposals quickly on both pay and conditions of employment so that the time before teachers receive their 1 January increase is kept to a minimum.

I do not intend in this debate to spell out the Government's proposals other than to say that there will be some important modifications to our earlier proposals on pay while retaining essentially the same structure. The proposals on conditions of employment will he based closely on the ACAS conclusions.

I shall now turn to the Bill. We gave this Bill careful scrutiny in this House last year, where it was debated for very nearly 30 hours. It was also debated for over 20 hours in another place. No guillotine has been used in either House, and is not being used now. It returns to this House with 14 amendments, all of which were agreed without Division. These amendments agreed in the other place were proposed by Members speaking for the Opposition and the alliance, and were accepted by the Government without hesitation.

I want to set out four reasons why an interim advisory committee is the right solution at the present time. First, I do not believe it to be possible for us to establish satisfactory new permanent arrangements while there is such discord among the teacher unions. The ACAS proposals were supported by five, then four, then two, of the teacher unions. In January, when the deputy general secretary of the National Union of Teachers wrote to me on behalf of the teacher unions about future pay determination machinery, PAT and the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers protested about the letter that he had written.

Lord Houghton, who is one of the prominent Labour figures in education, agreed in the other place that an interim arrangement was necessary so that there is time for there to be a better order in the arrangements between the unions themselves."—[0fficial Report, House of Lords, 27 January 1987; Vol. 483, c. 1283.] He recognised that with such rivalry and discord it would not be possible to arrive at new permanent arrangements now.

The National Union of Teachers and the NAS/UWT have now become united in one respect, in initiating ballots about strike action: an initiative which Lord Houghton described as a "futile form of protest" and which Lord McIntosh, the Opposition spokesman in the other place, described as "unhelpful".

A second reason why the interim advisory committee is the right solution is the lack of any consensus about permanent arrangements. In the other place, the alliance suggested an independent review body. That was its last proposal—a slight variation at the beginning—which I believe is its official position. The Labour party proposed a national joint council that looked remarkably like the existing Burnham arrangements. Both sets of proposals were ambiguous about the right role for the Secretary of State. I am clear that the new arrangements should not be a repeat of Burnham.

However, it is too early to say what will be the right solution—

Photo of Mr Paddy Ashdown Mr Paddy Ashdown , Yeovil

I want to comment on the right hon. Gentleman's remarks about the ambiguity of the role of the Secretary of State. If the right hon. Gentleman took the trouble to study Hansard or the newspaper articles written by myself and others, he would discover that there is no ambiguity about the role of the Secretary of State, which within our proposals, was fully recognised and given full expression.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

I have a note of the proposals that were put forward by the alliance in another place. In Committee, the alliance proposed an independent review body, but gave no details, and the hon. Gentleman must recognise that. The alliance did not call a vote. On Report, the alliance proposed an elaborate structure, in which the interim advisory committee was turned into a temporary review body. That is an interesting suggestion. Representative bodies of local authorities and teachers were to be set up, which could each make alternative recommendations to those of the review body by a two thirds majority. The Secretary of State could also make alternative recommendations. If no agreement could be reached, there would be binding arbitration.

My point is that that proposal is elaborate because it sets up a review body and also other committees. The Secretary of State makes recommendations. There is no recognition of something that successive Governments have rightly had to recognise—that in the determination of pay a Government must take a view of the actual amount of money that is available for teachers' pay, because it is such a very large sum.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

The hon. Gentleman will have a chance to make his point in the debate.

It is too early to say what will be the right solution for the longer term. Some will continue to advocate an independent review body. Others will want pay determination without the involvement of an outside body. What we need now is a breathing space and experience of the interim advisory committee machinery before decisions are made about the longer term. I hope that all parties will be willing to think radically and constructively about the longer term after experience of the interim arrangements in the Bill.

A third reason why the Government favour the arrangements in the Bill is the balance that they provide both for the introduction of an independent voice and for a clear process of consultation involving the parties directly involved. The interim advisory committee will be independently minded. It will receive some guidance from me, but it will not be my poodle. Its reports will be published and will form the basis for thorough consultation.

I have not personally been part of the Burnham proceedings but I am willing to give a commitment that Ministers will see the relevant local authority associations, teacher unions and organisations representing the governors of voluntary schools to discuss reports from the interim advisory committee. I am very willing to become directly involved in the consultations required under the Act which will inevitably have the character of negotiations.

Photo of Mr Christopher Hawkins Mr Christopher Hawkins , High Peak

It would be of considerable benefit to many of the teachers whom I have met if my right hon. Friend would explain the difference between the independent advisory board and an independent review.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

An independent review body would operate in the way that such bodies now operate—for example, for Members' salaries, for certain officers in the armed forces, for nurses and for doctors. In the interim advisory committee we have provided for a halfway house between negotiations as they were known under Burnham —which have not worked — and an independent review body. An independent review body would, in effect, take away the negotiating rights that the unions specifically want, as expressed by them to me. I have made it clear, and I stress this, that the interim advisory committee is just that—an interim advisory committee. The Government do not look upon it as a permanent solution. But with the experience of recent months and years, it is simply not possible at this stage to find agreement between the various unions. I hope that in the coming months we shall find ways of agreeing to establish a negotiating procedure.

Within the past few weeks, the National Association of Head Teachers has made it clear to me that it wants a separate voice in any future negotiating arrangements. That view has not been put to me by the Secondary Heads Association, which is the other union of head teachers. There are also head teachers in the NUT and the NAS/UWT. The controversial matter has come up many times in teachers' negotiating discussions. This week, when I saw Mr. Jarvis and the delegation, it was said to me quite strongly that the NUT has never agreed with that view. But this sort of issue must be hammered out. The interim advisory committee will give us time for hammering out. I stress that this is a breathing space. It is the sensible way forward.

I emphasise again that, when the interim advisory committee makes its recommendations, I shall be personally involved in the consultations required under the legislation and in the consideration of those recommendations, which will inevitably have the character of negotiations.

The proposals in the Bill—[Interruption.] May I just take this a stage further, because there are various stages in how the interim advisory committee will work, as hon. Members know because they now know the details of the Bill. The unions will have an opportunity, when the interim advisory committee is meeting and considering its proposals, to make representations either individually or collectively. When the recommendations emerge from the interim advisory committee, the unions will obviously make representations either individually or collectively. There is nothing to stop them from working with the local authority employer associations if they wish.

The proposals in the Bill allow Parliament to have the final say before there can be a pay increase for school teachers or a change in their conditions of employment: no such parliamentary approval is required under the existing procedures.

A fourth reason why the Government are putting forward the interim arrangements is that further consideration needs to be given to the position of head teachers — the very point which I just mentioned. Of course, the salaries for heads cannot be wholly detached from salaries for teachers, but I envisage that the advisory committee might receive a separate reference on the position of head teachers. Any new machinery that may be set up might need to provide some separate consideration for head teachers' pay.

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

This morning I was at the mass meeting of the teachers who deplored the absence of the National Association of Head Teachers and the Professional Association of Teachers. They will grab the money when it comes, not having done anything about it. The right hon. Gentleman talks about an interim breathing space. But if someone not unlike the Secretary of State has a grip on one's throat, three years is a curious breathing space because one might be dead at the end of that time. The teachers are determined to struggle against what has been imposed on them. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman and his Government are responsible for the struggle—[Interruption.] I know that rowdy Conservative Members will not allow me to say what I want to say. Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that he and his Government are responsible for the disruption in our classrooms, not the teachers, who want an honourable settlement?

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

I am always pleased to give way to the hon. Gentleman, who is a leading member of the National Union of Teachers, because he is a peripatetic personification of what is wrong with attitudes in the teachers' unions. In his first sentence he said that he was at the NUT-NAS/UWT rally. but was fed up with the National Association of Head Teachers and the Professional Association of Teachers. He could not resist having a go at two of the other unions.

Photo of Mr James Pawsey Mr James Pawsey , Rugby and Kenilworth

It is symptomatic of the whole problem.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

It is symptomatic of the problem, as my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey), who is the chairman of the Conservative education committee and knows about these matters, said.

In reply to the second point raised by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery), may I say that the Bill provides for the interim advisory committee machinery to operate at least until 31 March 1990. An amendment to require the Bill finally to expire on that date was overwhelmingly defeated in the Lords. But the Government were ready to agree that any year-by-year extension of the Bill beyond 1990 must be by affirmative resolution.

It would be optimistic to expect that conclusions about the longer term will be agreed quickly. We need experience of the interim machinery in the Bill. As the Government spokesman in the House of Lords made clear, If in a new and more settled climate the Government were able to reach a conclusion by early 1989 on the form of future permanent machinery"—[Official Report, House of Lords, 27 January 1987; Vol. 483, c. 1293.] new legislation could be introduced which would set up that permanent machinery in good time for the 1990 settlement.

The Government will work towards permanent machinery for March 1990. But if we are to reach conclusions acceptable to the Government, the local authorities, teacher unions and church bodies, there will need to be thorough and radical thinking. It is highly unlikely that conclusions can be reached if we are beset by discord and disruption. The teacher unions must demonstrate that they can act responsibly and take seriously the interim arrangements which the Bill will set up.

In the meantime, we need an interim advisory committee and full opportunity for the employers and the unions to represent their views, with outcomes subject to the approval of Parliament. The education of the nation's children is so important that we cannot afford the futile gestures of strikes against a Bill which has had substantial majorities in both Houses of Parliament. Parents will condemn any such industrial action by teachers who will, in total, be receiving an average 25 per cent. pay increase between March 1986 and October 1987. It is only when the Bill receives Royal Assent that I can bring forward the orders that will allow for those increases to be paid.

Photo of Mr Giles Radice Mr Giles Radice Shadow Secretary of State for Education 4:30 pm, 26th February 1987

By the very nature of our procedure, at this stage we can only debate or amend amendments carried in the House of Lords arid, to our great regret and disappointment, the amendments carried in the Lords were relatively trivial, although the debates there were often of high quality. I found the arguments against the Bill totally convincing, but the Government whipped in their overwhelming majority of Peers to vote down the Opposition amendments. As a consequence, the Government have been able to preserve the Bill almost entirely in the shape in which it left this House in December. That means, of course, that it is still a bad Bill.

The Bill still infringes basic rights, in that it removes the ability of local authorities and teachers' organisations to determine teachers' pay and conditions. It still gives unacceptable power to the Secretary of State, including the power until the end of September to impose a settlement under the negative resolution procedure and after September by positive resolution. On Second Reading I described the advisory committee, the nature of which we are debating in this amendment, as the Secretary of State's poodle. Clearly, he does not want a pet, but nothing that I heard during our subsequent proceedings or during the Bill's passage through the Lords has persuaded me to change my mind.

I remind hon. Members about the powers of this so-called advisory body. Its members and its chairman and deputy chairman will be appointed by the Secretary of State, who can also dismiss them. It will be paid for by the Secretary of State and its agenda will be set by him. He can turn down or modify the committee's recommendations.

The Secretary of State made great play of his generosity in consulting the teachers and local education authorities — if they are good boys or something—but I remind him that there is a crucial difference between consultation and negotiation. That difference means that the Secretary of State does not have to take a blind bit of notice of what the LEAs and the teachers say. He can consult them and then impose his own solution and, of course, that is what he intends to do.

Photo of Mr Christopher Hawkins Mr Christopher Hawkins , High Peak

Is it not true that the chairman of a review body would equally be appointed by the Government? This does not appear to be terribly different from a temporary review body—if the hon. Gentleman sees what I mean.

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

I think that even the Secretary of State admitted that this was not quite a review body. A Secretary of State must take very seriously the recommendations of a review body, but I am not certain that he will look upon the advisory committee in that way. Most people would agree that independent review bodies are genuinely independent, but I do not think that anybody would seriously contend that this review body will be independent. That is the crucial difference.

Provided the Secretary of State wins the support of Parliament, he can impose whatever settlement he likes. Therefore, the advisory committee not only remains the Secretary of State's poodle, but it is a dog that cannot even bark. If that body is to be as powerless as I believe it will be, that is all the more reason why its life should be short. Unfortunately, the Government did not listen to the arguments advanced by the Opposition and by Cross-Benchers in the House of Lords, or to our arguments in this House to restrict the duration of the Bill to one year. The Secretary of State was not entirely candid in what he said about this. If it were restricted to one year, it would be genuinely temporary. Instead, the Government have insisted that the Bill, and therefore the life of the advisory committee, should continue until 1990.

Despite the amendments tabled in the Lords, the Government have even refused to allow the Bill to lapse after 1990, thus making a mockery of the Bill's long title, which refers to its temporary nature. It could last well into the 1990s. Inserting the word "interim", or the word "temporary" as we suggest, will not change the fundamental nature of the Bill. The only argument for accepting the Lords amendment is that it reminds the House of the Government's half-promise that the Bill, the advisory committee that it sets up and the powers that it gives to the Secretary of State will be replaced by legislation which will return pay determination, at least in part, to teachers and their employers.

Whatever the Government's intention, the next Labour Government will repeal the Bill. We shall set up a new negotiating committee on which teachers and their employers will be represented together, and they will determine pay and conditions. The Secretary of State will be represented on this committee and, subject to parliamentary approval, he will have reserve powers. Unlike the Conservative party and certainly unlike the Secretary of State, we believe that in a democratic society all employees, including employees in the public sector, must have and must retain the right to bargain collectively with their employers. The Bill removes that right and makes no provision to bring it back. That is our charge against it.

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst , Saffron Walden

Is the hon. Gentleman telling the House that he wishes to retain the right of a future Labour Secretary of State for Education and Science—if such a Minister were ever to appear—to invite Parliament to reject a settlement reached through the process which a Labour Government would set up? Does he accept that perhaps a Labour Secretary of State would have to impose his own view?

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

The hon. Gentleman is aware that under present legislation the Secretary of State has power, with the support of Parliament, to set aside an arbitration award. That is the kind of power we are speaking about. There is a case for the Secretary of State under present legislation having some reserve powers. That is not in dispute. We are arguing whether we should give public sector workers, in this case teachers, the right to negotiate and bargain with their employers about pay and conditions. The Bill removes that right.

The Secretary of State tries to justify the fundamental step of removing teachers' bargaining rights by reference to the shortcomings of the Burnham committee and to the need to achieve a lasting settlement of the teachers' dispute. I shall deal with both those matters because the Secretary of State spoke about them again in the debate. As I have said before and have said in this debate, we accept the need for a new negotiating structure. Many times, I and the local authorities and the TUC have reminded the Secretary of State that one of the key features of the ACAS deal was a new agreement on a negotiating structure which for the first time brought together pay and conditions. It also respected the role of the Secretary of State. However, he has not been prepared to discuss these proposals seriously.

In the autumn the Government decided to write the teachers and their employers out of the script for the conceivable future and to replace them by a system of ministerial diktat. The various meetings that the Secretary of State held with the TUC and local authority representatives were sequences in an empty charade in which he has done little more than practise his by now well-known grin. All along, the Government have been determined to do away with collective bargaining. As they see it, that is the end of the matter.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

The hon. Gentleman is saying that the negotiations and discussions that I have been having now over two months—in fact, going back three months —are an empty charade. In that case, they were empty as regards the proposals being put to me. Mr. Willis came to see me with the two teacher unions which are affiliates of the TUC. In the document that he left with me, he said that they wanted a joint negotiating council but that many major details were left out.

It is the major details that are so important when a negotiating council is being set up. So important are they that in the past unions have gone to court to try to determine the details of Burnham negotiations. For example, a vital matter was left out as to whether the Secretary of State should establish the parameters of the negotiations, which was the original position under Burnham. I listened carefully to what the hon. Gentleman was saying a moment ago about what the Labour party would do if it was returned to power. He did not address that question. I take seriously the allegation that he is making—

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

I am intervening on the hon. Gentleman because he accused me of indulging in an empty charade. I am pointing out that many of the proposals that were put to me were empty.

In reply to the question about the speed of the charade, Mr. Willis wrote to me on 23 January saying that he wanted to discuss urgently the present position; he said that his office would be in touch with mine to make the necessary arrangements. That did not happen until a month later, on 23 February.

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

If he had been honest with the House, the Secretary of State would have admitted that the new negotiating body for the first time discussed pay and conditions together. It also recognised the position of the Secretary of State. It is up to the Secretary of State to say how many seats he wants on the body. My view is that the concordat which was torn up, with the support of the Conservative local authorities, was an acceptable way of recognising that the Secretary of State is responsible for 46 per cent. of pay. That was a retrograde step, because that should happen.

The Secretary of State did not negotiate seriously. He did not say, "I would like to have x number of seats." He just said, "I am not being offered anything serious." Of course he was not interested, because he had made up his mind what he would do. He had his Bill and he did not want to change it. Why should he keep trying to pretend? He is not serious. He may convince one or two people from the newspapers, but he does not convince the House. He should say, "I made up my mind. Of course, I am always a polite man, so I like to meet people who want to see me, but I was not prepared to move." That is the truth of the matter, and he knows it.

The second reason why the right hon. Gentleman wants to get rid of teachers' collective bargaining rights and impose his own solution is the need to get a long-term settlement. We all agree that we badly need a long-term settlement. For well over two years, our schools have been disrupted by the teachers' dispute. I think all of us in the House can agree on the paramount need to restore peace and calm in our schools.

When, in October, after two years of prevarication, the Government adopted a more generous attitude to teachers' pay, there was a glimmer of hope. But since then, that hope has died away. Instead of building on the achievements of the ACAS agreement, the Secretary of State dismissed that settlement out of hand. He did not want it to succeed, and he knows it.

Photo of Mr James Pawsey Mr James Pawsey , Rugby and Kenilworth

At some stage in his speech, will the hon. Gentleman join me in condemning the action which has been taken by teachers in disrupting children's education and acknowledging the damage that that disruptive action has done to our schools?

Photo of Mr Giles Radice Mr Giles Radice Shadow Secretary of State for Education 4:45 pm, 26th February 1987

I acknowledge straight away the damage that has been done to children's education over the last two and a half years, as any reasonable person must. I deeply regret the prospect of further disruption. I have said that clearly, but the Secretary of State, who after all is the Secretary of State, has a responsibility. It is his job to try to reach a lasting settlement, but I do not believe that he is going the right way about it. He dismissed the ACAS settlement out of hand. He proceeded to remove the bargaining rights of teachers and put himself in a position to impose his own settlement.

On Second Reading, I warned the Secretary of State —if he looks at Hansard he will see that this is the case — that an imposed settlement could lead to renewed disruption. As everybody knows, the three major unions are balloting their members on strike action. As I have said, we deeply regret the prospect of renewed disruption. Schools have suffered enough. But if disruption takes place, the Secretary of State must bear responsibility. He dismissed the ACAS settlement which was freely agreed by employers, teachers and teachers' organisations, instead of building on it. He has not tried to minimise the differences between his position and that of ACAS. He has tried to maximise them. Every time he comes to the Dispatch Box, he emphasises the differences. He has not tried to reach a compromise. He has ignored our warnings about what could happen. Instead, he is intent, as he has just said, on imposing his own settlement.

There was a prospect of lasting peace in our schools. My hon. Friends and I have worked hard to bring that about. Whether because of arrogance, vanity or obstinacy, the Secretary of State has thrown away that prospect. Nobody can pretend that the Lords amendments will significantly improve the Bill or make it easier to achieve lasting peace, but amendment No. 1 will at least be a symbol of our rejection of the disastrous policy which the Government, against our advice, are trying to pursue. It will remind parents and voters that there is an alternative to the Secretary of State's authoritarian policy. That alternative is far more likely to lead to the lasting peace which is so essential if we are widen opportunities and raise standards in schools.

Photo of Mr James Pawsey Mr James Pawsey , Rugby and Kenilworth

My only area of agreement with the hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) is on the point that Burnham is outdated. I would have liked the hon. Gentleman to be fairer to my right hon. Friend and at least to have acknowledged the considerable sums that my right hon. Friend has found and made available for teachers' pay

Photo of Mr James Pawsey Mr James Pawsey , Rugby and Kenilworth

It would have been good to hear the hon. Gentleman make that point more clearly. My right hon. Friend has put on the table 16·4 per cent, which totals 25 percent. over 18 months. That is a real achievement which should be acknowledged in all parts of the House.

I have a sense of déjà vu. Therefore, it might be helpful to remember that the basic reason for the Bill was the failure of the Burnham negotiating machinery to deliver a package on pay and conditions that was acceptable to unions, employers and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. Months of meetings, days of deliberation, and hours of argument in London, Coventry and Nottingham only served to highlight the differences between unions. Those differences were highlighted by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) in an earlier intervention. The inescapable conclusion is that Burnham is finished and must be replaced. As Lord Houghton said in another place on 9 February, "Why is this Bill"—

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. The hon. Gentleman must paraphrase any speech made in another place unless it has been made by a Minister.

Photo of Mr James Pawsey Mr James Pawsey , Rugby and Kenilworth

I am obliged to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for your advice.

The speech made by Lord Houghton of Sowerby sought to bring out the fact that the normal machinery, after a considerable period, had broken down and it was therefore necessary for something new to be introduced in its place. The noble Lord was saying that it was appropriate for us to be considering alternative machinery. That seems to be an entirely reasonable point.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Weetch Mr Kenneth Weetch , Ipswich

The hon. Gentleman will know that in November 1986 the teachers' unions agreed on a national joint council. That was a consensus view that emerged from teachers. Can the hon. Gentleman tell me and the House what is likely to emerge in 1990 that is substantially different from what has emerged now as a consensus position on the teachers' side, or is the Secretary of State waiting for the balance of power among teachers to alter?

Photo of Mr James Pawsey Mr James Pawsey , Rugby and Kenilworth

The hon. Gentleman is the chairman of the Labour party's Back-Bench education committee and a distinguished Member of the House. However, he must wait and see. He said that he wondered whether relative teacher strengths might alter. I found that to be an interesting and not insignificant point. I notice that the Professional Association of Teachers has been steadily increasing its membership at the expense of some of the older and more archaic-minded trade unions, so let us wait and see. Let us see what happens in two and a half or three years' time.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State proposes an advisory committee that will be reporting to him on teachers' pay and conditions. The amendment before us proposes the inclusion of the word "interim". That seems to be an entirely reasonable suggestion. It provides for real consultation to take place between unions and employers. As Lord Boyd-Carpenter said in another place—I shall not quote his words precisely—there is nothing in the Bill that would prevent teachers and local authorities from negotiating to their hearts' content. He was certain that a suitable and sensible alternative would come forward. The point that he was making was that if a sensible alternative suggestion comes forward, why should any reasonable Secretary of State turn it down? There is no logic in assuming that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State would turn it down.

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

Does the hon. Gentleman believe that an advisory body from a union over a period of three years is any substitute for free and direct negotiation? Is that his view of democracy?

Photo of Mr James Pawsey Mr James Pawsey , Rugby and Kenilworth

The hon. Gentleman must understand the chaos that has existed in our schools over the past two, three or more years. Does he accept that what has taken place over that period is a reasonable way of thrashing out teachers' pay or conditions? The hon. Gentleman must be reasonable sometimes. If he is reasonable, he must accept the fact that Burnham is outdated and that an alternative is needed. He must also accept that a period of two or three years is a reasonable time in which a new system could be put in place.

Photo of Mr James Pawsey Mr James Pawsey , Rugby and Kenilworth

With the greatest respect, I am not giving way again. I have given way three times already. I will not give way to the hon. Gentleman this time.

Photo of Mr James Pawsey Mr James Pawsey , Rugby and Kenilworth

The hon. Gentleman clearly was not listening. The right to join a trade union remains; the right to strike remains. The right to receive a 16·4 per cent. increase remains. Only the right of membership of a discredited body is taken away.

While the advisory body itself is interim, it gives an opportunity to consider the pay, conditions and status of teachers and to decide what more permanent arrangements might be made to avoid the problems of the past. That interim arrangement will give a reasonable period for thought. It will provide an opportunity to consider the various options and to produce a permanent settlement and solution to the advantage of teachers, the education service and, above all, the nation's children.

Earlier, I referred to the rights of teachers. I subscribe to the view tht the status of the profession has suffered a great deal since teachers became more militant in the early 1970s. I find it significant that it was during the period of their greatest militancy that the greatest erosion of pay took place. I ask teachers to take careful note of the fact that more militancy does not equal more pay; more militancy does not equal more respect; more militancy does not equal greater status. Put more simply, if militancy works, why are teachers, arguably, underpaid and undervalued? Militancy is far more political than practical and I ask teachers outside the House to take careful note of that.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. This group of amendments lends itself to a fairly wide debate, but I hope that before long, I shall hear more about the amendments from the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Mr James Pawsey Mr James Pawsey , Rugby and Kenilworth

I am grateful, as ever for your exceedingly wise guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for the way in which you carefully keep hon. Members on track and are anxious that we refer specifically to the amendments before us and for the fact that we should stress the importance of the word "interim".

Those teachers considering disruptive action—

Photo of Mr Bob Dunn Mr Bob Dunn , Dartford

In the interim.

Photo of Mr James Pawsey Mr James Pawsey , Rugby and Kenilworth

Yes, as my hon. Friend says, in the interim — should consider how much that action will further damage their standing in society. They should consider the impact it will have on the opinions of parents and children.

Photo of Mrs Virginia Bottomley Mrs Virginia Bottomley , South West Surrey

Does my hon. Friend agree that those teachers who want to show their concern about the interim measures do so much more effectively today, which is half term, than they do when they make their point and lobby Members of parliament during full term and sacrifice the education of the children entrusted to their care?

Photo of Mr James Pawsey Mr James Pawsey , Rugby and Kenilworth

I am obliged to my hon. Friend for that helpful intervention, but I suspect that both she and I agree that the overwhelming majority of teachers are exceedingly responsible and care deeply for the children in their charge.

Above all, I ask teachers to consider the damage that will be caused to children's education should they continue with their disruptive action.

I notice that in an article that appeared in an evening newspaper last night there was reference to the Professional Association of Teachers. I find it significant that that association has come out strongly against next week's half-day strikes. Mr. Peter Dawson, the general secretary, says that the issue of negotiating rights is "light years" away from teaching. That seems to be a particularly apt comment.

I have said before — I am not straying from the amendments—that a teacher's job is a great deal more than long holidays and free periods. Teaching is genuinely a demanding and most responsible job. The 25 per cent. increase in pay that has taken place over 18 months acknowledges two important points. The first is how far teachers' pay had slipped behind and the second is that the Government recognise and appreciate the work that teachers do. That point was made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in his excellent speech.

I understand the concern expressed by teachers but I urge them to give the advisory committee a fair chance. To reject it out of hand will not help their case. The committee will not have a long life. That point has been emphasised over and over again in the other place. As Lord Elton said —I can quote him directly since he is a Minister: What we have here is an interim Bill. I was glad that my noble Friend emphasised that on two separate occasions in the record when we were in Committee, and also amended the Bill either twice or three times on the face to make clear that it was interim, and he has a further amendment today. There is no question that this is an interim Bill.

5 pm

My noble Friend went on to say: I feel the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, is absolutely right in saying that this is a functional little Bill to deal with a major problem, not in a dictatorial way by telling the profession and its employers, 'This is how you will do it', but in a permissive and liberal way—using the word in a different sense — permitting the profession and the employers to work out their own solution for as long as it takes, or over a period of three years according to what your Lordships may later decide. That seems to me to be the stark alternative to a dictatorial imposition." —[Official Report, House of Lords, 9 February 1987; Vol. 484, c. 434–35.]

The interim and advisory committee will take evidence from unions and employers alike and there will be a clear duty upon the Secretary of State to consult both sides before acting on the advice given by the Committee. That consultation will play a significant part in the pay process. My right hon. Friend has an obligation to the nation's children. This Bill, I believe, will do much to ensure that that obligation is discharged.

Photo of Mr Paddy Ashdown Mr Paddy Ashdown , Yeovil

I listened with some care to the speech of the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey). We all know that this place is well founded on the words of Humpty Dumpty, who said in "Alice in Wonderland" that words meant what he intended them to mean. The hon. Gentleman, in describing this Bill as a liberal measure, seemed to exceed the normal practice in this House of making words mean what one wants them to mean.

On one point, however, I can agree with and commend the hon. Gentleman. He took some care to identify the fact that teachers do a superb job, by and large. I wish we heard more of that here from the Secretary of State. I have heard no such thing as that said by the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth from the Front Bench or anybody in authority in the Government. On the contrary, for the past eight years teachers have been consistently reviled, denigrated and insulted. Many of us believe that, given the attacks on their morale, the lack of resources with which they have to work and the disgraceful conditions in some of our schools, 90 per cent. of our teachers do an extremely good job. Of course there are some bad teachers, but there are some bad politicians too, and I suggest that the balance is in favour of teachers—there are more bad politicians than there are bad teachers.

Photo of Mr James Pawsey Mr James Pawsey , Rugby and Kenilworth

Clearly the hon. Gentleman knows a great deal more about bad politicians than I do, but if he had been spokesman on education for a longer period he would have known that my right hon. Friend has consistently said that the teacher force is based on the fact that the majority of teachers do an exceptionally worthwhile job. My right hon. Friend has said that over and over again.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. I do not see any reference to bad teachers or bad politicians in these amendments.

Photo of Mr Paddy Ashdown Mr Paddy Ashdown , Yeovil

I take the point, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was simply commenting on the speech of the hon. Gentleman who raised this matter in the first place, as is the custom in the House. I will merely say that, if what he says is true, it is a truth which has certainly not got through to the teachers or the general public, or indeed to Opposition Members, so perhaps it ought to be said more clearly and loudly.

The amendment now before us was, of course, put down by my alliance colleague Lord Ritchie on behalf of the alliance parties in the House of Lords. It was one of the two most substantial amendments to get through, the other, of course, being to overturn the Government's original intention to enable the Bill to be extended on a negative resolution of the House. I welcome the amendment for that reason. It is at least some small amelioration in the Bill in a direction which must be welcome to all who are concerned about what the Bill does.

That is not to say, however, that the Bill as amended is one which we find acceptable, and we would wish this matter to be pushed much further. Unhappily, during the process of this debate we have no such opportunity, but I ask the Secretary of State, when he sums up this section of the debate, to give more flesh to what he means by the word "temporary" than he has so far been prepared to do, because this is the centre of our concerns about this Bill.

This Bill is not just about pay and conditions. It is about the fact that the right to negotiate pay and conditions has been removed from a substantial section of the work force. I do not seek to deny the constitutional right of a Secretary of State, in extremis and with the backing of Parliament, to move to impose his will for what he considers to be, and Parliament agrees to be, the good of the nation. But a decent Secretary of State with a proper respect for democracy and the institutions of this country would, at the moment when he sought to take that dire action, be prepared at the same time to limit tightly the extent of his powers and to put in place, or at least start to put in place, a mechanism which would ensure that he did not have to take that extreme power again.

The Secretary of State has refused to do either of those things and our opposition to this Bill is based upon that fact. What is being taken away now is the right of 400,000 teachers throughout Britain to negotiate their pay and conditions on what is potentially a permanent or at least a long-term basis. Rights which they have enjoyed since 1919 are now being removed from them. It is an extremely important and dangerous act by the Secretary of Stats.

Photo of Mr Christopher Hawkins Mr Christopher Hawkins , High Peak

I am not trying to make a cheap party political point; I am trying to understand the alliance position on this. As I understand it, we are setting up an advisory panel that will recommend pay rises for teachers to the Secretary of State, who can only disagree with those recommendations with the approval of both Houses of Parliament. The alliance is not suggesting free union-local authority negotiations; it is suggesting a review body with a chairman appointed by the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of State can disagree with the recommendations of the review body if he wishes, with the approval of both Houses of Parliament. What is the great difference between those two schemes?

Photo of Mr Paddy Ashdown Mr Paddy Ashdown , Yeovil

I must ask the hon. Gentleman to study our proposals more carefully. If he does, he will understand that it is perfectly clear that the review body has not been set up as a substitute for negotiations; we see negotiations going ahead within both formal and informal frameworks outside that review body and prior to its consideration. It is there in case those negotiations should fail, in order to assist in unblocking blockages. After the review body has made its recommendations there will be a full process of negotiations and ultimately, if necessary, arbitration on a pendulum basis. These are details of the policy that I can touch on later if the House wishes, but they are perfectly clearly outlined and stand on the debates on this matter in the House of Lords.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

I am very glad to be illuminated, to the extent that one can be illuminated by listening to the hon. Gentleman's proposals, as to what his proposals are. What he has described is not a review body. He has described an advisory committee, with collective bargaining somehow going on in the background. It is a most vague and absurd idea.

Photo of Mr Paddy Ashdown Mr Paddy Ashdown , Yeovil

If the Secretary of State has taken the trouble to look at these matters at all closely he should know that that independent review body will be independent and will be in existence for consultation and may well take on other matters as well, but in no sense and in no way does it limit the right to or possibilities for full negotiations outside that body. These proposals have been carefully drawn up after consultation. They have been detailed in the House of Lords amendments and in various other articles as well and have received the support of a number of unions: the National Association of Head Teachers, the Assistant Masters and Mistresses Association, the National Confederation of Parent-Teacher Associations, the Professional Association of Teachers have all supported them. The Secretary of State said that he put some weight on the opinion of the National Association of Head Teachers, and it has supported these proposals as a realistic and appropriate way to proceed.

The issue now before us is not pay but civil rights. The removal of the rights of teachers to negotiate their own pay and conditions is an action that I regard as highly provocative, and it is bound to encourage counteraction from those who believe that their rights are being removed. I accept that some in the trade union movement and the teachers' trade unions have thirsted for industrial action, and there may be many who look forward to that idea with some relish. I regret that, but the removal, without replacement or at least a time limit on the Secretary of State's powers, of their rights to negotiate pay and conditions is a deliberately provocative act which is bound to increase the possibility of action that he and I, and no doubt others, hope does not come about.

I hope, as I said to the teachers earlier, that they will decide not to strike, because a strike would damage the schools and their cause. The Bill can be overturned only in the process of a general election, and I much fear that if the teachers were to decide to take strike action they would bring about a result that neither I nor they would seek — the possibility of the Bill's provisions being continued. However, I can understand the teachers' frustration and anger, and their determination to defend their civil rights. Their feeling is only encouraged by the provisions of the Bill.

I shudder to think what would happen if a Labour Government brought before the House a Bill such as this, which sought to impose, without denned limits, the pay and conditions of those who work in the City of London. What a roar of protest would then arise from the Conservative Benches about the imposition of state control on an eastern European model. The Secretary of State has offered two defences. The first is that he will listen to the advisory committee. The second is that this is a temporary measure, a point on which he concentrated a great deal in his speech. Let us look at the history of so-called temporary measures brought before the House. When income tax legislation was first introduced, it was as a temporary measure. The same is true of the Defence of the Realm Acts, the Official Secrets Act 1911 and the Import, Export and Customs Powers (Defence) Act 1939.

We as politicians know that actions ranging from the painting of double white lines by the local authority to major Government laws are called temporary when they are instituted but are, all too frequently, kept going for as long as the powers that be find them convenient. We are properly suspicious in a matter of such importance, and suspect that when the Secretary of State says "temporary" or "interim" he does not mean what he says.

The hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth said that the Secretary of State had made this matter clear, but I merely quote the Secretary of State, who said on Second Reading that he saw the Bill lasting "until 1990". Is three years' duration temporary? The Secretary of State said that the Bill would last until 1990-though with powers for its life to be extended on a year-by-year basis".—[Official Report, 8 December 1986; Vol. 107, c. 43.] Is that a reasonable interpretation of "temporary"? Are we not right to suspect that the Secretary of State's intention is to extend the Bill, and the removal of bargaining rights from that group of workers, to a much more than temporary basis?

If that is not so, why did the Secretary of State give himself powers to extend the powers of the Bill on a negative resolution alone? Why has he not set a time limit to the Bill, which would show his earnest to put something else in its place? Why has he not already set in train negotiations or put forward the Government's thinking about what structure might take the Bill's place in a White Paper or a Green Paper or some appropriate forum before bringing it before the House? Why does the Bill give the advisory committee the power to consider long-term matters such as the possibility of regional disparities in pay?

Why is it that when it comes to talking about negotiations, the Secretary of State uses weasel words? For example, he will discuss these matters with the trade unions and with others involved, and these discussions will have the "character" of negotiations. What does the Secretary of State mean by that? Either they are negotiations or they are not. No doubt the unions could conduct industrial action which they could say was not strikes, but in the character of strikes. What would be the difference? These are weasel words designed to hide the Government's intentions behind a smokescreen.

5.15 pm

The Secretary of State assures us that he will take great note of what the advisory committee says, but the House must reflect on the fact that the members of the advisory committee are appointed by the Secretary of State. They can be removed summarily by the Secretary of State. Their terms are set by the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State tells the committee what it can and cannot discuss, and he can, finally, simply ignore its recommendations. I ask the Secretary of State, and every Conservative Member now present, whether they would be prepared to place their civil rights in the hands of such a committee, appointed by a Labour Secretary of State, which would be the child or poodle of the Secretary of State.

Photo of Mr Christopher Hawkins Mr Christopher Hawkins , High Peak

The salaries of Members of Parliament are determined in almost precisely the same way as teachers' salaries under the Bill. There is an independent review, and recommendations are made to Parliament that Parliament can turn down. The only difference is that Parliament always turns down the recommendations of the committee set up to look into Members' pay.

Photo of Mr Paddy Ashdown Mr Paddy Ashdown , Yeovil

The hon. Gentleman tests the patience of the House when he equates the pay of Members of Parliament with that of teachers. We have the right to discuss our pay and vote on it. Those whose rights lie in the care of the House expect us to speak not for ourselves but as their representatives. I note, because it is a matter of some evidence, that not one Conservative Member has said that he would be prepared to place civil rights of his constituents in a body such as this, with such control over it by a Labour Secretary of State. No silence could be more eloquent.

I cannot understand why the Secretary of State does not understand that by creating this advisory committee, he is creating an instrument that others could use most effectively against what he is seeking. I remind the House that the Secretary of State has the right summarily to dismiss from the advisory committee anybody he wishes. What would happen if there were a change of Government in the next few months and a Labour Secretary of State had the power over the committee that the Secretary of State wants for himself? What would happen if the Labour Government chose to put on the advisory committee people such as Frances Morrell, Deirdre Wood, Councillor Pearman, Derek Hatton or David Blunkett? Is that the instrument that Conservative Members want to create?

Photo of Mr Alan Howarth Mr Alan Howarth , Stratford-on-Avon

If by any extraordinary chance the hon. Gentleman's party found itself participating in government, would he propose to abolish the review bodies that make recommendations on nurses' pay or police pay? The existence of such review bodies is important as a safeguard of the independence and interests of the groups of workers with whom they are concerned.

Photo of Mr Paddy Ashdown Mr Paddy Ashdown , Yeovil

I take the hon. Gentleman's point, but he knows that the independent review body has been proposed by the Opposition and is not proposed in this Bill. This is an advisory committee. The hon. Gentleman seems not to have followed these matters or to have listened when they were discussed earlier.

My party has put forward detailed proposals in the Lords amendments and I will not go through them now with the House. Suffice to say that they have been supported by the National Association of Head Teachers —on whose opinion the Secretary of State put so much store — by the Assistant Masters and Mistresses Association, the Society of Education Officers, the National Confederation of Parent-Teacher Associations, the Professional Association of Teachers and others.

Our proposals offer a genuine way forward to restore to teachers the right to negotiate over their pay and conditions, and gives the Government an appropriate and proper say in these matters, including the right to determine the overall cost envelope.

When the Secretary of State criticised the proposals on the basis that they were ambiguous about his role, I asked him for details. He then complained that the proposals were too complicated and detailed about the role of the Secretary of State. He cannot have it both ways. The proposals lay out very clearly the role of all parties in this dispute in a way that could set the framework for the future.

This Bill is bad, sad and potentially dangerous. It is bad because it is an instrument to damage goodwill even further amongst the teachers. The Secretary of State can introduce 19 or 1,900 points to define teachers' contracts, but if he does not have the good will of the teachers he cannot put this into effect and cannot produce a decent education system.

It is sad because the Secretary of State, who is sometimes regarded outside this House as having a faintly liberal conscience in this Government, is now seen once again to be doing the bidding of his mistress in No. 10 Downing street in both attacking civil liberties and the role of local government, as he did in his previous job.

This Bill is dangerous because it takes away the civil rights of some people in this nation and places that control in the hands of the Secretary of State. I have no doubt that those powers will be used in future by others if they are established here today.

This is the Secretary of State's last chance genuinely to allay those fears by instituting a replacement for the Bill and some time frame in which that replacement can be made. This is a disgraceful Bill which we oppose. Although we accept this amendment to improve it, our opposition to the Bill as a whole is in no way diminished.

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

I address my remarks directly to the amendment which came from another place and has been accepted by my right hon. Friend. I am probably the only Member in the House who does not agree completely with the insertion in these three points of the words "temporary" or "provisional" or "interim", which have the same meaning. If there is merit in this advisory committee and consultation is found to be adequate, why insert the word "interim", which would indicate that it has a limited future?

One uses the word "interim" in various ways. One has to remember in this House in particular that the Stormont Government was an interim Government which governed Northern Ireland for a long time with varying success. If this advisory committee is a success and is meeting the demands of the profession and the parents and the governors, and is getting on with the job more successfully than is feared, I would not like to see it swept away.

Other advisory committees have been mentioned; one of them is the University Grants Committee, and it is no push-over. That committee is looked upon with fear and trepidation by the Secretary of State because it is its own master. It is given money, but try to suggest to it—as I used to do years ago before I learned better — that a university or college should get more. One is very soon told that the committee knows its own business and that it is independent, it has its own money and it is up to it to allot it.

There is a chance that after a year or two this advisory committee will make a name for itself. Later we shall be dealing with amendments relating to its composition. Schedule 1 sets out the way in which the advisory committee is to be constituted and to proceed. It may well be found that the committee is fair-minded and is doing a first-class job. I hesitate to accept the Secretary of State's suggestion that we should insert in the Bill, at the behest of another place, the word "interim".

I am pleased to welcome this Bill and to see it on its way because there is so much dissension and strife within the teaching profession in this country. Teachers should get on with the task of teaching children. There have been numerous complaints in my constituency. I have received a letter today from 63 secondary teachers in Leicestershire. They say: The Secretary of State in the Teachers' Pay and Conditions Bill is removing the rights of teachers and their employers to negotiate on pay and conditions of service. Having listened to my right hon. Friend and the debates in the other place, and having accepted the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton—who is still a very skilled and alert and independent parliamentarian, whose word is not to be taken lightly, as my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) said—I would say that the Secretary of State, far from giving himself dictatorial powers, will receive and publish the views of the interim advisory committee and consult the teachers' unions, local education authorities and representatives of the voluntary schools. Any change in pay or conditions of employment will have to be approved by both Houses of Parliament.

This advisory committee could eventually prove to be a winner. I strongly urge the Secretary of State to press on with the excellent job he is doing, because most of the parents in this country are thoroughly fed up with teachers and will never forgive them for the years of education which have been lost to our children. The Bill gives the teaching profession a chance to restore its self-respect.

Photo of Mr Gordon Oakes Mr Gordon Oakes , Halton 5:30 pm, 26th February 1987

I tend to agree, but for different reasons, with the hon. Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr) when he wonders why the word "interim" has been inserted. I wonder why it has been put in, because it is purely and simply cosmetic. Would the hon. Gentleman agree that the word "temporary", although it appears in the long title of the Bill—which the word "interim" does not — is meaningless? I was surprised that the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) said, no doubt in support of his SDP colleague in the other place, that two amendments were made there. To my astonishment he said that this was one of them. I was equally astonished that the hon. Gentleman named the process of having the affirmative procedure rather than the negative procedure as the other amendment. What has happened is a disgrace. A thoroughly unacceptable Bill came before the House, the Government marshalled their troops and passed the Bill through its first stages. I was amazed when the Secretary of State said that there was not a single Division in the other place and that everything seemed to be done by agreement.

Photo of Mrs Angela Rumbold Mrs Angela Rumbold , Mitcham and Morden

There was no Division on the "interim" provision.

Photo of Mr Gordon Oakes Mr Gordon Oakes , Halton

In that case, I withdraw my remarks. I find it amazing that the other place let many of these provisions through. It has a dual role as a revising Chamber and as a guardian of the nation's constitutional rights against dictatorial action. I suggest that this is dictatorial action.

Today at Question Time the Prime Minister seemed to say in a reply that teachers had never had it so good. No doubt the tens of thousands of teachers outside the House today, did not come to lobby their Members of Parliament but to thank them for never having had it so good.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

Teachers have it better than they did under the Labour Government. I know because I was in the profession then.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Central Fife

The teachers call the hon. Gentleman a ventriloquist's doll.

Photo of Mr Gordon Oakes Mr Gordon Oakes , Halton

I think, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I have the Floor.

The unions dislike the Bill intensely, and not for some of the reasons that have been given by Conservative Members. They dislike it, not because they are squabbling among themselves, but because it is a fundamental attack by the Government on free collective bargaining. Even if the other place saw fit to let it through, I doubt whether the International Labour Organisation would be happy to see such legislation introduced in a democratic country.

Photo of Mr Christopher Hawkins Mr Christopher Hawkins , High Peak

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain for the benefit of the public the negotiating rights and collective bargaining involved in the pay settlement of the police, of judges, generals, nurses, doctors, dentists and Members of Parliament?

Photo of Mr Gordon Oakes Mr Gordon Oakes , Halton

The hon. Gentleman keeps talking about hon. Members' pay. We determine our pay. For the other groups, that has traditionally been a matter for negotiation. They have different types of review body. With this review body the Secretary of State has powers to appoint, dismiss and ignore. He can do anything with a report from this interim body.

The hon. Member for Yeovil also said that the other place had taken the important step of changing the procedure by which the legislation can be extended from the negative to the affirmative procedure. I raised that point on Second Reading. Many years ago, we passed legislation on protection against terrorism. Every year it is subject to the affirmative procedure and year after year it is renewed by the House. If the Government genuinely believe that this is a temporary Bill to overcome a temporary crisis, why have they in both Houses refused amendments from my hon. Friends and insisted on retaining that power of continuation? That would prove more conclusively than the word "interim" that they believe that the measure is for only two or three years. The Government insist on retaining the provision because they want the Bill to be permanent and the Secretary of State to have this power.

The measure affects 400,000 teachers at present. I have no doubt that the Secretary of State for the Environment would dearly love to emulate this legislation for local authority unions. It is not insignificant that when the Government want to change the rating system they use Scotland as a guinea pig. They have decided to try it on the Scots and see what happens, and we shall debate that next week. If we have the misfortune to have a Conservative Government after the general election, they will introduce a similar change in the rating system in England and Wales.

As a member of the Transport and General Workers Union I must warn the trade union movement at large that this, too, is a guinea pig measure. It is the teachers' unions this time, but it will be other unions next time. The measure, far from being an expedient to deal with critical circumstances, is a guinea pig for introducing yet more anti-union legislation. It is a disguise and a cover.

I am surprised that the other place passed the Bill and I am amazed that another clause was not amended in either this House or the other place. That is the clause that allows regional discrimination. On Second Reading I suggested that, if the Government intended that, they should use the phrase "local education authority" or words to that effect. Instead—

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. The right hon. Gentleman is anticipating later amendments. He must stick to the amendment that we are discussing.

Photo of Mr Gordon Oakes Mr Gordon Oakes , Halton

I agree that I am straying. I know that time is pressing and I shall return to the point.

The word "interim" is purely cosmetic. This is an extremely bad Bill and I hope that by a vote later we can demonstrate our contempt for what the Secretary of State is doing to trade union negotiations.

Photo of Mr Alan Howarth Mr Alan Howarth , Stratford-on-Avon

I welcome the amendment made in the other place, stressing as it does the interim character of the advisory committee which it is proposed to establish. The right hon. Member for Halton (Mr. Oakes) cast doubt on the genuineness of the Government's intention that it should be an interim arrangement, but I am perfectly certain that no one has been more reluctant than my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to resort to the powers that the Bill vests in him.

Obviously, it is preferable that teachers' pay, conditions of service and career structure should be determined through negotiation rather than by order. However, in the event, my right hon. Friend had no choice but to take these powers. Indeed, it was his duty to do so. It was imperative that a settlement of this long-running, damaging and distressing dispute should be achieved. The teaching profession needs to have questions resolved about its career structure. Given the atmosphere that had developed, it was plainly necessary to provide a breathing space to enable passions to cool. Moreover, all are agreed that the Burnham structure must go.

The problem has been the failure to achieve agreement within the Burnham committee, the proceedings of which have been characterised, sadly, by vitriolic disagreements between the teachers' unions at, for example, Coventry and Nottingham. An impasse had been reached and my right hon. Friend was right to require an interim set of new arrangements to be introduced, giving us time to reflect coolly and to make progress on a new set of arrangements. That became plainly necessary when the negotiations under the aegis of ACAS failed and the pressure for it was particularly strong because of continued disruption.

Within Burnham, a search for a new structure had gone on for five years. It must be reasonable at the end of a five-year unsuccessful search for better arrangements to approach the matter in a new way. Sadly, over the past two years we have seen sporadic but fairly intensive disruption of schools. The hon. Member for Sheffield. Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery), who I am sorry to see is no longer present, sought to blame the Secretary of State for that disruption. Indeed, the hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) also attempted to lay responsibility for disruption at the door of my right hon. Friend and perhaps his predecessor.

In reality, those who make that assertion demean teachers. Teachers are responsible adults who must take their own decision whether or not in any circumstances it is acceptable to pursue a pay dispute by dint of damaging the interests of the children who are their charges. In my judgment, that cannot be right. That view is widely and strongly held by the public. The teachers have done their professional standing and esteem no good in the eyes of society through their disruption. If they again resort to such disruption they will do themselves further damage, and I hope that they will not.

It became inevitable that my right hon. Friend would have to take interim powers at the moment when the Labour-controlled employers threw over the concordat that had existed for so long, which gave the Secretary of State's representatives on the Burnham committee adequate leverage to represent his proper responsibilities and concerns. They are real. The Secretary of State must have leverage in any negotiating machinery which is established. He is the trustee of the nation's interests in a variety of respects. He is a trustee of the taxpayers' concerns. He is a trustee for our children and their education. He is a trustee on behalf of the community. The community has an interest in the undisrupted provision of high-quality education for a range of reasons, including the well-being of the economy and law and order.

The local education authorities, similarly, should regard themselves as trustees of the nation's interest in the quality of education, as should the teachers. It was deeply regrettable that the employers plucked a figure out of the air and said that they were not satisfied with the substantial extra amount of money that my right hon. Friend had laid on the table. They wanted an extra £85 million. It is easy to say, "We will have an extra £85 million," when they are not footing the bill. Sadly, teachers' representatives refused to accept a career structure that offered sensible incentives.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. The hon. Gentleman is straying rather wide. He must address his remarks to the amendments.

Photo of Mr Alan Howarth Mr Alan Howarth , Stratford-on-Avon

I am grateful for your caution, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

In the interim phase that my right hon. Friend is proposing, during which we can think more calmly and fruitfully, the teachers' unions can reflect better on the question whether there should be a career structure that gives incentives — for example to teachers who are willing to take on extra responsibility, and whose skills and qualifications are in short supply.

The fears of Opposition Members and the teaching profession that this will not prove to be an interim arrangement can be allayed. If they speak the truth as they know it, they know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has great personal good will towards the education profession and teachers. That is manifest in his impressive achievement in negotiating with the Treasury to make it possible to offer an extra £608 million for teachers' pay.

Photo of Mr Paddy Ashdown Mr Paddy Ashdown , Yeovil

I am sorry to have to disabuse the hon. Gentleman of his belief that the Secretary of State enjoys the confidence of teachers. I have travelled up and down the country — only for about a month since I took on my present job — and spoken to many people. The constant message that I have received is that the only person who could have made the previous Secretary of State for Education look like a good guy is the present one.

Photo of Mr Alan Howarth Mr Alan Howarth , Stratford-on-Avon 5:45 pm, 26th February 1987

The hon. Gentleman is entitled to make his cheap debating points and make personal and defamatory assertions about by right hon. Friend in the interests of gaining some political advantage and playing to the gallery. However, nobody will admire that intervention.

The good will of my right hon. Friend has been manifest in the money that he has made available and in his urgent desire to offer more incentive posts to the teaching profession than the other parties in the negotiations have sought to offer. My right hon. Friend will correct me if I am wrong, but I understand that under his proposals, which are still available, he will make available 140,000 additional incentive posts, compared with the mere 85,000 that the ACAS negotiations put on offer. Indeed—this is the most extraordinary matter— that compares with a current figure of 105,000. The ACAS proposals would have reduced the number of incentive posts available for good teachers.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. The hon. Gentleman is discussing details of the proposed arrangements. That cannot be in order on this amendment.

Photo of Mr Alan Howarth Mr Alan Howarth , Stratford-on-Avon

I will do my best, in my remaining few remarks, to keep strictly in order.

The anxiety being expressed by teachers' representatives is less about whether this is an interim arrangement than about whether negotiating rights will be restored. I am sure that my right hon. Friend intends to do his best during this interim period to set up the machinery for genuine negotiation. In the meantime, I am willing to accept, as are many teachers—this is a widespread view — that he will wish to make consultation a genuine reality. By his willingness to accept that the recommendations of the advisory committee should be published, he indeed makes that inevitable. The good points that the teachers' representatives will put in the process of consultation with the advisory committee, and subsequently with my right hon. Friend, will be published and cannot be ignored. The independence of the advisory committee need by no less than the independence of, for example, the University Grants Committee.

I ask my right hon. Friend to tell the House that he will search urgently to find a new structure, and that it is his hope that we shall find a new structure within the three-year interim period. The Government will, I am sure, search urgently to shorten this interim phase, but one of the conditions of success of that undertaking must be that members of the teaching profession put pressure on their unions and representatives to bury their differences and be more constructive in their approach to achieving a structure in which all parties can be sensibly and appropriately represented; in which all parties can genuinely negotiate and build on the good progress that has been made; in moving the teaching profession closer towards salaries that adequately reflect the importance of what they do and the good quality of their work; and which establishes clear definitions of their responsibilities and of the manner in which they will fulfil society's legitimate and optimistic expectations of them.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Weetch Mr Kenneth Weetch , Ipswich

I shall be very brief in my speech and state my conclusions in the introduction.

My first point follows the one made by the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth), who said that he believed that the Government would search urgently for a more appropriate and apposite form of negotiating machinery. Experience is doubtful on this point. When people assume dictatorial powers with promises to hand it back to democracy later, the hon. Gentleman will find that it is seldom handed back. Experience suggests that, when people assume dictatorial powers, those powers, if they prove convenient, are consolidated; they do not disappear.

Photo of Mr Alan Howarth Mr Alan Howarth , Stratford-on-Avon

The hon. Gentleman mentioned democracy. Will he acknowledge that the proposal in the Bill that any new pay settlement should be approved by the House is an advance? What could be more democratic than that?

Photo of Mr Kenneth Weetch Mr Kenneth Weetch , Ipswich

The hon. Gentleman has been in the House long enough now to know that, when the Government say that they have the approval of Parliament, they mean that they have the support of the Whips' machine in getting the requisite number of votes through the Lobby with a built-in Government majority. It is true to say that the Remuneration of Teachers Act 1965 had some disadvantages in that respect and this represents a small advance.

But let me draw the attention of the hon. Gentleman and the Secretary of State to the Government's statement on Second Reading in the other place. The point was made that most of the fundamentals of the dispute with the teachers have already been settled — the place of the Secretary of State in the negotiating machinery, the fact that there must be an equitable balance of power and the fact that conditions and pay must be negotiated at the same time. I would be the first to concede that rough edges remain and more negotiations are needed, but nevertheless the landmarks have been put down and it would not have been beyond the wit of man to reach some consensus.

In November last year, a consensus emerged with the support of ACAS, whose expertise is to be directed in such an area. But the Secretary of State, in a one-sided statement, said that what had emerged as the consensus in November was the same thing as the old Burnham machinery. I doubt whether that was correct. That statement has not been challenged, but I do not believe that that is so.

The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon concentrated on the right things, so let me take up another of his points. Why is the Secretary of State doing this? The dispute has a certain amount of artificiality about it. The Secretary of State wants to determine the financial structure of the profession. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman should say that 140,000 posts of responsibility would be better than 80,000. In other spheres of policy, the Government are trying to draw comparisons with a commercial and industrial model—

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. I pulled up the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) and I must do the same with the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Weetch Mr Kenneth Weetch , Ipswich

Yes, Mr. Deputy Speaker; I shall not stray any further.

We have had today one of the biggest teachers' demonstrations and rallies. The teachers are amazed that the dispute still stands, when they are so willing to compromise on a settlement. The Government are trampling across the negotiating machinery for ulterior purposes. If the Bill is an attempt to lift the low morale in the schools at the moment, the Government will fail because the Bill is a recipe for continuing discontent.

Photo of Mr David Crouch Mr David Crouch , Canterbury

This is the first time that I have attempted to speak on this important measure. It is not a Bill that I like much, but I voted for it. That is the part that I have played so far, I do not like the Bill because I do not like having to take such measures. The right hon. Member for Halton (Mr. Oakes) spoke of 400,000 teachers being put at a disadvantage. I voted for the Bill that I do not like because several million children have been put at a disadvantage for the past three years, along with their parents. I cannot believe that any hon. Member is not concerned first about our children's education. We have for so long watched the negotiations and talks drag on and fail and fail that eventually it was necessary for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to take some measure.

I am speaking in response to a lobby of teachers from my constituency of Canterbury. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will know that I wrote to him some weeks ago when I received a similar lobby of 68 teachers from one school in my constituency of all political shades and all extremes and non-extremes of view expressing their anxiety about the Bill. I told them what I said again this afternoon, that the Bill is necessary.

I now realise what is really sticking in the teachers' gullet. It is not that the Secretary of State is taking powers to do their job for them to negotiate their pay. They are worried that this might become a permanent arrangement. They are worried that, when the Bill becomes an Act and goes on to the statute book this afternoon, it might stay there. In the telling phrase of those highly intelligent teachers, whom I respect, the Bill is like a red rag to a bull to the moderate teachers in my constituency. They further told me that it had unified the teachers' unions against the Bill, not because of any proposed pay settlement—that was not the problem — but because they felt that the Secretary of State appeared to be taking draconian measures.

I told the lobby that the Bill is only a temporary measure. I took the words that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister used this afternoon when she described the Bill, I think absolutely properly, as a temporary measure. I see it as an interim measure. That is what this important amendment from the other place is about. It would insert the word "interim" to describe the advisory committee and that is an important addition, because it could help to calm the present anxiety, even anger, of the teachers. They are angry about the Bill going on to the statute book and staying there; that is not the intention of my right hon. Friend and the Government and that was reinforced by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's statement this afternoon.

I strongly welcome and support the amendment. If it is understood in the mass lobby and in the common rooms throughout Britain that this is a temporary measure, the steam might be taken out of the present pressure on the Government. We should stress the temporary nature of the Bill and that is why I have sought to make this brief intervention.

I told the lobby this afternoon that it is not in the nature of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to act as a dictator. He is the last person whom I would ever expect to act in such a manner and the lobby agreed with me. I can tell the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) that the teachers did agree with me. It is not in the nature of teachers in my constituency to behave in a disruptive manner. Canterbury is not that sort of place. I see to it that it is not.

Photo of Mr David Crouch Mr David Crouch , Canterbury

I do not think that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, would allow me to digress on St. Thomas a Becket, but perhaps there will be another occasion when I can draw attention to the difficulties that he encountered with the monarch of that time.

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

Is the hon. Gentleman trying to talk out the Bill?

Photo of Mr David Crouch Mr David Crouch , Canterbury

No, I am not. I shall even take advice from the hon. Gentleman and not try to delay the House.

Let us proceed, because it is important that the Bill should be put on the statute book as a temporary measure. "Interim" is the key word. I stressed that this afternoon to teachers from my constituency. Unlike the hon. Member for Yeovil, I am not suspicious about my right hon. Friend's intentions. I do not think any hon. Member is suspicious of my right hon. Friend's intentions on this.

I said that I rose to speak in response to a lobby. It is not wrong to sit here waiting to be called to speak when one has been approached by a lobby. That is how Parliament works, and that is how it should be. That is what I am doing tonight. That is my response. The Bill is a response to the failure of the teachers' unions in the past three years to find a solution to their problems. That is why I welcome the Bill and the amendment.

6 pm

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

The hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch)—that place of murder—always makes a highly civilised speech and he knows that I have great respect for his approach. He gave a speech with the wrong conclusion. The tenor of his speech was to recognise that teachers, who are on holiday at the moment, saw fit to come here because they feel so deeply about the Bill. They came here at just a few days' notice to make their feelings clear. They did not say that they would take any form of action other than the democratic procedure.

The Secretary of State and his predecessor have achieved something that I in a lifetime in teaching have never managed—they have unified the profession. Never before have the National Association of Schoolmasters/ Union of Women Teachers, the National Union of Teachers, the Assistant Masters and Mistresses Associaton and the Secondary Heads Association come together on one issue. If that is not a lesson to the Secretary of State, I do not know what is, but I doubt whether he has learnt the lesson.

The Secretary of State has embarked on a venture which can only be catastrophic for all of us. I have great difficulty supporting the amendment. We could argue about the difference between interim and temporary. The amendment is a palliative. We do not know precisely what it means, but it serves notice on the right hon. Gentleman that there is a struggle of which he should take notice.

The struggle is about the deprivation, for the first time that any of us can remember, of a union's right to direct negotiations. That happens all over eastern Europe, the Soviet Union and China, and it has occurred under some very Right-wing regimes. It is salutary and terrible that it is about to happen here. The entire trade union movement is watching this slender debate, because we are effectively discussing the right of a union to exist.

Unions exist to negotiate freely and fully with employers. That is the result of 200 years of struggle. The Government are blithely reneging on promises that they have previously made. Teachers will struggle on. The Conservative party talks piously about children and how it does not like them being harmed, but only it is harming children. I hope that the Government heed better counsels, reach a proper agreement with teachers and withdraw the advisory committee, just as we shall withdraw the entire Bill when returned to government.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

It is nice to hear the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) talk about the children. That is more than can be said for the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown), who rightly spoke of good teachers. We have good teachers. I have heard my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State say that often. The hon. Member for Yeovil did my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister a serious injustice and failed to mention children at all. He must learn to take account of them.

Photo of Mr Paddy Ashdown Mr Paddy Ashdown , Yeovil

The hon. Gentleman is wrong. He should read my speech tomorrow.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

Children must come first. Education in schools is about them and their needs, aspirations and futures. It concerns what they can achieve for themselves and the country, how the teaching profession can assist them and how teachers can be rewarded properly.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) that we must stress the short-term nature of the amendment. That is crucial, as is the content of the advisory committee.

I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will take account of the vital need for the advisory committee to represent people who understand the teaching profession, how it works and the needs of schools. I hope that there will be teachers on it. The committee must comprise weighty people. The fact that the measure is short-term puts extra pressure on my right hon. Friend to ensure all parts of the profession are represented. It is crucial to make this point although it may be made again later. If the House forgets that this is not a permanent arrangement and falls into the trap of letting my right hon. Friend forget it, the profession will face unnecessary problems.

The Bill has become necessary as a result of the profession's disunity. Lord Glenamara, no less, a former Labour Secretary of State, told me in more than one conversation that the teachers, because of disunity between unions and within unions, had themselves scuppered Burnham. The great problem is what should succeed it.

The amendment concentrates the mind on the fact that the arrangement is interim, on the importance of the content of the advisory committee and on what should succeed Burnham. The unions should already have discussed the successor to Burnham, but they have been too busy fighting a rearguard action. If they do not get down to considering that serious matter, they will not be ready for the next stage after this interim arrangement has ended, as it surely will.

Photo of Mrs Elaine Kellett Mrs Elaine Kellett , Lancaster

I would not be prepared to support the amendment if it was a permanent arrangement. I am aware that many admirable people, such as doctors, nurses and members of the armed forces, have no direct say in their pay negotiations, but teachers always have and I hope that they will have such rights again in the near future.

Teachers have unfortunately been unable to agree on a package of pay and conditions.

Labour Members have said that there was consensus at Nottingham. That is simply not so. Only two out of the six unions represented there supported the ACAS agreement. In those circumstances, we need the breathing space that this Bill will provide to sort out the new negotiating machinery for the teaching profession. It is on that basis, that it is an interim arrangement, that I support the Bill tonight.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

My hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman) spoke with great spirit. I understand that the House does not want to divide on this amendment, but it would be a discourtesy if I did not very briefly acknowledge the points that were made by several hon. Members on both sides of the House. The points varied between those made by the hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) and by other Labour Members who said that they did not want a committee under any circumstances, to the points made by Conservative Members who said that they were prepared to support the Bill on the understanding—I mention particularly my hon. Friends the Members for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey), for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway), for Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman) and for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch), who all made exactly the same point that it was an interim proposal. I wish to emphasise how important that is in the Government's thinking.

I have had to act to bring in the measure because of the failure and the background of the negotiations with Burnham during the past few years, which my hon. Friends the Members for Rugby and Kenilworth and for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) mentioned. I had to do it. I do not seek dictatorial powers. I wish to emphasise that. I will search for a new structure because we need it. There is no doubt about that, but we must have a negotiating mechanism that works.

I listened to the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown).

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I shall not give way to him now because I gave way to him earlier.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

I have just said that I will not give way. The hon. Member for Yeovil can ask me his question later in the evening. I listened carefully to his views and I also read the debates containing the arguments that the Liberals and the alliance put forward in the House of Lords. They moved from an independent review body in Committee to a different set of proposals on Report—

Photo of Mr Paddy Ashdown Mr Paddy Ashdown , Yeovil

That is simply nonsense. I wish to ask the Minister a single question. Would he consign the civil rights of any one of his constituents to a Secretary of State for Education and Science who came from the Labour party, and who was invested with the powers to which he has helped himself in this Bill? Yes or no?

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

The hon. Gentleman has not read the Bill. The Bill is not a question of consigning civil rights. If the hon. Gentleman read the Bill, he would understand that the rights of trade unions are not changed in any way, shape or form. He does not know the Bill any more than he understands the proposals put forward by the Labour party. The hon. Gentleman was putting forward proposals in which he tried to combine collective bargaining with an independent review body. The proposals that have been put forward by the alliance in this matter simply will not work.

The reason why we need an interim advisory committee—I emphasise to Conservative Members that this is an interim measure — is confirmed very much by Lord Houghton, whose words I paraphrase. He said that it seemed to him that finding a suitable form of machinery would probably take a little longer than 1988 because there were two issues to be solved before satisfactory negotiating machinery could be devised. First, there was the role of the Secretary of State—he recognised that—and secondly, there had to be a better order in the arrangements between the unions themselves. The latter part of that would be very difficult indeed, said Lord Houghton.

When that emerges, we can move to a more permanent structure involving negotiating.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendment: No. 2 in page 1, line 20, at end insert ( ) The members of the Committee shall include persons having relevant knowledge of or experience in education.

Read a Second time.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish 6:15 pm, 26th February 1987

I beg to move, as an amendment to the Lords amendment, at end add 'and who have served on the Burnham Committee'.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

With this it will be convenient also to take, amendment (b) to the Lords amendment, in line 3, at end add 'and shall include members or employees of organisations representing school teachers, associations of local education authorities, bodies representing the interests of governors of voluntary schools and organisations representing the interests of parents.'.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish

The procedure that we have had to go through this evening is not especially satisfactory. It might have been far better had we had the opportunity to vote, as we used to have, on whether we should consider Lords amendments, rather than having to weave our remarks around the amendments today. I am conscious of the fact that it would be convenient for the House to try to vote at about 6.30 this evening. Therefore, I will speak briefly to this amendment and try to ensure that Labour Members especially get a chance to express their concern about the legislation.

The Minister has again given us his half-performance, all front and Hollywood set and Mr. Smiles, but his performance had no depth. He has not told us what he intends to do. It has now been four months since the Government announced this legislation. That is four months in which most Secretaries of State could have got on and got negotiations going. However, all that the Secretary of State has done is to tell us that, even at this stage, he is not sure whether the new advisory committee will take on the character of a negotiating body. He told us that he does not know what he will do for the long term. He certainly cannot give us any evidence that he is trying to bring harmony back into our schools.

The right hon. Gentleman is left with a position where he is creating bitterness and anger in most of our secondary schools and creating a great deal of apathy in the primary sector. He is left with a position where it will be difficult to persuade teachers to go back to giving their enthusiastic best, which is what we need for all our children.

The Secretary of State must get back to a negotiating position, and to do that he must get back some of the expertise of the Burnham committee. He may feel that he can impose a settlement, but he must remember that the negotiations on teachers' pay are extremely detailed and complex, and although we may all have had criticisms of the Burnham committee, it has, on the whole in the past, been able to sort out the nitty-gritty. The purpose of our amendment is to stress to the Government that they must call on that expertise in this interim period.

The House now wants the opportunity to vote for this amendment and to express its disgust at the way in which the Government have treated the negotiations. The Government have taken no steps to restore good will, and to create the partnership tha.t we so badly need between teachers and parents, so that children will get back to a first-class education system. That is what we all need.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

I understand that the House wants to come to a fairly quick decision on this matter. Therefore, I will not seek to detain it with a long speech.

On Second Reading in another place, a variety of views were expressed about whether members of the interim advisory committee should be independent or whether they should be representatives of particular groups. Lord McIntosh, who repeated the views of the main Opposition in Committee, was among those who said that they would like the advisory committee to have a representational membership. That was a minority view in the other place as a variety of speakers referred to the importance of the independence of the advisory committee. The Government believe that it is essential that the interim advisory committee should be an independent and not a representational body.

I assure the House that I shall appoint independent-minded members to the interim advisory committee as I have done with bodies such as the University Grants Committee, which performs a controversial task without evidence of political bias. I will take that responsibility seriously and I shall consider any suggestions about the membership that are put to me.

It would not be right to appoint nominees or representatives of groups with direct interest in the committee's recommendations. In particular, a system of nominated members might lead to the use of mandate and recall, quite contrary to the principle of an independent committee.

Although we do not accept that members of the interim advisory committee should be appointed in a representational role, we fully recognise that some of its members will need to have relevant knowledge or experience of education. Hence our willingness to see an additional subsection in the Bill stating: The members of the Committee shall include persons having relevant knowledge of or experience in education".

I have answered the points made, but I wish to emphasise that the members who will be appointed to the committee will be of an independent turn of mind and not representational.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

Will my right hon. Friend consider appointing those who have been in the teaching profession, because they know how it operates?

Photo of Mr Paddy Ashdown Mr Paddy Ashdown , Yeovil

In normal circumstances, I should be rising to move the amendment that stands in my name and those of my hon. Friends. However, I understand that hon. Members have other pressing engagements and that there are good reasons for seeking to draw the discussions on this amendment to a close by 6.30. If the matter is pressed to a Division, I shall be happy to vote in favour of the amendment that was moved by the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett).

At this point I wish only to draw the attention of the Secretary of State for Education and Science to the points that are contained in our amendment, because he did not address them in his speech. The purpose of the amendment is to have it on record that the voice of teachers, parents, local education authorities and governors of voluntary schools shall be heard. That is particularly important in the case of two special groups. I refer first to the teachers.

The Secretary of State could say, as he has just said to the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway), that teachers might be included and that he will consider the matter. However, the concern of teachers is that they may not be included. Indeed, they suspect that, when the advisory committee is set up, the voice of teachers will not be heard, for reasons that have already been rehearsed in sufficient detail.

Photo of Mr Paddy Ashdown Mr Paddy Ashdown , Yeovil

No, the hon. Gentleman has intervened many times during our discussions today and twice in my previous speech. In the interests of time, therefore, I shall not give way to him.

In view of the way in which teachers' rights have been diminished by the Bill, teachers are rightly suspicious that their voice will not be heard on the advisory committee. If the Secretary of State genuinely intends teachers' representatives to be included on the advisory committee, he would give very little away by saying so now. Therefore, I invite him to say that teachers will be included, not that they may be included, on the advisory committee.

The Secretary of State has to recognise that for various reasons, which we do not have to rehearse now, the trust of teachers has been shattered by the actions of this Government and the Secretary of State. They are deeply suspicious about the Bill. If the Secretary of State genuinely hopes that there will be peace in the schools, he ought to reassure teachers by saying now that the voice of teachers, through their representatives, will be heard on the advisory committee.

If he refuses to say so clearly and unequivocally, we must assume that his intention is not to include teachers' representatives on the advisory committee and that instead he intends to ensure that it is constructed in such a way as to ensure that the voice of teachers is not adequately heard. Therefore, I ask the Secretary of State to say that teachers' representatives shall be included, not just that they may be included on the advisory committee.

Secondly, I find it strange that parents are mentioned nowhere in the Bill. We have heard so much about the rights of parents and about the importance of parental power, but parents are not specifically referred to. If the Secretary of State believes that parents should have powers, why should they not also be allowed to have a voice on the advisory committee?

I ask the Secretary of State to say clearly and unequivocally that those two groups, together with the local education authorities and the representatives of the voluntary schools, will have sufficient representatives on the advisory committee to ensure that their voice will be heard. That is not too much to ask, and in the case of teachers it is a minor concession that would do much to allay their fears.

Question put, That the amendment to the Lords amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 155, Noes 220.

Division No. 103][6.24 pm
AYES
Abse, LeoBrown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)
Adams, Allen (Paisley N)Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)
Anderson, DonaldBrown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)
Archer, Rt Hon PeterBrown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)
Ashdown, PaddyBruce, Malcolm
Ashley, Rt Hon JackBuchan, Norman
Ashton, JoeCaborn, Richard
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)Callaghan, Rt Hon J.
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd &M)
Barron, KevinCampbell-Savours, Dale
Beckett, Mrs MargaretCanavan, Dennis
Beith, A. J.Carter-Jones, Lewis
Bell, StuartClark, Dr David (S Shields)
Benn, Rt Hon TonyClay, Robert
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)Clelland, David Gordon
Bidwell, SydneyClwyd, Mrs Ann
Blair, AnthonyCohen, Harry
Boothroyd, Miss BettyColeman, Donald
Boyes, RolandConlan, Bernard
Cook, Frank (Stockton North)Marek, Dr John
Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Corbett, RobinMason, Rt Hon Roy
Crowther, StanMaynard, Miss Joan
Cunliffe, LawrenceMeacher, Michael
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)Meadowcroft, Michael
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'I)Michie, William
Deakins, EricMikardo, Ian
Dewar, DonaldMilian, Rt Hon Bruce
Dormand, JackMiller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Douglas, DickMitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby
Duffy, A. E. P.Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Eadie, AlexNellist, David
Eastham, KenOakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Fatchett, DerekO'Brien, William
Faulds, AndrewO'Neill, Martin
Field, Frank (Birkenhead)Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
Fisher, MarkPark, George
Flannery, MartinPatchett, Terry
Forrester, JohnPavitt, Laurie
Foster, DerekPendry, Tom
Foulkes, GeorgePike, Peter
Freeson, Rt Hon ReginaldPowell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Garrett, W. E.Radice, Giles
George, BruceRandall, Stuart
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr JohnRedmond, Martin
Godman, Dr NormanRees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)
Hamilton, James (M'well N)Richardson, Ms Jo
Hamilton, W. W. (Fife Central)Robertson, George
Hardy, PeterRooker, J. W.
Harrison, Rt Hon WalterRoss, Ernest (Dundee W)
Hattersley, Rt Hon RoyRoss, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Healey, Rt Hon DenisRowlands, Ted
Heffer, Eric S.Sedgemore, Brian
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Home Robertson, JohnShields, Mrs Elizabeth
Howarth, George (Knowsley, N)Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Hoyle, DouglasSkinner, Dennis
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'ds E)
Hughes, Roy (Newport East)Soley, Clive
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)Spearing, Nigel
Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd)Stott, Roger
John, BrynmorThomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Johnston, Sir RussellThomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldThompson, J. (Wansbeck)
Kirkwood, ArchyThorne, Stan (Preston)
Lambie, DavidTinn, James
Lamond, JamesTorney, Tom
Leadbitter, TedWallace, James
Lewis, Terence (Worsley)Wareing, Robert
Litherland, RobertWeetch, Ken
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)Welsh, Michael
Lofthouse, GeoffreyWilliams, Rt Hon A.
Loyden, EdwardWrigglesworth, Ian
McCartney, HughYoung, David (Bolton SE)
McDonald, Dr Oonagh
McKay, Allen (Penistone)Tellers for the Ayes:
MacKenzie, Rt Hon GregorMr. John McWilliam and
Madden, MaxMr. Frank Haynes.
NOES
Adley, RobertBuck, Sir Antony
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelBurt, Alistair
Amery, Rt Hon JulianCarlisle, John (Luton N)
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H.Cash, William
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y)Chapman, Sydney
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Colvin, Michael
Benyon, WilliamCoombs, Simon
Best, KeithCope, John
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnCormack, Patrick
Biggs-Davison, Sir JohnCranborne, Viscount
Boscawen. Hon RobertCrouch, David
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Dorrell, Stephen
Bright, GrahamDunn, Robert
Browne, JohnDurant, Tony
Bruinvels, PeterDykes, Hugh
Bryan, Sir PaulEyre, Sir Reginald
Fallon, MichaelMacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)
Farr, Sir JohnMaclean, David John
Favell, AnthonyMcNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)
Fenner, Dame PeggyMcNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)
Fletcher, Sir AlexanderMadel, David
Fookes, Miss JanetMalone, Gerald
Forman, NigelMaples, John
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)Marlow, Antony
Forth, EricMates, Michael
Fox, Sir MarcusMather, Sir Carol
Franks, CecilMaude, Hon Francis
Fraser, Peter (Angus East)Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Freeman, RogerMerchant, Piers
Fry, PeterMeyer, Sir Anthony
Gale, RogerMills, lain (Meriden)
Galley, RoyMills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
Gardiner, George (Reigate)Miscampbell, Norman
Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)Moate, Roger
Garel-Jones, TristanMoore, Rt Hon John
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir IanMorrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Glyn, Dr AlanMurphy, Christopher
Goodhart, Sir PhilipNeale, Gerrard
Gorst, JohnNelson, Anthony
Gow, IanNeubert, Michael
Grant, Sir AnthonyNicholls, Patrick
Greenway, HarryOnslow, Cranley
Gregory, ConalOppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.
Griffiths, Sir EldonOttaway, Richard
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)Page, Sir John (Harrow W)
Ground, PatrickPage, Richard (Herts SW)
Hampson, Dr KeithPatten, Christopher (Bath)
Hanley, JeremyPawsey, James
Hannam, JohnPeacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Hargreaves, KennethPortillo, Michael
Harvey, RobertPowell, William (Corby)
Haselhurst, AlanPowley, John
Hawkins, C. (High Peak)Price, Sir David
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir BarneyProctor, K. Harvey
Heathcoat-Amory, DavidRaffan, Keith
Henderson, BarryRaison, Rt Hon Timothy
Hickmet, RichardRathbone, Tim
Hicks, RobertRhodes James, Robert
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Hill, JamesRidley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Hind, KennethRidsdale, Sir Julian
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)Roe, Mrs Marion
Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)Rossi, Sir Hugh
Holt, RichardRost, Peter
Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)Ryder, Richard
Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)Sackville, Hon Thomas
Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N)Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Hubbard-Miles, PeterSayeed, Jonathan
Hunt, David (Wirral W)Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Hunter, AndrewShelton, William (Streatham)
Jenkin, Rt Hon PatrickShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Johnson Smith, Sir GeoffreyShepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)Silvester, Fred
Jones, Robert (Herts W)Sims, Roger
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir KeithSmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs ElaineSoames, Hon Nicholas
King, Roger (B'ham N'field)Speed, Keith
King, Rt Hon TomSpeller, Tony
Knight, Greg (Derby N)Spencer, Derek
Knowles, MichaelSpicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Knox, DavidStanbrook, Ivor
Lamont, Rt Hon NormanSteen, Anthony
Latham, MichaelStern, Michael
Lawrence, IvanStevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Lester, JimStewart, Ian (Hertf'dshire N)
Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Lightbown, DavidSumberg, David
LiIley, PeterTaylor, John (Solihull)
Lord, MichaelTaylor, Teddy (S'end E,
McCrindle, RobertTemple-Morris, Peter
McCurley, Mrs AnnaTerlezki, Stefan
Macfarlane, NeilThomas, Rt Hon Peter
MacGregor, Rt Hon JohnThompson, Donald (Calder V)
Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Thornton, MalcolmWells, Sir John (Maidstone)
Thurnham, PeterWheeler, John
Townend, John (Bridlington)Whitney, Raymond
Trippier, DavidWiggin, Jerry
van Straubenzee, Sir W.Winterton, Nicholas
Waddington, Rt Hon DavidWolfson, Mark
Wakeham, Rt Hon JohnWood, Timothy
Walker, Bill (T'side N)Woodcock, Michael
Wall, Sir PatrickYeo, Tim
Waller, GaryYoung, Sir George (Acton)
Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Warren, KennethTellers for the Noes:
Watson, JohnMr. Peter Lloyd and
Watts, JohnMr. Mark Lennox-Boyd.

Question accordingly negatived.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendment: No. 3 in page 2, line 4, leave out from "shall" to "a" in line 10 and insert give notice of the matter and of any relevant direction—

  1. (a) to such associations of local education authorities as appear to them to be concerned and to any local education authority with whom consultation appears to them to be desirable,
  2. (b) to such bodies representing the interests of governors of voluntary schools as appear to them to be concerned, and
  3. (c) to such organisations representing school teachers as appear to them to be concerned,
and shall afford them".

Photo of Mr Bob Dunn Mr Bob Dunn , Dartford

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

With this we shall discuss Lords amendments Nos. 5 and 9.

Photo of Mr Bob Dunn Mr Bob Dunn , Dartford

This is a series of amendments giving effect to a commitment given by my noble Friend Baroness Hooper on Second Reading that the position of governors of voluntary schools should be reflected on the face of the Bill. That commitment was welcomed by the Bishop of London and there was no opposition to the amendments.

The governors of voluntary aided schools employ 20 per cent. of school teachers. Moreover, they have a general responsibility for the successful running of voluntary schools. Those schools are a very important part of our education service.

The first of the amendments provides that the advisory committee shall give notice of matters referred to it to bodies representing the interests of the governors of voluntary schools and shall afford them a reasonable opportunity for submitting evidence and representations.

The second applies the principle that organisations representing the governors of voluntary schools should be consulted along with organisations representing local education authorities and teacher unions by the Secretary of State after receiving a report of the advisory committee.

The third applies the same principle to the consultation by the Secretary of State before making an order coming into force in the period up to 1 October 1987.

This series of amendments ensures a proper role for an important part of our school system. Therefore, I am happy to bring forward these amendments and I urge the House to agree to them.

Amendment agreed to.

Lords amendment: No. 4, in page 2, line 14, at end insert— ( ) The Secretary of State shall, upon receiving a report from the Committee, arrange for it to be published.

Photo of Mr Bob Dunn Mr Bob Dunn , Dartford

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

With this we shall discuss amendment (a).

Photo of Mr Paddy Ashdown Mr Paddy Ashdown , Yeovil

I shall be brief in speaking to the amendment because it is brief, and although its scope is not great, it is important. The Lords have proposed to us an amendment requiring the report of the advisory committee to be published. We have merely tabled an amendment, the aim and purpose of which is to ensure that that is done within a set and specified time. Our amendment suggests that the report should be published within six weeks. However, if the Minister is prepared to discuss the matter and advise us whether he favours a broader or narrower approach with a different number of weeks or a different specified time, provided that it is reasonable, we shall be happy to accept it. We might be satisfied if the hon. Gentleman can go further and give an undertaking that the report will be published quickly.

The defence of the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary of State against the amendment may well turn on clause 3 under which the advisory committee reports to the Secretary of State "on any matter" and the Secretary of State in due course conducts "consultation". The Under-Secretary of State may well argue that that consultation cannot be conducted except on the basis of a report being published. He may give an undertaking that such a report shall be published within a certain period, but that still leaves a loophole which worries us.

Clause 3(1)(a) states that the Secretary of State shall consult to the extent that it appears to him to be "desirable". We are concerned about what will happen unless the report is fully published within a reasonable time scale. It is perfectly possible for the Secretary of State to publish only a small part of the report and to consult in line with paragraph (a), but we ask for a time limit to be set.

All hon. Members know that there are many occasions on which serious and important reports which have been produced by various bodies for the Government reach conclusions that are unacceptable or uncomfortable to the Government. The Government merely use the device of sitting on the reports, more or less in perpetuity, so that they are lost from sight. Numerous parliamentary questions then ask when the report will be published, but all produce nothing.

The Secretary of State can use that device when the advisory committee produces its report. He can simply ignore it and not bring it into the public domain. If the Secretary of State were to say to us, as no doubt he would if he were sitting in his place, "I would never do such a thing" — [Interruption.] I see the Under-Secretary of State shake his head. Is he saying that it is not true to say that the Secretary of State would say such a thing? I guess that he is not. The Secretary of State might assure the House that he would never do such a thing, so I draw his attention to a column in Hansard which fell to my eye the other day, when the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Raynsford) asked the then Secretary of State for the Environment when he intended to publish the 1983 survey of improvement grants referred to in the Green Paper 'Home Improvement"'. — [Official Report, 1 December 1986, Vol. 106, c. 518.] That survey was reported on in 1983, three years ago, and has not to this day been published. The Minister who is now responsible for that matter has said that a final report will be published as soon as possible. That was a report which was delivered to the present Secretary of State for Education and Science when he was Secretary of State for the Environment. If the right hon. Gentleman can delay the publication of that report for three years, we can be worried about him delaying publication of any report of the advisory committee if the committee—independent though it is not — were to say something that the Government found unwelcome.

We are asking for an assurance. I ask the Under-Secretary of State at least to say that he envisages these reports being published in full — not partially — and without delay. If the hon. Gentleman can be as specific as possible, we shall consider whether to push the amendment to a vote.

Photo of Mr Bob Dunn Mr Bob Dunn , Dartford

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) for his comments. He knows full well, having deliberated with us in a different capacity than that which he now has, that we have always given an assurance that there will be no undue delay in the publication of the report. Much will clearly depend on the urgency of the report and the length of time taken for it to be printed and published. We would certainly normally expect publication to be within six weeks.

There is an air of déjà vu about this debate. The hon. Members for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) and for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) will recollect the debate in Committee on the 1980 Act, on what became section 12, and our difficulty in trying to fit a period of consultation, deliberation, exercise and evaluation within a time frame that had never been printed and supported by law. We believe that the assurances that we shall give and our commitment to them should meet the concerns of the hon. Member for Yeovil.

My hon. Friends gave a clear commitment in the debates on Second Reading and in Committee that all reports from the interim advisory committee on matters referred to it by the Secretary of State would be published. Therefore, I hope that the House will agree with the Lords amendment and I ask the hon. Member for Yeovil to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Mr Paddy Ashdown Mr Paddy Ashdown , Yeovil 6:45 pm, 26th February 1987

In the light of the Minister's assurances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendment No. 5 agreed to.