To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what plans he has to establish a new negotiating body for teachers' pay.
I visited a Welsh-language school only a fortnight ago and there was no low morale there. I was impressed with the calibre of its teaching. All its teachers spoke Welsh and the language of instruction was Welsh. They did not tell me that there was any shortage of Welsh teachers in that part of Wales.
The Secretary of State will know that the Select Committee on Education, Arts and Science—not because it wants to but because it has to—is preparing a report on the growing shortage of teachers generally, not merely in the Welsh language. Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the removal of the teaching profession's free negotiating rights contributed to the profession's low morale? Yet only now does he tell us that he will discuss it with the employers. Does he realise that the free trade unionism in a country such as Britain demands that negotiating rights be restored forthwith, which will in turn bring more teachers into the profession?
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman remembers, but I had a drink with him on the Terrace last night along with the new general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, Mr. Doug McAvoy. I told Mr. McAvoy that this month we would meet him and other union leaders to try to find a new machinery. There has not been much agreement, but I shall be putting proposals, as no doubt will he, and I hope that a way forward can be found.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that we do not need a national negotiating body but rather regional pay, which will end the unfair treatment of many teachers in the south-east, particularly those who are beyond the reach of London weighting and the like? Should we not have regional pay and the regional funding to go with it?
My hon. Friend makes an important point which I shall discuss with the unions. Many local education authorities have already introduced incentives or inducements of one sort or another to help to recruit teachers, particularly in the south-east and in London. That recognises the regional and local differences in pay levels—which, as I said, is something that I shall discuss with the unions.
Given the enormous variations in demand and supply in the country and the move away from national pay negotiations throughout the economy, is there not a strong argument for saying that national wage negotiations are a failed anachronism which should be replaced by school-based bargaining, founded on local knowledge of the demand for, and availability of, teachers?
There is some advantage in having a national allowances structure—an important change which we secured in 1987—whereby there is a main professional grade and five allowances over it. I do not want any future machinery to endanger that arrangement, as it is seen as the way forward for the profession. As I said when replying to the previous question, the need for a new negotiating body is raised again and again, and I am clear that whatever may emerge, any machinery must have considerable flexibility to allow for variations as between local education authorities, and as between different parts of the country.
When the Secretary of State enters into negotiations on the new pay machinery, will he acknowledge that taking away from teachers the right to bargain had a greater impact on their morale than any other decision made by the Government and led to its collapse? Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake not to drag out those negotiations, and will he confirm that next year's pay settlement will come not from the interim advisory committee but will be settled across the negotiating table, between the employers and the teachers' representatives?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, I shall discuss all those matters with the unions and the employers in the next two or three weeks. I reject completely any suggestion that the teaching profession is suffering from low morale, on the evidence that each year 25,000 people enter the profession.
About the same number. If 25,000 people annually believe that teaching is an interesting and valuable profession, morale within it cannot be low. Since March 1986, teachers have enjoyed a 40 per cent. increase in pay, which is a major adjustment upwards. Many head teachers, for example, received a £2,000 per annum increase this year. That implies that the profession is better rewarded under this Government than it ever was under Labour.
When considering whether there should be regional negotiations, perhaps my right hon. Friend will take on board the remarks of the Nalgo official who has just negotiated a deal for his members with Northumbrian Water which he says is amicable, excellent and bodes well for the future?
That is very interesting, and I shall draw my hon. Friend's remarks to the attention of the trade union leaders whom I meet during the next few weeks. I am sure that the way forward for teachers' pay is a large number of incentive allowances to reward good teaching in the classroom and those teachers who give of their best—which is the great proportion of them—coupled with the flexibility that not only my hon. Friend the Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt) but other of my hon. Friends want to see.