Sir Keith Joseph: I think that I should revise my answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst) because the hon. Lady clearly does not know the circumstances. The employer's offer, with the help of the extra money made conditionally available by the Government, would raise the pay of those teachers to £10,500—a £2,000 increase.
Sir Keith Joseph: Allow me to give a one word and wholly unqualified answer. Yes.
Sir Keith Joseph: I do not underestimate the damage that is being done by the teachers and by the teachers' unions, but if the Goverment were to enable peace to be bought with no reforms the disruption would start again relatively soon and better schools would not be available for all children.
Sir Keith Joseph: I do not employ the teachers in the way that the National Coal Board employs the miners. I would have liked to be able to write to every teacher, but I neither employ them nor do I know all their names and addresses. I meet them on as many occasions as possible to ensure that I know their point of view and that they know mine. I am afraid that I cannot do what my hon. Friend suggests.
Sir Keith Joseph: The hon. Gentleman is forgetting the very large amount of conditional additional money that the Government have put on offer, and which the teachers unions, led by the NUT, have refused even to consider.
Sir Keith Joseph: How can I answer other than yes?
Sir Keith Joseph: The hon. Gentleman has joined the large number of those who are ignoring what the Government have already offered. The hon. Gentleman's hon. Friend, the hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice), rightly suggested that teachers should accept the offer and stop the disruption.
Sir Keith Joseph: If that be true, it is indeed disgraceful.
Sir Keith Joseph: But the Government and I have taken considerable action and have offered additional conditional money. It is the teachers' unions that have refused even to discuss it.
Sir Keith Joseph: Yes.
Sir Keith Joseph: I ask my hon. Friend to give me evidence of his suggestion, and in the light of that I will again consider advertising. However, I cannot commit myself because I should have liked to act with the agreement of the employers.
Sir Keith Joseph: It is because the Government concede that we need to recruit, retain and motivate teachers of the right quality and that a different pay structure is needed, that we put at the employers' disposal, with conditions, a substantial fund of additional money.
Sir Keith Joseph: I ask my hon. Friend to let me have evidence of what he said.
Sir Keith Joseph: The consultation process on my provisional decision to change the structure of the teachers' panel ends at the end of this month. The Government will then arrive quickly at a decision.
Sir Keith Joseph: I understood that that arrangement was made with your agreement, Mr. Speaker.
Sir Keith Joseph: I very much regret that this harmful and unnecessary dispute continues. The employers have indicated a willingness to increase what is on offer, if the unions are prepared to show flexibility. For my part, I have offered additional Government resources next year for teachers' pay and to help meet the cost of removing midday supervision from teachers' standard duties provided there is...
Sir Keith Joseph: Exactly the same purposes as were being served by the Top Salaries Review Body, most of whose recommendations the Government have accepted, are being served by the additional taxpayers' money which I, on behalf of the Government, have been offering for over a year to transform the teachers' career and promotion structure, if they will only negotiate.
Sir Keith Joseph: I can only repeat what I have said many times, that many teachers do excellent work, often in difficult conditions. As for morale, I wish I could be sure that all teachers realise that the Government have been offering for a year additional taxpayers' money in order to transform promotion and career prospects for teachers.
Sir Keith Joseph: I agree with my hon. Friend. I have made it plain for over a year that the Government are prepared to find additional money from the taxpayer in order to transform the promotion prospects of teachers. I hope that the teachers' representatives and the employers will soon get down to negotiating such a package, so that this opportunity to improve the schooling of our children is not lost for...
Sir Keith Joseph: I respect the hon. Gentleman, but the first part of his question is based on a complete misconception. The hon. Gentleman is wholly remote from the truth in the suggestion contained in the first part of his question. As to the second part of his question, I wish that he and his colleagues in the Opposition parties would address their minds to the Government's overwhelming priority, which is...