Sir Keith Joseph: That is the subject of the next question. I must warn my hon. Friend that the ACAS procedure has reached only its first stage. I welcome the progress that has been made, but there is still a great deal of progress to be made, even if the parties ratify the settlement.
Sir Keith Joseph: Recently I answered a question and set out the exact dates and details. In general, I have made myself available, subject to overriding duties, whenever representatives of teachers' unions have asked to see me.
Sir Keith Joseph: In response to requests from the local authority associations, I have made it clear that I am prepared to consider proposals for changes in the present arrangements, but before coming to a firm view I would want to be satisfied that any new arrangements would offer the prospect of being a real improvement on the existing ones.
Sir Keith Joseph: I well understand that, and I would be willing to go to my colleagues and ask for legislative time, but first I would have to be satisfied that the proposed alternative arrangements would improve the position. Scotland has arrangements that are roughly similar to what many people wish existed in place of Burnham, but the outcome in Scotland is not noticeably better than that in England and Wales.
Sir Keith Joseph: With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement on the teachers' dispute, which has caused disruption of children's education for the past year. The House will be aware that, with assistance from ACAS, a provisional agreement has been reached between management and teachers on a settlement for 1985, an end to disruption, and assisted negotiations across pay and other...
Sir Keith Joseph: The Government have long taken the view—a view that we have every reason to confirm —that teachers deserve to have more pay in order that people of the right quality shall be recruited, retained and motivated. The Government have accepted that. We also believe that it would not be right for additional money to be given to teachers from the taxpayer without, at the same time, the teachers...
Sir Keith Joseph: I accept what my hon. Friend said. It is important that teachers in unions should well understand what is on offer and that the Government have already set aside a substantial sum of money to be released on condition that the bargain to which I have referred is made. The Assistant Masters and Mistresses Association has already called off the disruption. I welcome that, as I am sure the House...
Sir Keith Joseph: If we had not been firm and said that extra pay for teachers from the taxpayer would be forthcoming only if, in return, they accepted their duties, a new pay structure and extra promotions, we would not by now even have a discussion of that bargain on the agenda.
Sir Keith Joseph: I agree with my hon. Friend and pay tribute to all those teachers, in particular head teachers, who have carried on without disruption. I am ready to support the idea of a general teachers' council, if that is the wish of the majority of teachers, but I should need first to be convinced that it would operate on behalf of the children as well as taking an interest in teachers.
Sir Keith Joseph: The answer to the hon. Gentleman is yes, except that the Government are now separately financing midday supervision, as he and the House are aware, and we are asking that that appraisal be considered as part of the duties.
Sir Keith Joseph: I welcome what I know is the correct attitude of a number of unions. Burnham is needed under the law to validate and implement any agreement made under the ACAS umbrella.
Sir Keith Joseph: I agree with the hon. Gentleman's first proposition, but I do not think that the blame for the teacher unions' reluctance to discuss pay and what pay is for falls upon the Government.
Sir Keith Joseph: Yes, Sir. It is to avoid a repetition of the experience of the past three years that the Government attach such importance to the acceptance by the teacher unions of their duties in return for additional pay and a revised pay structure.
Sir Keith Joseph: Such an inaccurate quotation is beneath the hon. Gentleman's normal standing. I never said any such thing. I repeated what the local education authorities have said the whole time, that to honour the agreement that they have now made would strain their resources a great deal.
Sir Keith Joseph: I agree with much that my hon. Friend said. To confirm the attitude that I am seeking to express, I should like to quote one sentence from a letter that I wrote to the chairman of the employers' panel and released to the press: the Government is only too eager to be able to justify such extra spending on teachers' pay and better rewards for effective teaching, in return for an acceptable...
Sir Keith Joseph: It is on the same perception of the need to recruit, retain and motivate people of the right quality that the Government agreed with the recommendations of the Top Salaries Review Body and they have made available to teachers an extra £1·25 billion in return for them doing their duties.
Sir Keith Joseph: I agree very much.
Sir Keith Joseph: I very much hope that the NUT executive and its members will change their attitude.
Sir Keith Joseph: It might have been possible to provide extra money from the taxpayer had there been a with-strings agreement for 1985–86 instead of a no-strings agreement. That prospect was wrecked when the NUT walked out of the negotiations in December 1984.
Sir Keith Joseph: I agree about the importance of restructuring. The Government had provided, on condition, the extra money which would have enabled substantial restructuring and no fewer than 74,000 extra promotions, had the offer put forward by the employers in September last year, on the basis of the Government's extra money from the taxpayer, been accepted and not rejected.