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Burnham Committee

Volume 649: debated on Thursday 16 November 1961

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asked the Minister of Education if he is aware that his refusal to accept the recent Burnham Committee award in full is detrimental to the negotiating machinery for the teaching profession which has been the accepted method of negotiating teachers' salaries for 42 years; and what steps he proposes to take to remedy this matter or to set up an alternative method of negotiations acceptable to the teaching profession.


asked the Minister of Education what proposals he has for maintaining the independent authority of the Burnham Committee.

I would refer the hon. Members to what I said in the House in the debate on the Address on 3rd November.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is a month since I put down the Question and that things have changed since then? Is he aware that the drastic action that he took against this delicate negotiating machine, the Burnham Committee, has created very bad feeling and amazement in the minds of the teaching profession? Is he aware that it has caused more friction in our education system than anything done hitherto? Is he also aware that confidence in the machine has been impaired? What steps is he taking now to restore that confidence, or is he going to build up another negotiating machine for the teaching profession?

I am now engaged in friendly discussions with both sides of the Burnham Committee, and I think the hon. Gentleman would be well advised to allow me to get on with the talks.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the manner in which he cut the agreed award and then threatened the teaching profession with legislation if it did not accede to his cut has undermined the profession's confidence in him? May we take it from his reply that he will now begin sensible negotiations and will not treat the profession to further blackmail and bludgeoning?

It can hardly be called "threatening the profession" when I told it that if I did not bring in the Bill it could not have the £42 million.

In view of the enormous harm done in the profession, will the right hon. Gentleman give us an assurance that there will be further and satisfactory consultations with the parties to the Burnham Committee and that he will not introduce any legislation before he has made a statement to the House about the result of those consultations?

I can give the first assurance that the hon. Gentleman asks for. I should say that the second will probably follow, but we must see how we get along.