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Scottish Teachers (Pay And Conditions Of Service)

Volume 983: debated on Wednesday 23 April 1980

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I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,

" the failure of the Clegg Commission to produce a satisfactory wages settlement for Scottish teachers and the resultant disruption in Scottish schools "
Not only is it important to get a fairer deal for the teachers, who are an important section of the community; what is perhaps even more important is that the matter affects the educational opportunity of thousands of children, which is a matter of great concern to their parents.

I need not dwell on the importance of the matter to you, Mr. Speaker, because, like me, you spent part of your working life in education before coming to the House.

However, I should like to say a few words about the urgency of the situation. About 58,000 Scottish teachers have been waiting patiently for about a year for a fair settlement of their wages claim. On Monday of last week, the Clegg Commission at last came out with recommendations for increases of between 17 per cent. and 25 per cent. for teachers in England and Wales, but it failed lamentably to come out with a similar recommendation for teachers in Scotland and virtually told Scottish teachers that they would have to start their own comparability study from scratch.

There was understandable anger and resentment at such shabby treatment from a commission chaired by a fellow educationist, and perhaps it is not surprising that some teachers resorted to industrial action, even though the leadership of the teachers' union advised against that at this stage.

We can now see the results of the failure of the Clegg Commission. Over the past few weeks, thousands of schoolchildren in Scotland have been sent home from school or told not to come. There is the possibility of further disruption, and even threats to the important Scottish certificate of Education examinations which are due to begin on Friday and which are of vital importance to the future of many young people.

On Monday of this week, the Scottish teachers' salaries committee failed to reach an amicable settlement, but reports suggest that it came within £1½ million of a settlement. If the Government will express support in principle for the extra public expenditure involved, some of the heat could be taken out of the situation and a solution arrived at more speedily.

I have tried several times to raise the matter on the Floor of the House. I told the Leader of the House to try to get the Secretary of State for Scotland to make a statement about the matter as soon as possible. As usual, the Secretary of State is conspicuous by his absence and his silence, and that is why I am appealing to you, Mr. Speaker, to ensure that this matter gets the parliamentary attention that it deserves by your allowing it to be the subject of an emergency debate.

The hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) gave me notice before noon today that he would seek leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,

" the failure of the Clegg Commission to produce a satisfactory wages settlement for Scottish teachers and the resultant disruption in Scottish schools ".
The House will have listened with deep concern to the hon. Gentleman's statement. I have no doubt that he has raised a matter which is important north of the border. He is aware, despite what he said in the latter part of his speech, that I decide not whether the matter is to be discussed in the House but merely whether it should be discussed tonight or tomorrow night.

The House has instructed me to give no reasons for my decision. I have to rule that the hon. Gentleman's submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order, and, therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House.