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Burnham Report

Volume 22: debated on Tuesday 20 April 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he expects to receive the report of the Burnham committee on teachers' pay.

The pay claim for school teachers in England and Wales has now been referred to arbitration. The hearing is expected to take place in the week beginning 17 May, and the arbitral body's recommendations are expected to be sent direct to my right hon. Friend quite shortly thereafter.

If the arbitration award is 6 per cent. or more, will additional financial resources be made available to local education authorities? If there is a vote on the management side of the Burnham committee, will the two Department of Education and Science representatives be under the direction of the Secretary of State?

It has always been the convention that the attitude of the management panel is confidential, so I could not talk about that in the House. I would be wrong to do so. As we do not know what will be recommended by the arbitration tribunal, it would be hypothetical to talk about that.

Will the Minister accept that before the management offer was referred to arbitration there was widespread anger in the teaching profession at the paltry offer? Are the Government prepared to say now that they will accept the Burnham committee arbitration award and give finance to teachers who, after all, like all other working men and women, must keep pace with inflation?

In the Burnham committee the management panel offered what it thought it could afford within the limited amount of money that was available. More money would not be available if the arbitration tribunal said that more should be given. The authorities would have to make their decision against that background.

Will my hon. Friend make it clear to the teachers that, whatever the arbitration award, the Government can make available only the same amount of money and that either there must be fewer teachers or smaller increases in pay?

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. The amount of money being offered by the Government to the local authorities is a quantum that has been set. The more teachers who are employed, the less individual teachers can earn, or vice versa. If the authorities run down the number of teachers, they can pay more for those who are still employed.

Was not the Minister in danger—I am sure inadvertently—of misleading the House in his last but one answer when he said that the management panel had made an offer on the basis of what it could afford? Had not substantial numbers of local education authorities quickly communicated the fact that they were prepared to and could find ways of affording more than the 3·4 per cent. increase, and could not the threatened uproar in the education service have been avoided entirely had they been left to their own devices? I shall repeat this question, because this is a matter of great importance, with the examination term coming before us. In the event of the arbitrator making a recommendation, will the Government provide funds to enable the teachers to be paid what the arbitrator recommends?

As I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Lewis), the amount of money that has been put before the local education authorities has been set. No more will be provided. Any payment to the teachers must be made within that limit. The management committee has always considered that any offers that are made in the Burnham committee should be confidential. It would be wrong for me to disclose any of the happenings in that management committee.