Order for Second Reading read.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, of which I have given you notice. This Bill was published a political lifetime ago, on 15 November. Since then, the Prime Minister has resigned and each of the candidates for the Conservative party leadership has announced policies, including the central funding of teachers' pay, that are wholly inconsistent with the scheme of this Bill.Is it in the interests of the good administration of Bills in this House for the House to proceed with this Bill when there is no guarantee that the policies contained in it will not be overturned by a new Administration?
Further to that point of order——
Order. it is not a point of order at all—[Interruption.] It is very much a point of argument. I must tell the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) that he has tabled a reasoned amendment to the Bill. Had he wanted to do so, he could have put down an amendment in the terms of the argument that he has advanced—but his point of order to me now is not a point of order at all.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Leader of the House is with us. Can he be prevailed upon to make a brief statement, given that none of the potential Prime Ministers will support the provisions of the Bill and that in four hours' time——
Order. All these are matters of argument which can be advanced during the debate. They are not points of order for me.
Further to that point of order——
Order. I hope that it is not the same one.
On a different point related to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. There is an amendment on the Order Paper in the terms that have just been discussed. Will it be possible for the House to vote on the amendment tabled in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) and his hon. Friends?
I have selected one amendment, in the name of the leader of the Opposition—I have not yet had an opportunity to say that—but I cannot select two. I have not selected the amendment in the name of the Liberal Democrats.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Has it not been nice to read the Prime Minister's obituary while she is still alive?
Can I have a real point of order, please?
On a real point of order, Mr. Speaker. Have you observed that, in this week's business, two days are devoted to an entirely non-controversial Bill which affects Wales and that there will be further consideration of the Statutory Sick Pay Bill which both sides of the House had difficulty in finding speakers to speak to last night? Because of the light load of this week's business, will you give further reconsideration to your decision yesterday on the bid by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) for a debate on the all-important, crucial issue of the Gulf war?
That is hypothetical at the moment. I give consideration to important matters every day.
Order. I call Mr. Flannery although I think we should get on with the debate.
Order. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) is seeking to speak in the debate, so I will hear his point of order.
My hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) raised a point of order about the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Bill, and I want to raise a completely different point of order about it. This Bill has been condemned as a violation of international law with regard to the teaching profession by the International Labour Organisation of the United Nations. During the debate, it will emerge that the Bill is not lawful in accord with international law and it is time——
Order. Those are matters which the hon. Gentleman can rightly advance during the debate. If it is of any comfort to him, I propose to call him very early.
Sir, I will shut up immediately.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday, in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) and his application under Standing Order No. 20, you said in column 620——
Order. That was yesterday.
In replying to my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow about this very important debate about the possibility of war in the Gulf, Mr. Speaker, you said:
Can you indicate whether the Foreign Secretary intends to make an emergency statement to the House before the United Nations meets on Thursday about the likelihood of war in the Gulf?"I cannot therefore today submit his application to the House."—[Official Report, 26 November 1990; Vol. 181, c. 620.]
The hon. Lady correctly quotes me from Hansard. I certainly said that. However, I have not had an application today under Standing Order No. 20 on that matter, and I have no knowledge of whether the Government propose to make a statement about it. I hope perhaps they may.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Opposition are amazed that the Foreign Secretary is not offering to make a statement, given that the five permanent members of the Security Council are to set a date for war. Surely it is more important to talk about that than for the Foreign Secretary to worry about a career as Prime Minister.
That is not a matter for me. We will get on with the debate. I must announce to the House that I have selected the reasoned amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second Time.The Bill contains the agreed policy of this Government. I can certainly speak for two of the candidates for the position of Prime Minister who are committed to the Bill, and I believe that I know the third candidate well enough and have followed his proposals rather more carefully to know that he will endorse it and will probably vote for the Bill's provisions this evening. The Bill comes before the House in a very different climate from that which surrounded the Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act: 1987, which it is intended to replace. The House will recall that, before the 1987 Act, there was a history of progressive breakdown in the so-called Burnham machinery and increasing disruption and bitterness in our schools, which had come to a very bad head shortly before the Bill. Since we passed the 1987 Act, there have been four years of industrial peace in our schools, and a succession of fair settlements for teachers on the basis of the excellent and well received reports produced by the interim advisory committee have served teachers well. That committee has clearly demonstrated its independence and fitness for the job. As a result, over the past few years teachers have had a clear framework for pay, duties and working time. Employers and governing bodies have been able to reward good performance and the acceptance of responsibility. That has coincided with the Government's education reforms, which are giving a much clearer focus and direction to the work of teaching. If one looks back to 1987, one can see that the result has been four years of achievement in our schools and real improvements in the way in which children are being educated. I recognise the amount of hard work that the teachers, whose pay is the subject of the Bill, have put into what is happening in schools today. I applaud the professionalism of teachers and the achievements of the teaching profession. I believe that teachers' status is well on the way to recovery from the damage done to it during that unfortunate period in the mid-1980s. As we proceed to implement our reforms, parents will gain a greater understanding of what teachers are trying to do and regain their trust in teachers' professional commitment to the education of their children. The 1987 Act was always recognised as a short-term solution to immediate and pressing problems. As I have said, it has fulfilled its purpose admirably, but it is time now to put more permanent arrangements into place. That is what this Bill is designed to do. It gives effect to the decisions which my predecessor, now sitting beside me in his capacity as Leader of the House, announced in the House on 23 July when he was Secretary of State for Education and Science. The decisions that my right hon. Friend and the Government took followed prolonged and careful consultations with all the interested parties. I am afraid that it was always clear that it would not be easy to reach agreement on difficulty and sensitive issues on which widely differing views were held. Nobody regretted the demise of the Burnham committee, which was soon behind us, but it was difficult to achieve consensus on what should follow. Different and incompatible views were expressed during the consultations—most favouring the restoration of negotiating rights for teachers, while others preferred some kind of independent review. It became clear that it was not possible to find an acceptable solution which commanded universal agreement. The Government's decision has been to restore teachers' negotiating rights. That has been welcomed by the employers and most of the major teacher unions. The main features of the new machinery which the Bill will establish are very different from the ill-fated Burnham machinery. First, the Bill provides for direct national negotiations between employers and unions. There will be a separate sub-committee for heads and deputies. The Bill brings together in one negotiating forum both pay and conditions. It has a deadline for the completion of negotiations and provides a clear means of resolving deadlock. It also provides reserve powers for the Government to refer back to the negotiating body, with reasons, any aspect of agreed settlements with which they are unhappy and, in the last resort, to impose their own views. The Bill also provides for reference of matters to an advisory committee if the negotiating body fails to reach agreement by the deadline and for individual local education authorities and grant-maintained schools to opt out of the national arrangements and determine the pay and conditions of their teachers locally. That is the Bill's outline, and I shall deal with each feature, but first I give way to my hon. Friend.
I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend—[Interruption.]
All teachers are crucial, but heads and deputies are centrally crucial in schools. Therefore, will my right hon. and learned Friend consider the worries of heads and deputies that their sub-committee on pay and conditions is to report to the main committee and, presumably, will be subject to overruling by it? Can my right hon. and learned Friend reassure me that safeguards exist to ensure that the sub-committee will not be overruled, save in the most serious circumstances?
The Bill provides just such safeguards—it is not possible for the main committee so to override the sub-committee's recommendations that it makes it impossible for the Secretary of State to allow the head teachers and deputies to have what they want. I assure my hon. Friend that the Bill provides for the problem that he fears might otherwise arise.The Bill's first clause, together with schedule 1, provides for the establishment of the new national negotiating committee and a separate sub-committee to take the initiative on matters involving heads and deputies. It also distinguishes between the statutory and non-statutory conditions of employment: it is only the former, the statutory conditions—pay, duties and teachers' working time—that will be dealt with under the procedures set out in the rest of the Bill. On other matters, the committee will be able to strike such agreements as it wishes, subject only to a requirement in clause 6 to notify me of what it has agreed. Clause 2 is concerned with how negotiations get started, what the negotiating deadline will be, and what recommendations can be made as a result of different negotiations. Clause 3 and schedule 2 establish the procedures to be followed when negotiations result in recommendations, and clause 4 establishes what should happen if there are no recommendations by the relevant deadline. I should say a little more about these provisions. First, negotiations—the initiative for negotiations will rest with the committees, not with the Secretary of State. The committees will be able to give themselves as long as they like to negotiate, the only constraint being that they must finish on time because teachers' negotiations have a history of being far too protracted. There will be no constraints on the negotiations and, in particular, no pre-set financial limits. The main aim of the negotiations will be a return to normal working, and it will be for the local authority employers to decide what they can afford and to reflect that in their negotiations. Secondly, I referred briefly to the Government's powers to refer back and to override. I hope that we will not hear sanctimonious humbug about this because the need for the Government to have such powers is perfectly obvious and has always been accepted. Since 1944, Governments of all parties have been able to influence teachers' pay structure and contain pay costs. Only a particularly irresponsible Labour Government would not feel obliged to exercise an influence on teachers' pay structure and the total pay bill. I should like to quote from one of my 'distinguished predecessors. During the passage of the Remuneration of Teachers Act 1965, the late Lord Stewart of Fulham, then Michael Stewart, the Secretary of State for Education and Science said:
From 1965, the Government's interests were secured by a concordat that operated alongside the legal provisions of the 1965 Act. I shall not go back over the full 20 years——"I doubt whether any Government in any set of circumstances could put itself in a position where it could hand over the power on the global sum to someone other than itself."—[Official Report, Standing Committee B, 1 December 1964; c. 20.]
Why not? We have lots of time.
I suspect that the number of hon. Members who will wish to speak in the debate will be smaller than might have been the case on another day.As I say I shall not go back over the full 20 years, but most people are agreed that the concordat worked reasonably satisfactorily. It provided the Government with a weighted vote inside the management panel and a veto over proposed offers on grounds of total cost. That veto was conceded by the local authority employers and was not backed by any statutory provision. In 1985, the employers' side, the local authority side, then led by the Labour party, unilaterally scrapped the concordat, leaving the Government with a much diminished and quite inadequate influence on the outcome of the negotiations. That could not be tolerated by any Government. The Government provide about two thirds of the money that is necessary to pay the teachers as a result of any settlement. There is room for argument, and I am sure that there will be much debate in Committee about the precise form of negotiations, but all negotiations must have reflected on one side of the table the legitimate interests of employees, and on the other side the legitimate interests of the employers and those who will be called upon to finance them. Negotiations are between the recipients of finance and those who provide that finance. It would be quite absurd to devise a system whereby the local authority employers who provide the minority of the money for the settlement could reach whatever settlement they pleased without the Government, who have to use taxpayers' money and the business rate to provide the bulk of the finance, having any say and influence. In the consultations that proceeded my right hon. Friend's statement to the House in July, both employers and trade unions agreed that the Government must be able to have the last word on affordability in any new permanent machinery. The Bill therefore gives the Government a sensible and necessary role in determining teachers' statutory conditions of employment.
As will emerge in greater detail in my speech, I broadly accept what the Secretary of State has said about the Government's position. However, may I press him on the accountability of the Government and Ministers to Parliament, because one important defect of this Bill, as compared even with the Teachers Pay and Conditions Act 1987, is that decisions which the Secretary of State may make under his reserved powers under this Bill can be checked by this House only under the negative resolution procedure even when those decisions are contrary to the recommendations of the teachers' pay committee, whereas decisions under the 1987 Act had to be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, which was beneficial, certainly for accountability?
I shall look at that point again, but there are precedents for the negative resolution procedure, as set out in the Bill. My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has similar override powers in respect of certain pay settlements, which are also covered by negative resolution. If the Government were in conflict with the negotiated solution that they were overriding, a Prayer would be tabled, which the House would expect to debate. In practice, however, that is unlikely to be a matter of great significance to the House.One snag with using the positive procedure is that the House of Lords would also have a vote and there are those with reservations about whether their Lordships should have the power to take decisions involving large sums of public expenditure. I cannot believe that this House would lose the opportunity of having a vote on the expenditure and on the Secretary of State's use of the override for teachers' pay settlements. There would be adequate opportunities for the House to have such a vote under the negative resolution procedure.
We are given to understand that, where the settlements are within the inter-quartile range, they will not normally be referred back on the basis of the cost of the settlement. Why is it only "normally"? Surely that provision in itself would allow the Secretary of State to say that, for financial reasons, the Government would never refer back a settlement that was within the inter-quartile range, where it has been agreed.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for referring to the undertaking that was given by my predecessor. The Government do not intend to act unfairly or arbitrarily.Before turning to the basis on which the Government would not normally seek to exercise the override, I should first explain that the Bill provides some statutory procedures that would stop any Secretary of State of any Government behaving in an unfair or arbitrary fashion. Where the Secretary of State is unhappy with what has been proposed, he does not immediately move and refer that matter to the advisory committee. The Secretary of State's first step would be to refer that matter back to the negotiators for their reconsideration, stating his reasons for asking them to look at it again. Only if that process has been exhausted, if the two sides are still at loggerheads and differences remain, would the question of overriding the negotiators' recommendations arise. When it comes to exercising those powers as a member of the Government, my predecessor gave the undertaking to which the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Taylor) has just referred, which is that normally the Government would not intend to refer back recommendations on cost grounds if the overall cost was within the inter-quartile range of the private sector settlements for non-manual employees. That does not mean that we will always refer back settlements that fall outside that range, but we shall expect the negotiators to justify them and to explain how they intend to afford the settlements without having adverse effects on other schools' expenditure if such settlements are reached. That means that teachers can be confident of fair treatment compared with the work force in general, and that they will have scope to improve their pay relative to others over time. The inter-quartile range is also the range that we have chosen for civil service pay, and it has greatly improved the arrangements for civil servants. Having got to that point, the hon. Member for Truro may ask why we do not make the provisions absolutely clear. He may even want to put them on the face of the Bill. The Government will remain bound by the undertaking that was given by my right hon. Friend the former Secretary of State for Education and Science, and which has been repeated by me today on behalf of the Government. The only reason for not making that undertaking statutory is that if, in future—perhaps by general consent—the Government were to give a different guideline which gave flexibility, it would be a pity if that required primary legislation. The teaching profession may welcome the possibility of seeing what happens in the next few years, given the Government's commitment that we shall not normally interfere with settlements that fall within the inter-quartile range. The House should not make it too difficult for a Secretary of State to suggest a different Government guideline. Our policy is one that I think the hon. Gentleman would want, and we would not usually interfere provided that a settlement was within the inter-quartile range. The Government's objectives for teachers' pay have been stated clearly on many occasions, and I am glad to repeat them today. We want teachers' pay to be sufficient to recruit, retain and motivate enough teachers of the right quality within what can reasonably be afforded. Having set down that principle, it is important that the pay arrangements should contain sufficient flexibility. I want there to be many well-paid, successful, professional teachers, but it is right that the money and any improved payments should go where they are needed most. Pay and negotiations should be used by employers, in this case influenced by the Government, in ways that serve managerial purposes and, in this service, that above all serve educational purposes. Money should be used especially to reward excellence in performance, to recognise responsibility and to tackle recruitment problems. I and the Government would prefer the large sums of money involved in teachers' pay settlements to be used in that way rather than in the undifferentiated way of agreeing on one settlement figure for the profession as a whole.
Last weekend, I visited the South Beach first school in my constituency. I was given a copy of an assessment form covering science, English and arithmetic. The chart must be filled in because of the new assessment procedure. It takes a school teacher at least three quarters of an hour to do that for each child, and there are at least 30 pupils in each class. It is obvious that teachers cannot both be filling in forms and teaching their pupils, so they must take the forms home. Will the Government pay teachers extra money for taking home that work? I shall give the Minister the assessment form, as he may like to look at it.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for handing me the assessment form for levels one and two used by South Beach school. I shall put myself to the test later and I hope that I can reach the necessary attainment level. However, the form was not created by the Government. South Beach school is under no legal obligation to use such a form and it is not part of the present reforms. I have not seen such a form previously, but it is possible that it relates to some earlier pilot projects on the tests that we propose to introduce in schools. The testing system for seven, 11, 14 and 16-year-olds is not yet legally in force, and it certainly will not follow the format of the hon. Gentleman's assessment form. We are contemplating a very much simpler form for seven-year-old tests. Of course, I am interested to know that an assessment form is being used sensibly, but I am sure that the Government can devise a simpler one.It is important to have an assessment system for pupils and also to ensure that it is set out in a way that can be readily understood by parents. That is our aim. I think that most teachers accept that assessment of pupils and reporting the results to parents are an ordinary part of a teacher's occupation. Most teachers will welcome the framework that we will provide for them to do that. We held pilot projects in English schools last July on a particular method of testing seven-year-olds. A number of its features were not satisfactory and we have withdrawn that proposal. We are now working on what will be the statutory procedures for testing the English, maths and basic scientific knowledge of seven-year-olds in the summer of next year. As I said, I believe that teachers' pay should be used to reward excellence of performance, to attract particular skills, and to be flexible in other ways. If negotiations fail to reach a conclusion on either that or any other basis when the deadline is reached, the Bill provides for what will then happen. It would be unsatisfactory if a deadlock were reached in the main annual negotiations and teachers were then left for a year without a settlement. Clause 4 provides for the Secretary of State automatically to seek recommendations from the advisory committee to be established under clause 5 and schedule 3. I make no apology for the fact that that committee is closely modelled on the interim advisory committee. It has operated successfully over the past three years, and it has earned general respect for its independence and the quality of its reports. It will not provide arbitration, but will work to a clear Government remit. However, I stress that that body will only come into play where negotiations end in disagreement. It is plainly necessary that, if the parties to the new negotiations fail to agree, the Secretary of State must look to other means of resolving them.
Over the weekend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to commit himself to a review of teachers' pay. If one takes place, how does the Secretary of State envisage that it will fit into the appropriate machinery? Would such a review be the responsibility of the interim advisory committee or of a separate, ad hoc committee? Will it supplement negotiations, and has the right hon. and learned Gentleman discussed that idea with the Chancellor?
As an elector in the leadership contest, I am following the statements of the three candidates with interest. I do not believe 'that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has committed himself, as a putative Prime Minister, to a review of teachers' pay. However, the hon. Gentleman will find that all three contenders for the premiership are united in a desire to see the status of teachers restored to the level of a few years ago. We all want to see their self-esteem restored, and have in place proper provisions for negotiating sensible pay arrangements.My right hon. Friend the Chancellor has expressed his concerns about the status of teachers in this country, and I share his views. However, I do not believe that we shall embark on a fresh review of pay arrangements, when the Bill contains excellent arrangements that should be enacted and put into force.
The Chancellor was talking not about detailed arrangements and machinery but of improving teachers' salaries and conditions. If the right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) came along in the new capacity of Prime Minister, would the Secretary of State agree to a new review of pay and conditions? Would he think that was a worthwhile step forward?
So far, at this late stage in the contest, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has not committed himself to any specific enhancements in teachers' pay and conditions. Like me, my right hon. Friend has served as a member of a Government who have seen a steady improvement in pay and conditions. Teachers are on average 30 per cent. better off in real terms—that is, their spending power has increased by 30 per cent. over the past 10 years. Today's teachers are much better off than previous generations.We are devising machinery—my right hon. Friend the Chancellor and I will vote for it this evening—that is designed to pave the way for negotiations, which will no doubt continue to be funded in such a way that teachers' pay will certainly keep in line with movements elsewhere. We have said that we will not interfere if the settlements are within the inter-quartile range. In that way, teachers' pay will keep in step with that of other professions, and might even improve by comparison with them. Perhaps those of my right hon. and hon. Friends who are more closely allied with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor than I am at this time in the leadership contest, and who are present in the Chamber, know otherwise—but I do not believe that he has committed a Government under his leadership to a specific review of teachers' pay and conditions—[Interruption.] I believe that authoritative comments are being offered from the Benches behind me.
Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that, such has been the improvement in teachers' pay, the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) might be enticed back into the profession?
Many right hon. and hon. Members might want the hon. Gentleman to return to his former profession, but I am not sure that would be in line with the Government's policy of enhancing standards in our schools. In case that remark is taken literally outside, I would not dream of traducing the hon. Gentleman's professional status as a teacher. However, there are times when I wish that he were back in the classroom.
The Secretary of State claims that teachers are 30 per cent. better off in real terms than they have ever been. How does he explain the fact that, in the four years since the interim advisory committee has been in operation, teachers' pay has not even kept up with inflation?
It may not have done so every year, but it has over the whole four years. The IAC was established on the back of a very large settlement. It is true that, thereafter, the settlement did not keep in line with inflation every year. That is no answer to the basic point that I made—the intervention by the hon. Member for City of Durham (Mr. Steinberg) is no answer to that, either—which was that, during the period that the Government have been in office, they have shown that they recognise the need for the real income of teachers to rise in line with the improved prosperity of the country. Today's teachers have 30 per cent. more purchasing power than they had 10 years ago, when the Conservative Government came to power.This is a good day for talking about the achievements of the past 11 years. Teachers who have been in the profession throughout the 11 years of my right hon. Friend's premiership will find that they are much better off today than they were when she came to office.
Could my right hon. and learned Friend remind the House—Opposition Members sometimes seem to be suffering from collective amnesia—that teachers' pay rose by 6 per cent. only during their term of office? I wonder why they seem to forget that, when they put so many questions to him about teachers' pay?
That is certainly the case. It is an irony that, under the last Labour Government, the pay of white collar workers, those in the professions and in the public services hardly improved at all. Blue collar industrial workers appeared to do much better than them but, In the end, no one thrived—especially in the face of the inflation over which the last Labour Government presided.For a long time, our record on teachers' pay has been much better than that of the Government from which we took over. That record gives credibility to the Bill.
Hon. Members are encouraging me to give way because we have a lot of time. I shall give way once more, and then we shall have a change of subject.
I appreciate the fact that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is giving way. Rather than teachers being 30 per cent. better off in real terms, since 1974 and the Houghton award, teachers are 40 per cent. worse off. So the right hon. Gentleman's figures are not accurate. In the past 16 years, teachers have generally had a bad deal, and they are now a lot worse off than they ever were.
Houghton was one of those sudden peaks. Thereafter, teachers' pay sharply declined.
Yes, it was. The then Labour Government, implemented Houghton to win an election, and there-after, teachers' pay dropped away. Returning to the present, I believe that the hon. Gentleman is wrong. I shall check, but it is my belief that, in real terms, teachers' incomes today are higher than they were at the time of the Houghton report recommendations.
The hon. Member for City of Durham shakes his head. No doubt, if I am wrong, my hon. Friend will be able to correct me when he replies to the debate.
Speaking as one who received the Houghton award of 34 per cent. in 1974, I think that the House should remember that there was 27 per cent. inflation a year later—[HON. MEMBERS: "There was not."] Yes—in 1976, there was. The value of Houghton's award was totally eroded by 1979. When the Labour Government left office, we were worse off than when we were paid the Houghton award.
We are reminiscing. I fought the 1974 election. The then Labour party bought the teachers by promising to implement Houghton, and bought nurses by promising to implement Halsbury. Once they got into office, the value of those awards in real terms was allowed to erode almost immediately.The Bill is a much more sensible way to proceed. I am advised that, in the opinion of those who advise me, I was correct in our recent exchanges. Teachers are now 12 per cent. better off in real terms than they were after the Houghton settlement. Let us return to the new arrangements. Clause 7 of the Bill provides for the making of orders to give effect to the changes in teachers' pay, duties and working time which emerge from the various processes that I was describing a few moments ago. Clauses 8 and 9 provide for local education authorities and governing bodies of grant-maintained schools—who judged that they could respond better to local needs and circumstances by themselves settling the pay and conditions of their teachers—to apply to be allowed to opt out of the nationally determined framework. That builds upon the local flexibility which we have already achieved in the national arrangements in the past three years, and in my opinion is a natural extension of it. I strongly approve of the development of more local pay bargaining and more local settlements on terms and conditions in the great public services. It would be especially advantageous for the teaching profession, many local education authorities and many grant-maintained schools. I do not envisage that huge variations from national rates will be introduced rapidly, or at all in many cases, but the ability to tackle particular problems of local recruitment, to recognise particular skills that a school needs to offer, to reward particular performance, and to enter into agreements between the school and its staff, or the local education authority and its staff, about changes that staff want and agree to deliver in their part of the service, should all be permitted. I believe firmly that, steadily over the years, more and more local education authorities and schools and those who represent the teachers in those authorities and schools will see the advantages of moving out of national negotiating machinery and towards local pay bargaining.
On the basis of his comments, will the Secretary of State clarify whether he believes that it is preferable for most local authorities and schools to opt out of the national arrangements that he has been describing? Is it his desire that most should opt out? Can he elaborate a little on whether any research has been undertaken within the Department to assess the likely impact of such opting out? He has suggested that the impact might not be very great. What research has taken place, and will it be presented to the House.?
As a matter of broad principle but not immediate policy, I would welcome it if the majority of local education authorities and grant-maintained schools were operating some degree of local pay bargaining. That is not an imminent possibility, and it might be undesirable to move to that quite so quickly. When local pay bargaining begins to be developed within a giant service that is accustomed to only national pay bargaining, it is wise for all parties to proceed cautiously. People become accustomed to their pay, terms and conditions being handed down from on high by the Burnham committee or, in this case, its successor, and the skills do not always exist locally to move straight to local pay bargaining. It is not as easy as it sounds or looks to start negotiating as a county with all the staff outside the national limits, or for a grant-maintained school to start negotiating with its staff.There is scope for some research and for people to develop the skills they require. I believe that, as the opportunity is provided by the Bill for employers to leave the national negotiating arrangements, some will take advantage of it. People will get used to the new arrangements and I should like to see it become much more the norm inside the education service. As I have said, people should move slowly, because negotiations at local level are difficult when nobody locally has experience of pay bargaining.
I agree with the Secretary of State about the need to move slowly. He said that there is scope for some research. I asked what research the Department has undertaken into the likely impact of opting out. We have not seen any. If there has been research, will it be made available to hon. Members during the debates on the Bill?
I do not think that we have had any and, without prejudging it, I do not think that I would take much notice of it if we had. Hypothetical research about the impact of local pay bargaining in a service that has not had any is not, in my experience, very valuable. The main thing is not to have research into what might happen but to ensure that sufficient guidance and advice is available so, that what does happen is in the interests of the local education service and those who work for it. I shall inquire as to whether there has been research, but I am not instantly converted to the desirability of too much of it.
One of the unquestioned consequences of dismembering a national pay arrangement and handing it over to local negotiations is wage drift. What view does the Treasury take of the prospect of 75 per cent. of local authorities running their own negotiations?
Under this Government, the Treasury has always been supportive of moves towards local pay bargaining and greater pay flexibility, because it means that the management have the ability to get more out of the work force and to use the increased expenditure on its payroll in a way that produces improvements in service. There has been no resistance from my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer or his predecessors to moving towards local pay bargaining.It is true that there is a danger of pay drift in just moving towards local pay bargaining. A relaxed employer may decide that he will show what an enlightened local authority he represents by paying 20 per cent. more to all the teachers and that authority is then quoted by all the other authorities involved in pay bargaining. I see that Opposition Front-Bench Members are nodding enthusiastically at that. I am sorry that they share the low opinion of local government as employers that is sometimes held by Conservative Members. That is the danger, but it is up to employers to be more sophisticated and to guard against it. The pay argument could be applied to many other industries—to every company in the engineering industry and to all other large employers. The Opposition have to consider whether they really fear the fact that employers should be allowed to opt out. They say that they do not see much more scope for variations to reflect the local pay market, or different skills, or agreements between governors, headmasters and headmistresses and staff about enhanced payment for recognisable and measurable improvements in performance. The Opposition take too nervous a view. Pay drift is a danger, but it can be avoided by sensible managers. Local authorities must remember, especially now that their negotiating powers are being returned to them, that everything they do must be within the limit of what is reasonably affordable. If they do not agree on that, they will simply pay the teachers more and at the same time damage other parts of the education service.
My right hon. and learned Friend is right to say that progress ought to be steady rather than hasty in this important area, but I know that he will accept that clauses 8 and 9 are looked forward to by those of us who represent extremely high cost areas, such as the county of Essex, with much greater enthusiasm than any other part of the Bill. It is a wonderful breakthrough for us. It will allow us to overcome a considerable problem, upon which I hope later to be able to expand.Caution is no doubt desirable, but no message ought to go out from the House today that responsible local authorities should not take full advantage of clause 8 when there is a demonstrable need, as there is in west Essex, to improve teachers' pay, whatever the absolute rate is throughout the country. Housing in west Essex is so expensive that teachers' pay must be improved there.
My hon. Friend will be reassured to hear that clause 8 does not inhibit the right of Essex county council to enter into local negotiations, if it so wishes. My personal advice, however, is that Essex ought to be careful how it proceeds. Nevertheless, Essex knows exactly what it wishes to do. I know that there are very real problems in Essex that must be addressed. They can be addressed only by the county council entering into proper local pay bargaining arrangements.
Did my right hon. and learned Friend have the pleasure of reading the minority report that I appended to the Select Committee's April report on the pay and remuneration of teachers? If he did, I wonder whether he saw that I suggested that teachers ought to be paid on an individual basis. That could be brought about by means of the Bill. If that were done, teachers would feel much happier. They would see that their contribution to the school—the task of teaching their subject and whatever other responsibilities they may have—had been taken into account by the school authorities. If teachers felt that their services were more valued, they would be much happier and would feel more settled.
At that time, I was reading other Select Committee reports, but I remember reading newspaper reports about the minority report that my hon. Friend had appended to the Select Committee's report. I remind my hon. Friend that a great deal of flexibility has emerged as a result of the advisory committee's recommendations.Individual rewards for teachers are already much more of a possibility as a result of what has been negotiated. If local authorities have ideas of their own, clause 8 will allow them to decide what, for them, are better arrangements for the individual reward of teachers. The more flexibility there is in the system, the more people will see that that is a valuable way to improve rewards to the profession and thereby to raise teaching standards. The new negotiating machinery to which the Bill gives effect amounts to a carefully balanced package that gives proper recognition to the legitimate interests of teachers, their employers and the Government. It is fair to teachers, parents, taxpayers and community charge payers. It is the best proposition available at a time when we must return to restoring negotiating machinery. It will be a valuable addition to present efforts to recruit teachers and will, I hope, lead to further improvement in the good level of recruitment and retention in the teaching profession. The Department carries out a survey every October of recruitment to teacher training courses in all universities, polytechnics and colleges in England and Wales. The figures are much better this year than last year. Nearly 24,000 students started initial teacher training this year. That is a quite spectacular increase of more than 2,000 compared with last year. Recruitment to primary courses is nearly 12 per cent. higher than a year ago, which is a spectacular increase. Recruitment to secondary courses is nearly 6 per cent. higher. Recruitment to the main secondary shortage subjects, except mathematics, was higher than last year. There has been an increase of 30 per cent. in the intake of modern language specialists.
I repeat that, as I got a "Hear, hear". There has been an increase of almost a third in the recruitment of modern language specialists. Overall, recruitment was almost half as high again as in 1983, and was the highest since 1977. The House must agree that that is good news. It shows how effective our programme of action on teacher supply measures has been and that, contrary to all the myths, teaching is an attractive career and is becoming increasingly so. But we cannot rest on that—we must do better still.Not only is recruitment suddenly up, but retention is satisfactory as well. I have been considering, for the first time, wastage ln the profession. Wastage—people leaving teaching for other occupations—runs at only about 1 per cent. per year. That is a spectacularly low figure and reflects job satisfaction as well as satisfaction with pay. The general vacancy rate in our schools, contrary to constant campaigning, has not risen in the past 10 years, but I accept that there are problems in one or two places. My Department's survey earlier this year showed that vacancies this year were particularly down in September, compared with a year ago. Recruitment and retention is satisfactory, and the new machinery will have a good starting point in the current teachers' pay and conditions document. That already covers pay, duties and working time; it provides attractive pay levels and scope for desirable differentiation; and it provides wide-ranging local flexibility. That is the background on which we must build. I share the views which I think my right hon. Friend the Chancellor was expressing at the weekend—that we should build on it by putting the machinery in place for the proper negotiation of pay and by continuing to build up the morale of the profession yet further. It is the key deliverer of the service, and as we restore its self-esteem and job satisfaction, the beneficiaries will be pupils, who will find a motivated teaching force applying themselves with even more dedication to teaching them.
Despite what the Minister has said, the view from the chalk face is different. Staff do not agree with his interpretation of recruitment and retention. Teachers in my constituency, with whom I have been speaking in the past few weeks, believe that only an attractive increase in salaries will recruit and retain teachers.
I am sure that teachers always aspire to higher pay and, quite properly, they always have a pay claim in prospect. As I have said in repeated exchanges, not only is their pay much better but we are attracting more people to the profession, the wastage rate is low and vacancies are down.
It is true. I quite understand why unions keep up a constant stream of propaganda that seeks to undermine that position. The Labour party should occasionally, as a responsible Opposition, address itself to the facts which I described.
Will my right hon. and learned Friend give way?
I have given way for the last time. I apologise to my hon. Friend, but I am in danger of talking out my own Bill if I give way more frequently.The machinery can only be as good as the people who operate it. If those who are negotiating are not prepared to operate the new machinery sensibly and are not prepared to recognise realities, no machinery will be able to compensate for that. If the leaders of the teachers' unions are genuine in their claims to have the interests of education at heart—I have no reason to doubt it—and demonstrate that by approaching negotiations responsibly, I believe that the new machinery set up by the Bill will serve them well. If they return to the unrealistic claims backed up by irresponsible actions against the pupils which we have seen in the past, they are doomed to disappointment. Most importantly, they will do the education service and the teaching profession no good by returning to such an approach. I hope that they will not do that and that they will be attracted by the working of the new arrangements. I therefore commend the Bill to the House.
I beg to move,
As our reasoned amendment makes clear, we decline to give the Bill our endorsement. In our view, it has three major defects. First, it establishes a complex scheme for settling teachers' pay, with too much power being given to the Secretary of State for Which he is not properly accountable to Parliament. Secondly, the provisions for local education authorities and for grant-maintained Schools to opt out of a national pay framework will, in our judgment, still further divide the education service, to the detriment of our children's education. Thirdly, we believe that the Government have no clear strategy for dealing with the serious and increasing problems of teacher shortages, the difficulty of recruitment and retention and the problems of low morale. The Secretary of State spoke of "sanctimonious humbug". Over the past couple of weeks, we have seen some fine examples of sanctimonious humbug among Conservative Members—[Interruption.] I am glad that Conservative Members appreciate that that certainly occurred.That this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which, by undermining national pay arrangements, will divide and further weaken the education service, place standards at risk, is based on no coherent strategy to improve teacher recruitment, retention and morale, and which gives powers to the Secretary of State for which he will not properly be accountable.
We have not said anything.
The hon. Gentleman does not need to say anything—one has only to look at him.All three candidates for the Conservative leadership have suddenly discovered that morale in the teaching service is low and that education matters and should be improved. That tells us principally two things about those candidates—that they can read opinion polls and that they have no shame. The polls show that there has been rising discontent with the Government's education policies, dating almost exactly from the introduction nearly three years ago of the Education Reform Bill and, coinciding with that discontent, rising and positive support for Labour's alternatives. The responsibility for this sorry state is shared by the whole Government, not just the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher). Each candidate for the Conservative leadership voted for the Education Reform Act 1988 and the Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act 1987. That legislation removed all negotiating rights from teachers and instead left teachers, alone among any pay bargaining group, with their pay subject to imposition by fiat of the Secretary of State. On Sunday, I read in The Observer a statement made by the right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) as part of his platform to obtain the votes of Conservative Members. It is notable that he has failed to obtain the support or vote of any of the Education Ministers—they are backing the gentlemen's candidate. The right hon. Gentleman said:
We would all drink to that. Why is there now a problem after 11 years of Conservative Administration? Why do teachers' self-respect, authority and respect in the community need to be restored? Teachers' morale is certainly not what it should be. That point was made powerfully in the excellent last report, published in January this year, by the Interim Advisory Committee on School Teachers' Pay and Conditions. The committee said:"we cannot guarantee better results in the classroom until we restore teacher's self respect, authority and respect in the community."
One of the factors, the committee said, was identified by Her Majesty's senior chief inspector of schools, who said that teachers felt that they were not properly valued, and were used as"We are in no doubt at all that teacher morale is lower than in our first two years, and that a number of factors are contributing to this."
The senior inspector is a courageous man, whom I applaud. He did not say precisely who he thought was treating teachers in that way, but the message in the report was clear—that among those who had misused and mistreated teachers were a succession of Conservative Ministers and Back Benchers who, in the early and mid-1980s, dined out on abuse of what teachers were seeking to do."convenient scapegoats for all society's problems."
Who and when?
If the Secretary of State goes to the Library and looks up a certain speech made by the present Secretary of State for the Environment—the right hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Patten)—he will find, put together very cleverly, the insinuation that teachers' current attitudes would lead to the creation of a yob society. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman then looks up the cuttings relating to that speech, he will discover that his right hon. Friend achieved exactly what he set out to achieve: he managed to imply that teachers, rather than those with a great deal more power—namely, the Government—were to blame for the creation of such a society.
I am certain that that accusation has been levelled across the Chamber before. Last time, it was refuted by my right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State for the Environment. Incidentally, the quotation from my right hon. Friend which sticks in my mind is a very simple one—his observation that the nearest thing to a magic wand in education is a head teacher.
I know that the hon. Gentleman follows these matters with care. I am happy to send him a copy of the speech made by the current Secretary of State for the Environment—who then held the post of Minister of State, Department of Education and Science, which is now held by the hon. Member for Enfield, North (Mr. Eggar)—and the cuttings associated with it. The right hon. Gentleman wrote to me about the speech, and I wrote back; but I never received a reply, which I think makes my point. I sent him the cuttings too.One of the reasons for teachers' low morale, then, is the suggestion that they are responsible for the ills of society. The second reason——
This is preposterous. I do not want to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but it lowers teachers' morale to be told so often by Labour spokesmen that they are being abused by Conservative Ministers. Is it seriously suggested that one unremembered speech made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Patten)—and the hon. Gentleman's interpretation of it has been strongly disputed by my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey)—is responsible for the present low morale? It is absurd to suggest that this is the Government's responsibility. What damaged the teaching profession was the public's reaction during the protracted industrial dispute. Unfortunately, the Labour party gave mindless support to that action, and certainly played its part in the lowering of the esteem in which the profession was held by the general public.
I am not surprised that the Secretary of State does not remember what happened—at the time, he was engaged full time in lowering the morale of members of the health professions.Of course, one Minister alone was not responsible—a succession of Ministers were responsible. The Secretary of State should read all the speeches made to Conservative party conferences by the right hon. Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker) when he was Secretary of State—particularly his 1986 speech, which took a sideswipe at one section of the teaching profession. He should also read the report of his own senior chief inspector. I quote from that report at greater length:
The reason why teachers' morale fell so greatly was partly the abuse that was heaped on them, but it was also the continuous round of change upon change which was imposed on teachers as a consequence of the ill-thoughtout agenda in the Education Reform Act 1988. Conservative Members cannot gainsay that because they know that much of that agenda was badly thought out and has subsequently had to be unpicked and changed. Thirdly, teachers' self-respect and authority was greatly undermined by the removal of negotiating rights. Fourthly, as the Secretary of State must acknowledge, teachers' pay—especially since the settlement in 1986—has lagged behind that of comparable pay groups. The Secretary of State swapped statistics about what had happened to teachers' pay in the past 15 years. Over 15 years of any Government—even the present Government, who have a lower record of growth year on year than previous Governments—real living standards are likely to rise. The graph in the Select Committee report makes it clear that there has been a real rise in teachers' pay since 1974. I am not arguing about that and it is sensible that we should agree on known facts. However, teachers' pay—this point is of critical importance—has lagged behind that of comparable groups. That is shown clearly by the other graph in the Select Committee report."But of great importance to most teachers, is that the work they do is seen to be valued and rated highly by society; that its difficulties are understood; and that teachers and education are not used as convenient scapegoats for all society's problems. Currently, too many teachers feel that their profession and its work are misjudged and seriously undervalued."
I am glad to see that the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) acknowledges that fact on this occasion. The slide down from the high point of Houghton has been great relative to other non-manual earnings. Conservative Members believe, more than we do, in untrammelled markets. Whether people take a job depends partly on the relative pay available for that job compared with other jobs. It is not surprising that teacher shortages have arisen, given that the pay of teachers has so declined relative to that of other groups.
My hon. Friend will be aware—the Secretary of State will also be aware because I shall tell him—that I have two daughters and a son-in-law in teaching. I get my ear bashed regularly about how the Government have treated the teaching profession. Whenever I have had the opportunity, I have asked the Government to get their noses out of negotiations between the employers and the trade unions on wage increases for the teaching profession. Let there be no mistake about it—the present Secretary of State will poke his nose in, too. He upset the health service and he will do the same with education.
I do not wish to comment on the personal anatomy of the Secretary of State, which is actually rather fine, but I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes) that the Secretary of State will seek unnecessarily to interfere in the outcome of the negotiations. Like my hon. Friend, I have many family members who are teachers and I know just how difficult it is——
It cannot be so bad then, can it?
It is bad. I know just how difficult it is for those members of my family to make ends meet.The Library briefing document which, as ever, is extremely helpful, contains on its penultimate page information on what has happened to the salaries of graduate teachers. It shows that, in real, terms the starting salary of graduate teachers will have gone down from £10,330 in October 1987 to £9,990 at the beginning of next year. The final salary that a career classroom graduate teacher with incentive allowance B can expect has gone down by even more—from £17,390 to £16,660. That is a significant drop, so it is not surprising to learn of the great difficulties that many authorities have had not only in recruiting teachers, but in retaining them. We must also take into account the fact that the Government, through all the reports of the interim advisory committee, have consistently failed fully to fund any of the awards. I pay tribute to the IAC because its reports have been good, but I cannot pay tribute to the Government, who have failed at any stage to back the recommendations fully with cash. As a consequence of that, since the 1986 award, teachers' pay has declined rather than increased in real terms. That was made clear in the charter on pay of the latest interim advisory committee report, which states of inflation in paragraph 4.3:
Inflation has been higher than anticipated. Teachers are worse off than they were a year ago——"Even if it falls back to 7·5 per cent. at the end of the financial year, as forecast by the Government, the majority of teachers will be worse off than a year previously, whatever then happens during 1990–91."
Since we are discussing members of the hon. Gentleman's family, he will know that I have the honour to represent his mother, who ploughs a lonely furrow as a Labour councillor in my constituency. The hon. Gentleman will therefore know from personal experience that, if the public are asked to judge between the words of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State and the hon. Gentleman on recruitment, they will know whom to believe.In my constituency, a dreadful letter promising dire consequences for September 1989 was issued to parents at the beginning of the summer term of that year. Understandably, it worried them and many of them wrote to me. In fact, at the beginning of September, all but a handful of posts were filled and that handful represented no more posts than are usually vacant at any time of year. This year, the same process was repeated—the same scaremongering, the same stories and the same anxiety among parents—following which exactly the same happened in September. All vacancies were filled, barring a mere half dozen which represented the usual vacancy factor. Does that not show that my right hon. and learned Friend's statistics are much more valid than the hon. Gentleman's qualitative observations?
I am glad to know that the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Norris) is accusing Mr. Paul White, the Conservative chairman of Essex county council, of scaremongering. Mr. White is also chairman of the Conservative group on the Association of County Councils, and now chairman of the Convention of Local Education Authorities. He is a responsible man, and he has said what everyone involved in education knows—that there are increasing difficulties in recruiting and retaining teachers.It is perfectly likely that there are people in front of classes, but the hon. Gentleman should know that the proportion of people who are not qualified to teach the subjects that they are having to teach increased between 1984 and 1988 and in certain subjects now stands at more than 50 per cent. If the hon. Gentleman were to speak to anyone running a school in his constituency or elsewhere, he would find that the numbers of recruits for any vacancy and the quality of recruits for that vacancy are lower and will get worse.
In the north, where I come from, there is a phrase known as "arguing the cheat". I am afraid that the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Norris) is arguing the cheat now. He said earlier that he was delighted that his local authority would be able to opt out and negotiate privately, because of the problems that it faced in recruiting teachers. He now says that there are no problems in Essexs and no vacancies—teachers are easy to come by. He cannot argue both ends of the stick.
Yes, I can.
Knowing the hon. Gentleman's previous occupation, I am sure that he will argue each end of the stick. If he cannot find the engine in the front, he will tell us that it is in the back. But he serves neither himself nor his constituents well if he goes on peddling this sort of nonsense. He should go around a few schools. I know the position in west Essex rather better than he does; teacher shortages there are as severe now as in the early 1960s.Opening the debate, the Secretary of State said that two of the candidates in the leadership struggle were behind the policies in the Bill. He suggested that the other candidate, the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), might also be behind them, with the implication that he might not be.
The other two were in the Government who devised the Bill. The right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) is not in the Government, but so far as I am aware he intends to vote for the Bill.
It is useful to know that the right hon. Member for Henley will not be in the Government. I advise the Secretary of State to keep his options open.The right hon. Member for Henley said two weekends ago that he wanted to move towards central payment of teachers' salaries by the Exchequer. When that was put to the Prime Minister by the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor), the Prime Minister replied on 13 November that the effect would be to add 4p or 5p to income tax. That is the calculation arrived at, taking account of the present local authority contribution to teachers' salaries. Yesterday, I asked the Secretary of State and the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the impact of such a move would be. I appreciate that both have other things on their minds, but I am sorry to say that the Secretary of State dodged the question and refused to tell me the present size of the local authority contribution to teachers' pay. I have yet to receive an answer from the Chancellor. May we take it that what the Prime Minister said on 13 November was correct—that if, as the right hon. Member for Henley suggested, we move to full payment of teachers' salaries by the Exchequer, it would add 4p or 5p to income tax?
If that was all that was done and no money was clawed back from local government, that would indeed be true.
That is a useful point of reference for future discussions.
Is such a move Opposition policy? I do not think that any Conservatives have suggested that we do that.
The right hon. Member for Henley has suggested it. He has also suggested that it is possible to do it without raising income tax. He even held out the prospect of cuts in income tax—Conservative Members with a late vote to cast may wish to take that into account. The right hon. Gentleman certainly did not convince me or anyone else. It is not the policy of the Opposition and it will not be the policy of the Labour Government to move in that direction.It is always my belief that the formal structure of any negotiating arrangements should as far as possible reflect the reality of the interests involved. The reality of teachers' employment and pay is that there are three groups of interests—teachers and head teachers who are represented by six associations, the employers who in practice are the local authority associations, and the Government. It is important to be clear as to how and why the Government's interest arises. As with any public sector pay settlement of this size, it arises partly out of the Government's interest in the total size of public spending and their interest to ensure that inflation is kept as low as possible. If that were the whole of the Government's interest in teachers' pay, it could be coped with through the usual arrangements relating to the revenue support grant settlement. That is the only mechanism for registering the Government's interest in, say, local authority manual workers' pay settlements and the APC and T settlement—and it works satisfactorily. It has long been accepted, however, that the Government have a wider interest in teachers' pay, arising from the Secretary of State's statutory responsibility for the supply and training of teachers and for other aspects of the education service, and from the political fact of life that any Government will be held partly responsible for the performance of the education service. With that in mind, there are three ways of representing the Government's interest—directly in negotiations, which was the approach taken by Burnham; by the review body to which the Government give evidence and then enter the caveat that they will accept its conclusions save when there are clear and compelling reasons for changing the view of the review body; and thirdly, the Government can be the final arbiter and take reserve powers over negotiations. The Bill reflects the third approach. It gives wide powers to the Secretary of State to override the outcome of negotiations and to establish a teachers' pay committee when negotiations have failed or when their conclusion is unsatisfactory to the Secretary of State. The committee's conclusions can then be overriden by the Secretary of State and his overriding of its conclusions or his endorsement of them would not be the subject of automatic discussion and approval by the House under the affirmative resolution procedure. The Secretary of State is taking wide and unnecessary powers, for which he is not accountable. By the by, in taking those powers, he is also in breach of the International Labour Organisation convention. As I read the Bill, and having listened to the Secretary of State, there seems to be no stage until the completion of negotiations or their breakdown at which the Secretary of State is obliged to state his priorities and constraints for the teachers' pay settlement for the following year. It' that is so, it injects a wholly unnecessary element of chance into the negotiations. The Secretary of State may well have a bottom line—for example, on the global sum available or on something that he regards as very important in terms of the structure of salary scales or conditions. If he keeps quiet, the local authorities and trade unions could enter into negotiations in good faith, reach an agreement which was outwith the Secretary of State's view and only then would the negotiators discover that what they had negotiated in good faith and without notice to the contrary from the Secretary of State was actually unacceptable to him. If the Secretary of State believes that certain issues are important, it is far better that the negotiators are aware of those interests at an early stage. The Secretary of State should not be able at a later stage to raise issues which require him to overturn the outcome of negotiations if he has not given notice of those issues. I am not claiming that the Secretary of State should be a secret party to the negotiations or that he must dot every last comma——
The committee can refer back.
—but it seems to me that the negotiators should have a rough idea of the global sum available or of the likely ball park in terms of finance. That is covered by what the Secretary of State said about inter-quartile settlements.If the Secretary of State had a particular view about the need to retain new teachers in the service—something that I believe is important—and regarded that as a sticking point in the outcome of negotiations, it would be important for the negotiators to be aware of that. It should not be an imposition on the negotiators, but they should have notice of the Secretary of State's opinion. It would be open to the negotiators to negotiate knowing the Secretary of State's view, or for them to try to change the Secretary of State's mind. I hope that the Secretary of State will take that point on board. I said a moment ago that the Bill's provisions appear to be in breach of the requirements of the International Labour Organisation, a point that was made powerfully by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery). In the Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts, the Secretary of State was scornful of the ILO. That is part of his stock in trade when he is in difficulty, but the ILO needs to be treated with more respect because we are a signatory to it and at no stage have the Government sought to resile from their commitment to it. The ILO's comments about the structure are serious. It has stated that the Government, through
I have spelt out what I believe to be the entirely legitimate interests of any Government in teachers' pay. We all accept that there must be a final arbiter in what can sometimes be difficult negotiations, but there is no doubt that these arrangements go too far and are in breach of the ILO convention."the Secretary of State appears to have an absolute discretion to disregard any recommendations with which it disagrees, even if that recommendation has the full support of all parties to the negotiating process. This does not leave the 'final decision' with 'the parties'. The Government has not attempted to justify its proposals on the basis of 'compelling reasons of national economic interest'."
I believe that the hon. Gentleman has quoted the opinion of a committee of laymen in the ILO. It is not a legal opinion. That committee received no representations from the Government about breach of the convention, so it cannot be said at the moment to be the authoritative view of the ILO. If the ILO is minded to come to that opinion, that is because it has failed to understand that teachers in this country are employed on a basis whereby although the employer is the local authority, central Government provide about two thirds of the cost.I can well understand that that rather unusual situation is not replicated in most ILO member states. Most of those states would recognise the Government's right to determine the level of a pay settlement for civil servants where that is paid in full and they would expect a Government to keep out of negotiations in which the Government were not the employer. That is the approach in this country. The problem is that the ILO has not cottoned on to the fact that although we are not strictly the employer, central Government provide two thirds of the cost. That is why, as we all agree, the Government have a legitimate interest in the outcome of negotiations and must be allowed to bring their influence to bear.
There were some worried looks in the officials' Box as the Secretary of State said that the ILO committee had not considered the Government's reply. The committee received the Government's reply dated 4 October 1990. In its preamble to the conclusions, it recites in great detail exactly what the Government had to say. I will lend the Secretary of State my copy, but he needs to do something about his briefing. A committee considered the matter, but it had full notice of the Government's position.I wish to refer briefly to the opt-out arrangements. Most of us had hopes that the end of the Thatcher era would lead to an end to the paranoia which has unfortunately characterised much of the Government's approach to local authorities and trade unions. Sad to say, looking at the Bill, the chance of that habit of the past II years being changed seems slim. The United Kingdom is a very large country with a lot of people in it—[Laughter.] Small countries do not need to have their administration divided regionally and locally. The size of this country means that any national service must have its administration split, regionally and locally. The choice is either to have a service administered by local authorities which are locally elected and accountable or, as with the national health service, to have regional and local administration by appointed, unaccountable bodies often packed with partisan appointments with which the Secretary of State is all too familiar. I believe that we are better off with a model under which local authorities run the education service, as that produces better administration, better value for money and is also better politics for the governing party—something that the present Government always miss—because responsibility can be shared for the kind of service that is produced. Allowing local authorities to opt out of pay negotiations, as with permitting schools to opt out of local authority control, is not a clearly thought through policy, but a piece of guerrilla warfare against the established position of local authorities. As policy, it is inherently irresponsible. The test of any policy is what happens if it works. The previous Secretary of State for Education and Science was frightened about the kind of conclusion that would occur if the policy of schools opting out actually worked. On 13 October, he told the Financial Times:
That is exactly the case. Opting out may be able to work administratively for a handful of schools, but if a large number of schools opt out, that will replicate all the problems which occur in administering the health service and a parallel system of administration would have to be set up. Exactly the same thing would happen if a large number of local authorities opt out of pay negotiations. The Secretary of State said that he anticipated 75 per cent. of local authorities opting out of pay negotiations. Where does that leave the Government's legitimate interest in the outcome of those negotiations? If they all opt out, the Government cannot take any interest in the outcome of the negotiations. The Secretary of State blithely says that he is perfectly willing to anticipate that, but is he willing to anticipate a situation in which the only constraint that the Government can exercise over teachers' pay is through the revenue support grant mechanism which has no control over or say in the conditions or structure of teachers' pay? Is that the conclusion at which the Secretary of State wishes to arrive?"if a majority of the nation's schools did opt out, the result could be an administrative nightmare for central government, which would have to supervise and fund thousands of schools."
Those that opt out would be making a comparison between the national arrangements in which the Government were engaged and having their own local arrangements where they would have to decide what policies they could afford. I described the circumstances in which I thought that local education authorities would make their own arrangements where they had specific management objectives—for example, particular recruitment problems which the local authority in Essex could not overcome without using that option. I do not think that that policy poses a threat and I am not altogether sure whether the hon. Member for Blackburn is against it.
Either the Secretary of State has not understood my question or, more likely, he has decided not to answer it, for reasons that I well understand. There is a fatal contradiction between the position that he took 10 minutes ago, when he not only argued strongly for the Government to maintain a financial interest in the settlement and pay two thirds of the money but said that the Government have a major interest in the nature of the education service.
I did not.
With great respect, the Secretary of State did say that, as the record will show. He now says that the Government's only interest is in the overall pay bill, not the structure of the teaching profession. I believe—I think that the Secretary of State believes in truth—that the Government have an interest in the structure of the profession, the conditions of employment, and whether heads and deputies should be paid more, relative to other groups. The Secretary of State must consider that issue before allowing individual authorities to opt out of a national pay framework by picking up notes on the back of an envelope written by the Adam Smith Institute without any clear thought about the final conclusion.We accept the need for local authorities and governors of voluntary-aided schools to have a wide measure of discretion over teachers' pay. It is our judgment that the framework established by the interim advisory committee secures a good balance between the need for a national framework and the need for local discretion. It would be unwise, even for the present Government, to begin to dismantle or stage guerrilla attacks on the framework before it has had a chance to settle properly. What will the consequence be of allowing individual local authorities or grant-maintained schools to opt out of a national framework, especially when the Government do not intend to give those authorities any more money? The consequence will be that some local authorities, those which can command the greatest increase in resources, and some schools, those that can raise cash from parents, will pay more. At a time of teacher shortages—they do exist—the consequence will be that the richer, wealthier authorities will pay teachers more at the expense of the poor authorities with the greatest problems. Precisely that consequence has flown as a consequence of city technology colleges paying their teachers more than the scales that authorities in surrounding districts are able to pay their teachers. How on earth can the opting-out procedure improve the standards of the one third of children who are getting a raw deal, usually to be found in those local authorities with the least resources? What will the balkanisation of a national pay framework do for teachers' mobility? It is important that teachers are mobile. Under the provisions for a local authority to opt out of national pay negotiations, at least that local authority has to apply to the Secretary of State, who then makes a decision about the arrangements. Under the proposals for a grant-maintained school to opt out, under the arrangements announced in April, there was an obligation on the governors of a grant-maintained school to consult with staff. That proposal was contained in the Department of Education and Science press notice of 26 April. The Bill, however, contains no obligation for the governors to consult anybody. In addition, once an application has been made by the governors, the Secretary of State has no discretion to refuse the application. If the Secretary of State has discretion to judge whether the arrangements are appropriate in respect of a local authority, why can he not exercise his discretion in respect of a grant-maintained school?
Because the governors of a grant-maintained school have a discrete budget and have responsibility for keeping the school solvent, and are bound to operate within those confines. A local education authority has a much bigger budget and the scale is quite different. It is conceivable that the local education authority might be pursuing a policy of confronting the Government on their financial contribution, which the Government would like to approve. At the national level, where we are agreed that the Government must have an interest, the contribution has a direct bearing on the Government's issuing of revenue support grant.If a local authority seeks to leave the system. or a grant-maintained school breaks out of its own violition, they do so knowing that the Government's national obligation has already been defined and they are constrained by what they know to be the available resources. That system is not anarchic and does not constitute balkanisation—it merely allows a further logical extension of the local flexibility that we already have, and which I was pleased to hear the hon. Gentleman welcome a few moments ago.
The policy is quite different from local flexibility and will lead to a two-tier service, particularly in the context in which the Government seek to bribe schools to opt out of local authority control by giving them money that they could not otherwise have. It does not seem sensible for the Secretary of State to have some sort of reserve power over the applications from grant-maintained schools. What happens if Stratford school, which has been allowed to opt out and is now losing most of its pupils, suddenly decides to pay its teachers on a different scale? That could have a further serious and damaging effect on the education of the children in that school.
Because it could lead to a further loss of teachers—children have to be taught by someone. The opting-out system is destroying that school. Given the Secretary of State's responsibility for the education of those children, he should have reserve powers over what may happen—[Interruption.] What did the Secretary of State say?
The Secretary of State raised the issue of teacher shortages. The new arrangements are set against a background of serious teacher shortages. The Secretary of State is a fool to himself if he believes that teacher recruitment, retention and morale are under control, because they are not. A major survey conducted by his own Department this January showed that there had been a 50 per cent. increase in the number of teacher vacancies over a two-year period. The Secretary of State should look at that survey. I know that he has a reputation for liking neither statistics nor statisticians, but he should look more fully at the data.The Secretary of State spoke of recruitment to teacher training courses, which is welcome, but there are two factors that the Secretary of State should consider. First, recruitment in the sectors of most extreme shortage is down again this year. Figures for today, given to me by the Graduate Teacher Training Registry, show that maths applicants are down 760 against a target of 1,170, religious education applicants are down 219 against a target of 328, home economics applicants are down 60 against a target of 120 and craft design and technology applicants are down 240 against a target of 400. Those problems of under-recruitment now are built on year-by-year problems of under-recruitment. Secondly, the Secretary of State should bear in mind that of every three people who enter teacher training, only one is left in teaching five years after qualification. It is no good the Secretary of State merely reading out his brief about low levels of wastage. There are terrifying levels of wastage through teacher training courses, between qualification and entry to the profession, and from the profession, especially in the first five years. It is because of those wastage levels that there are as many people with teaching qualifications outside the school system as within the school system—even the Secretary of State's officials confirm that. If it were all so wonderful, we should not be in that position. The long title of the Bill refers to making arrangements for teachers' pay and connected purposes. In the Bill, the Government have missed a great opportunity to embark on a programme to re-establish teachers' professionalism and sense of pride. The Bill should contain measures properly to increase the recruitment, retention and morale of teachers and should establish a general teachers council. That was recommended by the all-party Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts, it would cost little and it would dramatically improve teachers' sense of professionalism and self-esteem. We need a reform of teacher training with much better induction and support, and the Government must tackle the problem of the many people who train to teach and either do not enter the profession or drop out in the first two or three years. We need a national core curriculum for teacher training to provide many different entry routes but only one exit level—that of graduate qualification. We need to pilot teacher training schools so that the burden of inducting new young teachers does not continue to fall on those schools with a large number of vacancies and, therefore, the greatest amount of stress. We must have real programmes for career development for teachers. That includes appraisal. I read an interesting interview in The Times on Monday, given by the Secretary of State. As part of the general November approach of Ministers, he seems to be dumping the policy of his predecessors. Speaking of teacher appraisal and his predecessor, he said:
What has changed is that the Government realise that the previous Secretary of State made a major error by not implementing the approach for national appraisal agreed by all parties to the scheme. The Secretary of State said that the £45 million required to implement that scheme is ludicrous, and that it was the estimate of the trade unions. He should do his homework before he comes to the House. The estimate of £45 million in "School Teacher Appraisal: a National Framework" is not the trade union estimate but that of the working party on which two of his very senior officials sat and to which the Government are committed. The sum of £45 million is 0·5 per cent. of the teachers' pay bill. That is a small price to pay for giving the profession a proper system of career development. If such a system can be put in place, there will be much less chance of the sort of wastage that occurs at present. In addition to teacher appraisal, we need systems which will reward new teachers and encourage them to stay in the profession and will better reward the career classroom teacher. The speed with which Conservative Members and leadership candidates are jettisoning so much of what they previously stood for, as we have discovered in the debate, is proof—if any were needed—of the failure of the past 11 years. It also proves that the Conservative party has few coherent policies, no principles and no shame. The Bill is based on the tired and failed agenda of the past 11 years, on exactly that bizarre combination of over-centralisation and near anarchy which was the hallmark of the 1987 Act. It will give unnecessary power to the Secretary of State for which he will not be properly accountable. It will divide and weaken the profession, and that will place at risk better standards of education. We shall oppose it in the Lobby."Things have changed since John made his decision, and it is apparent that it is not working on a voluntary basis."
I apologise in advance to the House because I shall not be able to remain for the whole of the debate owing to a long-standing and important commitment in another part of the Palace of Westminster.
My hon. Friend is the returning officer.
I am not the returning officer, but one day I hope to be.I have known the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) for 11 years, and I know of him for many years before our election to the House in 1979. I can go back the best part of a quarter of a century to the time when the hon. Gentleman was a student leader and I was a student. I remember him coming to address a student body in Manchester, when he was described as shallow, devious and vituperative. I am glad to say that he has remained true to the promise of his youth. His recent comments about my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister were disgraceful. He reached a new low in vituperation. I have heard it said of the hon. Gentleman, "Show him a belt and he has to hit below it." On 18 July, I asked the Labour party to make plain its intentions about the future of selective education in north-west Kent. The hon. Member for Durham, North-West (Ms. Armstrong) promised to send me a copy of the Labour party's review. I still await that document. A few days ago, the hon. Member for Blackburn rather churlishly refused to let me intervene, and at that time the hon. Lady again said that she would send me a copy of the review. I am still waiting. The hon. Member for Blackburn spoke about re-creating the old coalition of vested interests. There was nothing new or special in his speech. I was an Under-Secretary at the Department of Education and Science for five years, from 1983 to 1988. During that time, in 1985 and 1986, the Burnham arrangements collapsed. Those arrangements worked to a degree for almost 70 years and were based on consensus, the coming together of the various interests to decide on teachers' pay but not on conditions of service. Percentage or cash increases reflected the needs of the local authority, the schools and the Government. Unfortunately, that consensus was destroyed by the coming together and working together of left-wing local education authority leaders and left-wing trade unionists. When that consensus was destroyed—I am sure that hon. Members will agree that it was destroyed—it created an inevitable vacuum in the arrangements by which teachers' pay was settled. Burnham was finished. I welcome the attempts by successive Secretaries of State to make the interim arrangements work. Clearly, those arrangements were conceived as only temporary. Something had to be arranged which would reflect the genuine and decent interests of the various parties. I totally support the Bill, because it does much to square the circle of the difficulties that we have inherited. I should like to deal with an issue in which I have taken a special interest in recent years—the differences in teachers' pay, recruitment and retention between the south-east and the rest of the country. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister started her political career in my Kent constituency 40 years ago. In that constituency, there are some difficulties in arranging an adequate and varied short list for senior teacher posts. My hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Norris) spoke about that. In view of the national pay scale, no ambitious teacher is prepared to forego the quality of life and living standards that obtain in the north-west and propose to give up his home by applying for a job in London or the Home Counties. Those areas have a higher cost of living and certainly a higher cost of housing. On many occasions in the House and to different Secretaries of State, I have advocated the need for regional pay and for schools to become cost-centred pay bargaining units. Therefore, I welcome the part of the Bill that provides for local education authorities or grant-maintained schools to opt out of national pay bargaining arrangements. If the local education authority or the grant-maintained schools that I currently have and that I will have decide to adopt a degree of local flexibility and to pay the market rate, that would be good for the schools in my constituency. If this debate is to be genuine, we must recognise that one of our problems is that a science or chemistry graduate with a good degree could expect a salary of between £10,000 and £14,000 on leaving university if starting at a pharmaceutical plant somewhere in London, but if he or she started teacher training or began probationary work in a school, the salary would be much lower. We need the flexibility to recruit staff if we are to bring teachers back into teaching. Many graduates who leave teacher training colleges or university with bachelor of educaiton degrees do not even step inside a school. Those are the men and women whom we need to bring back into our schools so that we can give variety and choice to those who govern our schools when they are recruiting. Therefore, I welcome the opt-out arrangement, because it will give schools flexibility when determining their recruitment arrangements. More importantly, however, it will show school governors the realism that they must adopt in their day-to-day and month-to-month running of our schools. There is no doubt among my hon. Friends—or, I am sure, among Opposition Members—that the arrangements for the local financial management of schools has opened the eyes of many school governors as never before. School governors, who often used to be ciphers who sat on the platform at speech day or prize day and went to the annual cheese and wine party given by the parent teachers association, often had no concept of the problems facing the local education authorities. If a window was broken in the school, a docket was sent to county hall or to the local education office nearby and, about a week later, someone from direct labour would turn up to repair the window at great cost. Giving school governing bodies control over the budget has led to the inevitable realisation that the administration's life is not always as easy as they have thought. Governing bodies have started to realise that those who run our education authorities have to decide their priorities. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Wolfson) can confirm, my county of Kent has suffered in the past 10 years. We were starved of financial support by the last Labour Government because our county would not go down the comprehensive route. When there is talk about "evil women"—I deprecate such talk in public life—the person who should stand at the Bar to apologise to my hon. Friends and to me is the right hon. Shirley Williams, for the great damage that she did to our schools when she was Secretary of State for Education and Science. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] There is rare unanimity in the Chamber, except for the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Taylor). However, I know that he knows that, when the right hon. Lady was doing that demolition work, she was a member of the Labour party and acted with the full authority of the Labour Government of the day. We know jolly well that, given the opportunity—which, of course, they will not be—Opposition Members would tread the same path as before. Opting out will become not only fashionable but the norm. The relative advantages of such flexibility will be seen by teachers, unions and school governors alike as an enormous benefit to those who maintain our schools. If there is a problem in recruiting a science, physics or history teacher to fill a vacancy, the governors will have to take whatever decision they think fit in the light of the priorities set by the school governing body. I gather that The Independent was very much in favour of such flexibility on 23 July, which it described as
It continued:"a simple and beneficial reform".
The Daily Telegraph, which is a well-known paper of the centre—[Laughter.]—well, I regard it as being in the centre—also stated on 23 July that the proposals are"This is clearly the right thing to do … National bargaining has a number of drawbacks. It enhances the importance of the teachers' unions, whose concern for the well-being of the children is, to put it charitably, well concealed … It is one of many forms of central control that British schools would be better off without".
I am sure that no hon. Member would disagree with that. I hope to alert the country—there is a lot of alerting going on at the moment—to the fact that the Labour party has adopted its traditional servility to the teacher unions. Nothing has changed. It is said of the Opposition's education team: "Show me a vested interest and I will kneel before it " The hon. Member for Blackburn has talked about his plans for the future. In the final sentences of his speech, he said that he would like this and that. I, too, would like something and it is only a small request. I hope——"constructive and long overdue … Local bargaining would not only help to address teacher shortages, it would also show how State-run concerns need not be bound by the model of the socialist command economy".
For a job.
In the handing out of jobs, all hon. Members know that a tyre is never recycled twice.The hon. Member for Blackburn said what he would like. I make a plea to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State. I hope that, in the fulness of time, he will abolish Her Majesty's inspectorate of schools and replace it with an educational audit commission, which will have the responsibility for ensuring that the reforms that we have set in place are measured and evaluated and that there are also value-for-money assessments——
The hon. Gentleman knows me too well. Last time we met, he did not do me the courtesy of giving way, and I shall not give way to him now.Before I was so rudely interrupted, I was saying that the abolition of HMI would be welcome, as would the establishment of an educational audit commission, which could evaluate the educational reforms and give value-for-money assessments, and which should be essential and integral parts of our plans for the future. In conclusion, I read the reasoned amendment of the Leader of the Opposition and his supporters with great interest and a little amusement. It states:
By their very nature, national pay arrangements divide and weaken the education service. That is why the Bill must be supported. The amendment then refers to placing "standards at risk". That is an element of cant beyond even the scope of the hon. Member for Blackburn. Time and time again in the past year, the hon. Gentleman has been challenged to make his position clear to the people of Dartford. I am the hon. Member for Dartford, and I have a responsibility to the people of Dartford. I ask the hon. Member for Blackburn whether I can now say to the people of Dartford that it is Labour party policy to abolish our grammar schools? The answer is yes, is it not?"That this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which, by undermining national pay arrangements, will divide and further weaken the education service".
No, the hon. Gentleman can act like a nodding dog. He has only to nod in answer to my questions. Can I say to the people of Dartford that the Labour party would take into local authority control the New Leigh city technology college? The answer is yes, by the nodding dog's consent. Can I say to the people of Dartford that the Labour party will take into local authority control the grant-maintained grammar school for girls at Wilmington? The nodding dog is saying, "Yes, yes, yes." Can I say to the people of Dartford that all the systems will be abolished and all that they will be permitted is a comprehensive system and no choice? The nodding dog is saying, "Yes, yes, yes."
What about the assisted places scheme?
I shall come to that in a minute. Perhaps my hon. Friend will contain his fervour.The Opposition's amendment claims that the Bill will "place standards at risk". High standards are achieved only through competition, the ability to choose, and parental pressure. When there is only one system in a community, which permits no choice, how can there be standards?
Does my hon. Friend agree that it is possible that the standards of the Leader of the Opposition could be raised if there was a little competition on the Opposition Benches?
I would not want to intrude into that debate. As one who has gone through the past few weeks with some trepidation and concern, I think that it would be better if the Labour party held its leadership election in the near future——
The Labour party is facing a crisis.
My hon. Friend is right. However, I do not want to stray from the essential theme of my speech. I hope that my hon. Friends will be quiet so that I can go down my chosen route.Choice means standards. Variety and a range of provision lead to an improvement in standards, not the attitude, "You can have any colour of car you want, as long as it is black." That is Labour party policy, and that is why it is ashamed to state its true policy. As my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) said, not only does the Opposition's policy mean the end of all those provisions, and the imposition of one system; it also means the abolition of the assisted places scheme. I served as a Back Bencher on the Committee that considered the Bill that introduced that scheme, and the introduction of city technology colleges was my idea. I can truly tell my constituents that the Labour party would do all the things I have mentioned because there is an amity of interest—[HON. MEMBERS: "A what?"]—an amity of interest on the Opposition Front Bench.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
No.The Opposition's amendment states that the Bill
The Government have a strategy for the raising of standards, for the improvement of parental choice, for variety, and for the accountability of governors and schools to the consumer. There is nothing wrong with that. There is a noticeable absence of any coherent strategy from the Opposition. Why? It is because nothing is said by Opposition Members unless Mr. Mandelson allows it to be said. Every Opposition speech must be stamped with the approval not of the Egg Marketing Board but of Mr. Mandelson."is based on no coherent strategy to improve teacher recruitment, retention and morale".
The latter part of the hon. Gentleman's remarks shows that he has little regard for standards. He should update the information that he gives to the House. Peter Mandelson is no longer in the employ of the Labour party.The hon. Gentleman made a number of points about standards. Could he explain why, when Martin Turner published figures in the summer that showed a decline in reading standards, the Government had no answer and had no figures to show what was happening to reading standards in our schools?
The hon. Gentleman's intervention was both sketchy and shaky. Although Mr. Mandelson is no longer in the direct employ of the Labour party, I suspect that the aroma lingers on. Somewhere in the office of the Leader of the Opposition, there is a little gnome in the image of the hon. Member for Blackburn. It sits there and says, "No, you can't say that. Yes, you can say that." That is dangerous for an Opposition who seek to expose our difficulties. We have a strategy and a commitment.I will read the speeches of Opposition Members, especially those of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery), the grandfather of the Labour party. I know that he will make a robust and telling speech, and I am sure that he will be the first to say that his party has no policy. In the light of what was said today, it has not, it will not, and it cannot.
The hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Dunn) can be delightfully droll. During the 300 and more hours that we faced each other across the Committee Room when we were debating the so-called reform Bill—I would call it a deformed Bill—he enlightened many a 30 seconds with lovely stories. He came out with the most reactionary thoughts in the most charmingly acceptable language, as he has just done again. I pay him a tribute, because after he was a junior Minister there must have been a time when he went to see the Prime Minister and said to her, "Yes, yes, yes," but she said, "No, no, no," and threw him out. Indeed, she did that with many Conservative Members, one or two of whom are here today. She was merciless, but they have had their revenge. The daggers came out and they threw her out. The hon. Gentleman may even be invited back into the Government.I want to talk about the reality of the Bill, something that the hon. Gentleman avoided with some skill. I am sorry that the Secretary of State is not in the Chamber. I have known him for quite a long time. Last week, he came to the Select Committee with a couple of officials from his Department. I have served on that Select Committee almost from the beginning. It is customary for Ministers to come to the Committee with the serried ranks of the inspectors who know about education and who can be appealed to about education. Instead, during the whole of the research into teacher shortages, one of the two officials was the only person who told us that he had never encountered low teacher morale. He was at the Select Committee last week, and when he was asked a question, he answered it typically with a monosyllable. I think that he said, "No." The other official said practically nothing. There is a qualitative change in the approach to education. Instead of the inspectors who know and understand education, we had a couple of departmental bureaucrats who wanted to talk only about money because money is the key to what is happening. When I heard the Secretary of State waxing lyrical about the high salaries that teachers are supposed to enjoy, I thought that he should contact Andrew Lloyd Webber's agent, to see whether his words could be set to music. It could be called, "Kenneth Clarke Superstar" or something like that. Elaine Page could pay the role of a prima donna schoolteacher, singing how joyous it is to teach 40 kids, and how lovely to get a miserable wage and have practically no morale. That is the true posiition, but the Government refuse to face up to it at any cost. That will be a great part of their undoing in what I hope will be the not-too-distant future. I refer now to the terms in which the International Labour Organisation report talks about the Bill. It proves that the Government broke international law with the Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act 1987. It is no use the Secretary of State arguing that the report was produced by only a minor committee, because it is one of the major committees of the ILO, which itself is affiliated to the United Nations Organisation—and the report has its agreement too. It is not just a piece of paper, but a major report. Paragraph 72 of the report states:
yet the Secretary of State said that there had been no communication—"The arrangements described by the Government in its communication of 4 October 1990"—
The following paragraph states that the Bill is really only about consultation and has nothing to do with negotiation, because whatever negotiations have taken place through whatever parties were involved, they would be disregarded, and could be disregarded, by the Secretary of State, who can then decide what the salaries of teachers should be, in his opinion. The hon. Member for Dartford spoke about rubber stamping, but we have seen 11 years of the Conservative party being terrified by the local headmistress. Conservative Members did not dare say a word wrong, because the Prime Minister would have thrown them out. The hon. Gentleman accuses us of rubber stamping, but we saw Conservative Members crawling and grovelling to the nearly ex-Prime Minister. I emphasise that not all Conservative Members did that. Some noble souls did not grovel, but they paid the price. The ILO points out that the Bill contravenes article 4 of convention 98, which was ratified by the present Government. The principles enunciated by the ILO are among those to which the Government are party, yet the Government are violating a convention to which they are a signatory. Despite that, the Secretary of State makes empty arguments in trying to prove that the ILO does not represent the organisation that it does. He will not go along with the convention but means to have his own way. The Bill is really saying, "No negotiation about teachers' wages—only dictatorship." That is extremely sad for everyone connected with education—including parents, children and governors—many of whom are being given all sorts of new duties that will frighten them away. Governors will be lost, because much of the work now undertaken by local education authorities will have to be done by governors. The Secretary of State spoke about the individual deciding his own wage, but there are no negotiations under the present system. Instead, a head can tell a teacher the wage that he will receive. Heads will be able to offer inducements—some have already done so—for teachers to opt out of national negotiations in favour of personal and private negotiations. There will then be no need for trade unions or local education authorities. in their place will be something in which the Conservative party profoundly believes—a system whereby a big stick is waved in the faces of ordinary working people, who will be told that they will receive a wage that has already been decided, with no question of any negotiation. The ILO points out that three major aspects of the Bill violate the convention agreed by the United Nations and to which the Government were a signatory. First is the Secretary of State's power to reject any negotiated settlement with which he disagrees and to impose his own. Secondly, there is the proposal to establish a permanent body similar to the existing interim advisory committee. The third violation is the provision enabling individual LEAs and grant-maintained schools to opt out of national negotiations without establishing local negotiating machinery. Teaching staff will be left to negotiate for themselves, without any strength behind them. This is the second time that the ILO has found the Government in breach of international law. The Government mean to force through their legislation, knowing that it violates the rules by which every other European nation abides. It is diktat rather than negotiation, which violates not only the convention that has the support of the ILO and the United Nations but the beliefs of every other European nation."do not appear to be compatible with these principles. The Government, through the Secretary of State, appears to have an absolute discretion to disregard any recommendation with which it disagrees, even if the recommendation has the full support of all parties to the negotiating process. This does not leave the 'final decision' with 'the parties'. The Government has not attempted to justify its proposals on the basis of `compelling reasons of national economic interest.' Like the provisions of the 1987 Act, the new arrangements cannot be regarded as 'exceptional' in character or as operating only for a 'reasonable period.' Nor do they appear to provide `adequate safeguards' to protect workers' living standards."
One of the claims often made by teachers' unions is that their members earn less than a London secretary. If there is one group of employees who are not unionised it is London secretaries, who are in a free market in negotiating their salaries. Does not the hon. Gentleman see a contradiction in the unions saying that teachers do not earn as much as London secretaries, when the latter are not unionised?
The hon. Gentleman has some kind of vendetta against unions. That is nothing strange, because I see in their places a number of Conservative Members who share that view. However, when a complaint about the Bill was lodged with the ILO, it came not just from a union but from the World Confederation of Organs of the Teaching Profession throughout the World. The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) might try to laugh that out of existence, but the Government refuse to acknowledge that education is steadily moving into crisis. That will undoubtedly help to defeat the Government, but our children are suffering in the process.Schools are tumbling down around our ears for lack of money, and parents are worried sick about their children's education. Meanwhile, the Government have siphoned off more than £400 million this year to private education, and they will give another £200 million over the next couple of years—making a total of about £625 million of public money going into the assisted places scheme and city technology colleges.
Does my hon. Friend agree that, although the Tories were jeering about the International Labour Organisation—which is affiliated to the United Nations, as he said—they have a different view when the Prime Minister supports the UN's attitude towards Iraq? Then they display complete and almost abject loyalty to it. However, if it does not suit them—almost within the same breath—they sneer at the UN and its affiliated bodies, as they have done tonight.
I think that every hon. Member in the Chamber will recognise the truth of what my hon. Friend has just said. Tory Members choose what is acceptable to them about the United Nations and UNESCO, but are against anything they do with which they disagree, or which costs money. At the same time, they are taking money from our children and giving it to private education. As they know, our children are suffering. Teachers are working harder than ever and are maligned by the Conservative party, and it is no use Tory Members denying it.The convention which I mentioned and to which the Government have agreed, was formulated to protect citizens from abuse of power. Conservative Members are against UN conventions, signed by the Conservative party, which aim to protect citizens from the abuse of power. The Government will give the Secretary of State the right arbitrarily to abuse power and to breach an international law that the Government have already signed, by passing the Bill. I do not think that any Conservative Members realise that. I bet that no Conservative Member has the ILO report on the Bill, which is fundamental, or has read it. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Pembroke is muttering something—if only I could hear it. The ILO refers to the legislation as
It also points out that local authorities and schools that opt out of national negotiations would be obliged only to consult, rather than to negotiate with, their teachers. The ILO report continues by telling the Government to frame their legislation differently, so that it"fatally flawed because … the parties lack the freedom to strike their own bargain on their own terms".
which they have signed. That is the problem that we now face. The Opposition think that this faulty legislation will further disrupt our educational system in many ways—God knows, it is on the verge of major disruption and none of us wants that. We want harmony in schools. We want our children to be in smaller classes. We want teachers to have reasonable wages, to be well trained and we want plenty of them. Practically all of that is non-existent in Britain at the moment. Teachers' morale will sink even lower as a result of the Bill. Numerically, we are powerless to stop it and we can only argue against it to the best of our ability. Teachers will see through the trickery and the sleight of hand embodied in the Bill. Conservative Members do not even seem to have read the Bill, never mind the report on it. With blind loyalty to their party, Conservative Members are pushing our children into large classes. State education is in the hands of people who do not send their children to state schools—most of them do not. I see that the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) is in the Chamber; I know that he sends his children to state schools, as he always boasts about it. Conservative Members do not understand state education. They want to make money out of education. They are masters and mistresses of the tawdry philosophy of the market, and they want to bring it into the classroom. Our children will be in bigger classes and will not have enough teachers. Conservative Members will then start to tell us all sorts of fables about the situation and will say that it does not exist. The Secretary of State knows very little about education. I know that he is new. He is like a fresher in this job. He proved very clever at ruining the national health service—wards have been closed. Now it will be not merely a case of wards and hospitals closing. In addition, schools will close and classrooms will have far too many children in them. The competition that Conservatives want will mean that a school in an area where working people are doing the best for their children will not come up to their expectations, another school in a posher area will come up to expectations and the first school will close. What will the Conservatives do with all the empty schools, when the schools that they make into competitive successes are full? We have experienced this——"respects the right of the parties to the collective bargaining process to conclude, and to implement, their own agreement, and (ii) encourages and promotes the development and utilisation of collective bargaining machinery, in the manner envisaged by Article 4 of Convention No. 98"—
Not again, please. God bless you, your honour, you are very kind.Conservative Members do not understand what they are doing with our education system, which has been built up during the best part of 150 years—[Laughter.] It is no good laughing about it. Whoever becomes the Tory leader—we are not bothered who—will have to face the cold grey light of political dawn, a languishing education system, a national health service that is in great difficulties, and all the other things that Conservative Members laugh about but do not know about. More and more teachers will opt out of the profession. The Secretary of State told us that the number of people applying to become teachers had increased. Honestly, Madam Deputy Speaker, when he opens his mouth practically anything can come out—he says anything. He tries to make the situation look beautiful but anyone who visits schools or who talks to parents or governors knows that they are at their wits' end to know what to do after the Government's depredations on the education service. Children will suffer, schools will suffer, and we shall fall even further behind competing nations. What should the Government do? I would tell them, but they do not need telling. They know what they ought to do, but are consciously refusing to do it. The only answer is to restore free negotiating rights—six separate teachers' unions negotiating with their employers. When they have come to an agreement, they will be able to go to the Secretary of State knowing that, more than likely, it will be ratified. If he does not want to ratify it, he will discuss with them what he thinks is wrong. What is fundamental—this is what makes the Conservatives choke on what they ought to do—is to give more money to education. It is the only way. More money means more teachers, smaller classes, better schools, more equipment and more books. It means all the things that we now need in our education system. Conservative Members call it throwing money at a problem, as if they ever threw money at our problems. They throw money only at their own problems, such as Guinness. I have just outlined the only answer. There is no other way. This tawdry Bill is another statement to the general public that the Conservatives will not change one iota, but will continue in the wretched manner in which they have conducted themselves thus far.
Towards the end of his speech, the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) referred to the need for more money. I wonder if he has noted an interesting omission from the list of supporters of the Opposition amendment. If he looks at the Order Paper, he will see that there is no shadow Treasury spokesman in the list. That is a clear sign of just how much Opposition Members care about our children's education. Opposition Members say that they will make improvements only as resources allow, as we have heard on so many occasions. It is clear from that omission that resources will not be allowed.The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) said that, during a five-year period, one in three teachers leaves the profession. At first sight that seems a fairly damning statistic, but one must understand that there are many women in the teaching profession who will get married and have children. Therefore, it is natural that a number of people should leave the profession. As we all know, they will return when their families start to grow up. Therefore, I do not share the hon. Gentleman's feelings of gloom. I welcome the Bill, because I believe that, over time, it will help to raise teacher morale. For some years, teachers have, with some strength, complained about the loss of their negotiating rights. The Bill remedies that and, after a reasonable period of reflection, it will be welcomed by teachers, heads and others in the profession. There have been substantial consultations between the Government and teacher unions as well as with the employers—the local education authorities.
Consultation is not simply a matter of arranging to hear the views of another party. Consultation fails miserably when Governments fail to listen. I hope that the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr Pawsey) agrees that consultation should be meaningful and should result in a recognition of real concerns and some effort being made to meet them.
I am pleased that I gave way to the hon. Gentleman, because I can tell him that the Government do listen. We take on board the recommendations that are made to us by various professional bodies. One can see improvements and modifications that have taken place in various Bills as a result of some of the points made to us. For example, in the Education Reform Act 1988, we adjusted the testing of seven-year-olds. Teachers said to us, quite properly, that the testing arrangements were far too bureaucratic. We took on board the points made, and we have eased the testing requirements. That is an example of how we listen.The Bill avoids the trap of creating son of Burnham or Burnham mark 2. It does not restore the old discredited machinery which did so much to cause dissent and divide the profession. The Bill provides for negotiations between employers and teachers under an independent chairman. The Government will not be a party to those negotiations. There will be no pre-set financial limit to the negotiations. I acknowledge quite readily that employers will be aware of the aggregate external finance that the Government will make available for local authority expenditure, and no doubt they will reach decisions in the light of those figures. A time limit, quite properly, will be set upon the negotations and in the event of no agreement being reached by the end of the time limit, something similar to the existing independent advisory committee will come into play and the Government will receive recommendations from that body. I have made it clear in the House over a number of years that teaching is an important and honourable profession. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am pleased that my hon. Friends acknowledge that. Perhaps there is some significance in the fact that it was not acknowledged by Opposition Members. Perhaps they do not see the teaching profession in that way. I want teacher remuneration to reflect the true importance of the profession. As I have said previously, teachers are not always their own best advocates. We can recall the days of action which resulted in the nation's children being sent home from school I think that we all agree that that was disgraceful, and that there can be no justification for such action. Even this year, we saw a leader of a major trade union being shouted down by his own union militants. That is not a good augury. I hope that from the legislation will emerge a better understanding and greater co-operation between teacher and legislator, for the good of the nation's children. I said earlier that I am anxious to see teachers better remunerated. This measure will be one of the ways in which we might achieve that laudable aim. An article in the Daily Mail referring to the education service gives the number of teachers and the number in support services. The figures suggest that, out of any 10 people on a local education authority payroll, only about six are teaching children. If that figure is true, the profession is out of balance. This matter has considerable relevance to the debate. It is a truism that one can only spend a pound once. One may spend it on either support staff or teachers. I should like to see much greater funding being made available for teachers and less for support staff. Funding for pay increases exists but it needs to find its way to the teachers in the classroom.
There are many different sorts of non-teaching staff. Some of them within classrooms provide support for those with special needs or help the teachers when they have to cover other work in the classroom. I assume that the hon. Member does not think that such special support should be cut.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, because that enables me to refer in greater detail to the article in the Daily Mail. The article divides non-teaching staff, saying that 10 per cent. are involved in central administration, 20 per cent. in schools administration and 10 per cent. in miscellaneous duties.
Order. Does the hon. Gentleman wish to raise a point with me?
The hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) is reading figures from a newspaper. Is that in order?
It is perfectly in order for the hon. Gentleman to quote from any publication, and that is what he is doing.
I had finished the quotation. I believe that it provides the answer for the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Taylor). It underlines my point that we should be making resources available for those who teach. Teachers require the extra money, not the bureaucrats or the others in shire hall or wherever. The money should find its way to those who teach; I hope that hon. Members will not disagree with that.
Perhaps the hon. Lady disagrees.
I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman would care to turn his attention to the increased number of bureaucrats at the Department of Education and Science. My understanding is that, in the past two years, that number has risen considerably, far more than in any other section of education.
One of the hon. Lady's hon. Friends expressed concern about the likely activities of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State. He said that he would be likely to cut the numbers involved. The hon. Lady cannot have it both ways. Either it is good to reduce numbers or it is not. I think that we have probably got it right at the Department of Education and Science.It is interesting that the Association of County Councils said that it welcomed the proposals in the Queen's Speech to introduce an early Bill to establish permanent negotiating arrangements covering teachers' pay. It offers a general welcome to the proposed legislation and supports the restoration of direct employer-employee pay bargaining. That brings me to a point that incurred the displeasure of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery). I support the view that local education authorities should be allowed to negotiate rates of pay for their own teaching staff. That point was well made by my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Dunn) in his memorable speech. I know that this arrangement is unpopular with the trade unions. Their argument is that it will not increase the number of teachers. That argument was developed by the hon. Member for Blackburn. He said that, if one authority chooses to pay more money, teachers will be attracted to it from neighbouring authorities. I understand the argument, but I do not agree with it. When enacted, the Bill will encourage teachers who have left the profession to return to it. The National Union of Teachers says that 360,000 teachers have left the teaching profession. That suggests that there is a remarkably large reservoir of teachers whom we might reach. The Bill is one way to do that; it may bring more teachers back into the profession. That would answer the shortage arguments that have been advanced. The Bill may persuade women who have left the profession to have families to return to it. The effect of this part of the Bill will be to increase the number of teachers. Again I refer to a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford: that it is interesting that there are other professions in which shortages occur. For example, no one seriously argues that there should be a flat rate for accountants. The decision about how much accountants should get paid is left to individual employers. Given their particular conditions, they pay what they think is fair. If that is right for accountants, why is it not right for teachers? If it works for accountants, why should the same argument not apply equally to teachers? If the Bill leads to additional funds being made available for teachers, I shall welcome it wholeheartedly. The independents decide what they pay scales should be. They have little difficulty in encouraging teachers to come forward. I support the view that grant-maintained schools should be able to negotiate the pay of their staff. They would then be able to respond much more quickly to any weakness in their teaching forces. If that encourages more schools to apply for grant-maintained status, so be it. I welcome it absolutely. I said earlier that one of the effects of the Bill will be to increase the number of teachers. I am aware that the teacher unions believe that the teaching profession is short of about 10,000 teachers. That conflicts strongly with the Department's vacancy survey in September 1990, which shows that 24,000 posts were filled during the summer. On 3 September, only 1,400 posts were not filled. An interesting fact is that only three of the 104 local education authorities reported a larger number of vacancies in September 1990, than in January of this year. During the past 11 years, this Administration have introduced a number of substantial reforms. They will be truly effective, however, only if they are supported by the majority of the nation's teachers. The majority of United Kingdom teachers are dedicated to their profession and to the children in their charge. This measure is one way in which we can show our support for teachers and direct more money towards them.
To judge by what happened last Thursday, it seems always to fall to the lot of the Liberal Democrats to be interrupted by an important announcement. The fact that the result of the leadership ballot is about to be made allows me to refer to our amendment. We submit that the debate should be delayed for seven days. Reference has already been made to the impact that a different leader of the Conservative party may have on the Bill. All the contenders for the leadership of the Conservative party have made announcements that could have an impact on the working of the Bill.Most significantly, the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) has suggested that education spending and control should be centralised. If he were to go ahead with that suggestion, there would be no point in having a negotiating machinery that involves local education authorities and the teacher unions. In that case, local education authorities would not perform their present role. It would be more relevant to have a review body at Government level. The Chancellor of the Exchequer suggests that there should be a separate review of teachers' pay. That appears to conflict with the basis of the Bill. All the leadership contenders have suggested that there should be a review of local government finance. That would lead to confusion over the opting-out proposals. One of the difficulties about the local pay determination proposals put forward by the Government is that the structure of local government finance does not provide the required flexibility to make sense of local pay determination. The Bill is based on the premise that there should be local education authority funding. However, that is in doubt. There appears to be a conflict, because of the basis on which the Bill has been drafted. There are many reasons, therefore, on that score alone, for saying that the Bill ought not to be debated today. Another reason has been revealed more fully in the debate than I expected. It has become apparent that insufficient documents have been published dealing with the impact of local pay determination on teachers arid on local authority finance. The Government have not explained why they are doing this and why they think that it will work. When I asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science about the Department's research, he told the House that he believed that no research had taken place on the subject. He also said that he did not believe that research would have been valid. It is extraordinary that the Government should embark on the adventure of local pay determination without having tried to determine what the effect is likely to be on teachers' pay, teacher supply, the interaction between different local authorities and in particular the impact of richer authorities—many of them urban authorities—pushing up teacher pay levels, to the disadvantage of smaller and poorer authorities in rural areas. That is surprising, given the number of Conservative Members who represent, as I do, rural areas. I should have expected them already to be aware of the fear in rural areas about the impact of richer authorities upon smaller ones. For a variety of reasons, it is most disadvantageous that the Bill is being debated today. Education has been labelled by all parties and all the candidates for the leadership of the Conservative party as a priority for the 1990s. It is a key issue upon which the general election is likely to be fought. It is right that that should be so. Public confidence in the Government's commitment to education is at a very low ebb. The Government's duty is to show that they are prepared to tackle the problem constructively. We have had plenty of legislation from the Government. The problem has been the lack of funding to back it up, the speed of change, poor preparation and an environment in which teachers do not trust the Government and in which schools have not the resources to cope with the demands placed on them. The Bill cannot be accused of speed of change. We have been waiting far too long for the restoration of proper teacher pay machinery. It was suggested in December 1989 that a new structure would be in place by now but, as Liberal Democrats predicted, the present interim advisory committee has had to be extended for a further year. Part of the reason for the low morale in the profession must be that continued uncertainty and teachers' lack of involvement in the settlement of pay and conditions. I say that with some knowledge, because I have visited more than 60 schools and talked to teachers, and that was one of the subjects that they raised. Although the Bill is overdue, and although I have considerable concerns about its details, we shall not oppose its Second Reading, not because we believe that it is adequate—we shall be looking for specific changes—but because we do not want to hold up the reintroduction of the pay machinery for teachers. I am sure that the Minister would not expect us to agree with all the Bill's provisions, but we do not believe that there would be any advantage in seeking to throw it out and to hold up for perhaps another year the introduction of negotiating machinery. The background for my concern is teacher supply and morale. Much reference has been made to supply problems. The May 1990 report of the Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts on teacher supply highlighted those problems and called for the restoration of negotiating rights as soon as possible. That would help to restore the status of teaching as a career, because simply putting in place the machinery will not solve the supply problem. As the most basic economist knows, part of the problem is that pay is not sufficiently high to attract the supply, and that is particularly so in certain areas. The figures have been given already, but it is fairly extraordinary that the Government, who claim economic credibility, cannot apparently accept that simple point. It is extraordinary to listen to Conservative Members debate that subject. They argue that the teacher shortage does not result from pay being too low, but it is also the case—[Interruption.] Some news might be coming.
The Chancellor missed by two votes—third ballot coming up.
If that is so, the question of who will be the leader of the Conservative party remains unresolved. The Chancellor has missed taking the leadership of the party by two votes. There will be a third ballot and the present uncertainty will continue, not least on the future of this Bill.The point that I was seeking to make is that it is quite extraordinary—
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. As you know, a competition has been going on in this place for some time, in which the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) got only 131 votes, the Chancellor of the Exchequer 185 and the Foreign Secretary 56. My point of order is that technically, as I understand it, that means a third ballot. Have you received a statement from the Prime Minister about the candidates being prevented from using Government facilities for a party political matter? That is very important, because the taxpayer does not want to finance these quarrels in the Tory party.
I seem to have been this way before—rather like last week. The hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) is a little late this week in giving us the result, which we already know. I have had no message from the Prime Minister or from any other member of the Government. The hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Taylor) has the Floor.
I am delighted that I got there first.The point that I am trying to make is that Conservative Members, having denied the problem, argued that local pay determination, which would allow flexibility to increase pay in certain cases, would solve the problem of teacher supply. They tried to face both ways at the same time. I referred in previous debates to the problems in Cornwall, which are not typical. In many ways, we are in a better position than many authorities, but there has been a decline in applications for many posts, although quality has not been perceptibly affected. There has been some decline in applications for primary headships. I have quoted previously from local head teachers who wrote to me about the problems that they have experienced, such as the work load becoming insurmountable, people being tired, under extreme stress and losing much enthusiasm. One head teacher said:
Another wrote:"I have a good many years left to give to education, but my enthusiasm for teaching cannot go on indefinitely".
Four teachers wrote to me about the problems of morale in their schools, and subsequent to writing to me, two have withdrawn from the profession. They have acted on the problems that they highlighted. [Interruption.] I want to keep the Chamber informed. I understand that the former Defence Secretary, the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), is not continuing."Morale in my school is at an all-time low and deteriorating."
Order. The hon. Gentleman might continue with the proposed legislation before us. If hon. Members are interested, the news is awaiting them outside—or they can approach the Chair.
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I do not wish to intervene in the debate, but in the light of the developments, is it possible to arrange, at the earlier possible moment, for a statement to be made? We have been clearly led to believe that there is a prospect of change to the poll tax. If there is to be a change of leadership, may we have the earliest possible statement on what one hopes will be plans for the abolition of the poll tax?
If an application for a statement is made to Mr. Speaker, he will ensure that it is dealt with as early as possible.
I hope that you will accept, Madam Deputy Speaker, that this is not the easiest speech to make.
The hon. Gentleman is doing very well in very difficult circumstances. Perhaps the House would show a little tolerance and allow him to make his case.
Naturally, Madam Deputy Speaker, you are allowing me to do so.The Bill will do little to tackle the morale problem, which is crucial to the supply crisis, not least because teachers are too sceptical about the Conservative party's commitment to teachers to believe that the new pay machinery will lead to better pay. They have reasons for expressing those doubts. First, to correct that problem, the Bill should have included a commitment to a general teaching council, which could do much to put right many of the problems within the profession, not least the recognition of the professionalism of teachers. Secondly, we cannot talk pay unless we talk quality. Morale would be given a boost if the quality and contribution of good teachers were recognised, and for that, among other things, we need a nationally funded framework of teacher appraisal. I hope that the Minister will explain the Secretary of State's position on appraisal. The previous Secretary of State had decided not to implement it on the grounds of cost. The Times suggested that the present Secretary of State is planning to introduce compulsory teacher appraisal, but without paying the cost. Will the Minister confirm that? It is despicable that that burden should be placed on local authorities. It is sad for continuity of policy when major decisions such as this appear to be subject not to the advice of those who know but to the whim of passing Secretaries of State for Education and Science. If the Secretary of State moves on in a subsequent reshuffle, can we expect yet another change of approach on appraisal? The issue is becoming a mess. Low morale should come as no surprise. I have some points of specific concern. I have already dealt in some measure with the opt-out provisions and the lack of explanation about their effects. Those provisions are the Bill's major flaw. On the face of it, the Bill's purpose is to establish a national system of negotiation, yet the opt-out provisions appear to run entirely counter to that. If the Secretary of State was right when he said that he would like all schools ultimately to opt out of the national negotiations, it would appear that we are being offered a false prospectus and that this is not a pay negotiating procedure. It is an interim pay negotiating procedure while the Government wait for all the LEAs or GMSs to opt out. If the Government provide for LEAs to opt out, that does not invite great confidence in the new pay negotiations. As I said, there is no documentation. In any case, the IAC has only just introduced greater flexibility for local pay variations within a national framework. Surely that should be given a chance to work through, so that we can gain some idea of its impact before we take this much bigger step. Opting out appears to result in more problems between areas and schools. Deprived areas could suffer more from it. There will be greater regional variations, at least under the local government finance system as it now operates, although things would be different if there were more flexibility. It is peculiar that, on the one hand, the Government are trying to continue their reign of power over teachers' pay and conditions nationally but, on the other, they are allowing an under-the-door opt-out system to operate which could leave Ministers with the same problems over which they say they now need to impose control. Despite their protestations to the contrary, they will not have that control. The advisory committee could have a strong role to play, but not if that role is as restricted as Ministers intend. Two points stand out. First, if reference is made to negotiations, even if they were not completed, there should be a requirement to start from the stage reached in those negotiations, rather than from a blank sheet of paper. Secondly, we are told that the advisory committee's remit will be set entirely by the Secretary of State. Should not that committee be able to look at wider issues, such as the supply of teachers and their pay and conditions? The advisory committee could make general recommendations about education problems without necessarily having been directed by the Secretary of State. It is not impossible to imagine that the Secretary of State may not want to hear the kind of advice that is forthcoming from an independent advisory committee, any more than he has wanted to hear some of the IAC's advice. This year, the Secretary of State did not accept its recommendations in full, and implementation was phased in. The starting point for this machinery will therefore be substantially worse than it needs to be. That is the Liberal Democrats' position on the Bill. The Government will get our support, albeit with great reservations. We shall certainly not continue that support unless the matters that I have addressed are dealt with in Committee and on Report.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I waited respectfully until the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Taylor) finished his speech rather than interject on a Member as I did last week. Although we have had the result of the ballot for the Conservative party leadership, we may be in a state of suspended animation. My understanding is that we have a Prime Minister-in-waiting and that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will become Prime Minister.I apologise for intervening. I know that this Bill applies solely to English and Welsh Members, but the impact of what has happened outside the Chamber is of enormous importance to the people of Scotland. More than 1 million warrants have been issued by local authorities, the majority by Labour authorities. We are in the position——
Order. I find it difficult to know what the point of order for the Chair is.
Let me briefly develop my point of order. Mr. Deputy Speaker. Those warrants were issued by local authorities on the basis of a law, but there is no majority in the House to enforce that law. If the poll tax issue were put before the House, the legislation would not get a vote. People like me are being pursued——
Order. I cannot allow the hon. Member to make a speech in the middle of a debate. If he has a point of order for the Chair, I shall deal with it.
The Prime Minister-in-waiting should come immediately to the House to explain the position and to state clearly that no one, particularly in Scotland, will be put in jeopardy. That law which is being applied by local authorities has no support anywhere in the House. If it is enforced, the law will be brought into disrepute.
No doubt the House of Commons will deal with these matters in the coming days in the appropriate manner.
I should like, as one of the Members for Barnet, on behalf of myself. my hon. Friends the Members for Chipping Barnet (_Mr. Chapman) and for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst) and all the people of Barnet, to thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) for all the work that she did for the London borough of Barnet and for the distinction that she brought to the borough over a long period. We in the borough are glad that my right hon. Friend made it clear this afternoon that she would stay in the House as a Back Bencher, working for the people of Barnet as she has done since 1959. I assure the House that there was great sadness throughout the borough last Thursday. As someone said to me at church on Sunday, it was as if a family funeral had taken place.As one who voted for my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major), I should like to say how much I welcome the result of the ballot which, I understand, was declared in Room 14 a few minutes ago. My right hon. Friend has a breadth of experience in the Treasury, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department of Social Security, which will make him an excellent Prime Minister. I said at the beginning of my speech that I was speaking on behalf of the residents of the London borough of Barnet. Of course, I am proud to represent a Barnet constituency. The House must remember that that borough has the best examination results of any local authority in England. Every day, 2,000 pupils leave the socialist paradise of Brent to be educated in Barnet because they recognise that standards in Barnet are far superior to those in the neighbouring local authorities. It was absolute nonsense for the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) to say that standards in education are a function of expenditure. We spend far less in Barnet than, for example, the unlamented Inner London education authority spent, but we get much better results. That is because we do not waste money on bureaucracy, or on race advisers or sex advisers; we put the emphasis on standards. I welcome the stress that the Government have laid in the pay discussions on the need for more flexibility in the salary system. For far too long, education was a victim of national pay scales, which ignored huge regional differences in living costs, and also ignored the fact that the existence of "shortage subjects" was not an argument for raising the pay of, for example, sociology teachers. We must recognise that those who can teach modern languages can also become interpreters or translators, while those who can teach computing can move to the world of industry to work as computer operators. I am not sure that there is quite such a long queue of people wanting to employ sociologists as there is of people seeking potential teachers of modern languages, physics, chemistry or computing. The most important aspect, however, is the huge regional variation in house prices. According to the Nationwide Anglia building society, the average semidetached house in the Greater London area sells for £106,421. In the north, the average price is £46,860. In Yorkshire and Humberside, it is £54,069; in glorious, leafy East Anglia it is £56,550; in the north-west, it is £55,155, and in the west midlands it is £56,421.
What was the London price?
The London price is £106,421. The figures were provided in the Nationwide Anglia's latest survey.Teachers know that, if they move out of London, they can buy much better houses and enjoy a much better standard of living. It is not unknown for teachers occupying positions of responsibility in the London borough of Barnet to decide to sell up and move to the north. They are willing to accept positions that do not necessarily carry the same responsibility, and even to become supply teachers, because they know that the eventual result of the equation will be in their favour. There is no doubt that the current London weighting allowances are entirely inadequate. I am told by the Library that the monthly post-tax cost of a £30,000 repayment mortgage is £269·70 a month, while the monthly net cost for a London teacher who must take out a £60,000 mortgage is £675. That is a monthly difference of about £405, or £4,863 annually. The inner London weighting allowance is £1,500, with a potential discretionary addition of £750—perhaps £2,250 a year, or £1,700 after tax. The allowances simply do not take account of the huge difference between housing costs in the south-east and those elsewhere, or of the other high costs that are involved. There is a further illogicality in the relationship between inner and outer London allowances. Outer London teachers receive allowances of only £984, which is not nearly enough to cover the huge extra housing costs that they incur. Then there is the complete anomaly of teachers in Barnet being paid less than those in Brent, Haringey, Merton and Ealing. How can that encourage recruitment in Barnet? Teachers know that they need only pop over the border to Brent to receive perhaps another £1,266 a year; alternatively, they can go to the people's republic of Haringey—although I can see why some may not wish to do so—and receive the same amount. It is a crazy system, and the sooner that local authorities are allowed to opt out and receive localised pay rates that take account of localised costs and the localised labour market, the better the position will be. Listening to the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), one sensed that the gramophone needle had stuck in a groove. The hon. Gentleman ought to be told that a speech need not be interminable to be immortal. He got it entirely wrong when he said that opting out would divide the teaching profession; let me say to him and to the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett) that the present system does that. There is a north-south divide, which means that teachers in the north are, in real terms, enjoying much better living standards than those in the south. That can only aggravate the problem in the south, and cause significant localised shortages in the near term, unless the Bill is passed. Certain individuals have suggested that teachers' salaries should be paid centrally, by the Exchequer—[Interruption.] The notes are here; the speech will be delivered. I believe that that would be a retrograde step—and I wrote that before the holding of today's ballot. The central payment of teachers' salaries would mean more central control. We cannot operate a system whereby spending decisions are made locally and then financed centrally: that is a recipe for inefficiency and high spending. Central payment must mean central control. The hon. Member for Durham, North-West (Ms. Armstrong) spoke of the extent of bureaucracy in the DES. Let me warn the House that, if teachers' salaries are ever paid centrally, that bureaucracy will multiply by a factor of four, five or six. I do not want to see the DES telling the London borough of Barnet how many teachers it should have in each school, but that would be the inevitable result of such a system. Various comments have been made about the status of teachers. I pay tribute to their work, especially in local authority schools: I am sorry that the hon. Member for Hillsborough is not present to hear me say—as I am proud to—that both my children are being educated in such schools. I believe that our schools in Barnet are very good, and I am pleased to be able to send my sons to two of them. I have great admiration for teachers—and, indeed, a great deal of sympathy; anyone who has to look after my sons for eight hours a day is ever deserving of sympathy, and of a good salary. Status, however, is something that teachers themselves must play a part in achieving. We in Barnet remember all the one-day strikes in the mid-1980s. We remember that the teachers' unions decided to concentrate on the borough because it was represented by the Prime Minister. What a terrible situation: young children were being used as pawns in a political game by a trade union. Those were the politics not of a profession, but of a bully. Such tactics are more akin to those of Arthur Scargill than to those of a profession seeking public recognition. If the teachers' unions want to be recognised as members of a profession they should behave as such, rather than behaving like bully boys.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
Is the hon. Gentleman trying to make an intelligent comment? If so, I shall give way to him.
The Tory party, and the Tory Government, should let the teachers have the salary increase for which they have been asking for years. They should treat teachers like professionals, and give them the money that they asking for.
The hon. Gentleman's argument seems to be, "Give him the money, Barney," which is reminiscent of Wilfred Pickles. It is rather rum to hear it from a representative of a party that, for six years, allowed teachers' pay to go up by 6 per cent. in real terms compared with the 30 per cent. rise in real terms under this Government. This Government have been giving teachers more pay; the previous Labour Government did not. It is absurd for the hon. Gentleman to make such a hypocritical comment.In a debate on teachers' pay, one must examine the quality of teaching in our schools. Opposition Members have made some remarkable comments this afternoon about the schools that they want to see. The hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) who, unfortunately, has demonstrated his interest in education by being absent for most of the debate, said that a new city technology college was being set up in Nottingham, but condemned the Government for setting up that new school, which would benefit his constitutents. How many hon. Members would come to the House to complain that the Government were funding a new school in their constituency? If the hon. Gentleman really does not want the school, I beseech my hon. Friend the Minister to take the money away from Nottingham and to give it to Barnet, where we should say, "Thank you very much." Opposition Members do not believe in quality, or in diversity and choice in education. They want to abolish CTCs although they are nice, new schools, which are popular with teachers and with pupils, and which give an education that is relevant to the needs of today. What would befall those schools under a Labour Government? Closure. A Labour Government would get rid of the remaining grammar schools because it is a long-held belief in the Labour party that grammar schools are a bad thing. They would get rid of them despite the fact that the schools have excellent academic achievements, and that the local authorities and the parents want to keep them. If it ever regained power, the Labour party would also destroy the grant-maintained schools, which are doing an excellent job. I must tell the Labour party that, when my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, who was then Secretary of State for Education and Science, visited Hendon school, which was the first grant-maintained school in London, a member of the teaching staff approached him. He said, "Secretary of State, I must say to you that I am a member of the Labour party." I wondered what would happen next. The teacher then said, "I must also tell you, Secretary of State, that the best thing that has happened to this school is it becoming a grant-maintained school." I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister, who has recently visited that school, will confirm that it is a first-rate school. Three years ago, it was heavily undersubscribed; now, as a grant-maintained school, it is fully subscribed. The gauleiters of the Opposition say that such schools should not be allowed to continue. The Labour party boasts that it would abolish the assisted places scheme. What does the assisted places scheme do? It allows bright children whose parents have a low income to go to independent schools. The Labour party would attack bright children from low-income families, and that is how it would appeal to social groups C2, D and E. The Labour party would tell such families that their children could not go to public schools under the assisted places scheme. The Labour party wants only to get rid of the schools that are popular and successful, and that have high standards, in the names of mediocrity and of socialism. Labour Members want to become the Henry Fords of education and to be able to say, "You can go to any school provided it is the local area comprehensive school." I believe in parental choice, and in quality and standards in education. The Government and the Bill are the only means by which to ensure that that choice and those standards are maintained.
I will try to keep to the subject of the debate—unlike the previous speaker, the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall), who has spoken about anything but the Bill.In this Chamber two weeks ago, I welcomed the Government's proposal for a Bill to give back negotiating rights to teachers. However, I also told the House that I suspected that there would be a sting in the tail, and I think that my hunch was about right. I had hoped that the Bill would finally establish acceptable and permanent negotiating arrangements for teachers' pay, duties and conditions of service. Yet again, the Government have failed to make any significant moves towards the introduction of a system that is satisfactory both to the teachers and to their employers, and which could replace the supposedly temporary system established by the Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act 1987. There is now an acute shortage of teachers. Despite what the Secretary of State and Conservative Members say, it is a direct result, first, of the erosion of pay caused by the absence of free, national-level collective bargaining since 1987; secondly, of the vastly increased burden of unrewarded work and responsibility, which are the consequences of changes to the teaching service structure; and, thirdly, of low morale among teachers, which is the consequence of the other two factors. I went for a cup of tea 20 minutes ago, having been here since 2.30 pm, and I picked up the Evening Standard. Lo and behold, the first article in the Evening Standard that I read was headlined, "`1600 teachers leave London'". The article continued:
"London's teacher shortage crisis is getting worse.
A new survey claims nearly 1600 staff have left schools in London in the past two months, and the problem is said to be hitting the education of tens of thousands of pupils.
And according to the Thames TV News report, some schools have not had a full-time teacher for up to nine months.
The Department of Education declined to comment, but this report confirms the survey published by the Evening Standard on 5 November disclosing that Britain's schools lack 10,105 staff, not the 1400 admitted by the Government.
That reiterates what the Labour party has been saying for the past two, three or four years. The proposals for new negotiating machinery for teachers' pay and conditions of service yet again do not conform to the requirements of international conventions, and the breach has now been compounded. This is the second time the International Labour Organisation has found the Government to be in breach of international law in their handling of teachers' negotiating rights. Since 1987, the Government have imposed amended conditions of service on teachers, they have put cash limits on salary increases and they have extended the operation of the 1987 Act beyond its expected expiry date. Teachers' pay has been deliberately depressed in recent years by the use of cash limits. Restricting the 1991 increase to an average for white-collar employees will not even restore teachers to their position of four years ago, let alone produce proper levels of pay for the profession. Let no one say anything other than that pay is crucial to recruitment and to the retention of teachers, which is the most important factor that we are discussing today. I repeat what I said to the Secretary of State some two hours ago. Evidence shows that teachers are now worse off compared both with the rate of inflation and with their non-manual counterparts than they were when the interim advisory committee was established. In the new proposals, there are three breaches of conformity, as set out by the ILO. The proposal for free negotiation of terms and conditions between employers and teachers under an independent chairman has a condition attached to it. The Secretary of State has the power to reject any negotiated settlement with which he disagrees, and to impose an alternative. He has an absolute power of discretion even though all negotiating parties may agree with the recommendations. The Bill makes nonsense of the concept of true negotiation by retaining almost total power and responsibility with the Secretary of State and by allowing the negotiating body and even the so-called advisory committee to be overruled. At a time of severe teacher shortage, whatever the Secretary of State may say, when recruitment and retention of teachers is crucial, and when morale in the profession is at an all-time low, the Bill will undermine education even more. The negotiators should be left free to finalise and implement their own agreements. Secondly, disagreements which are not resolved before the prescribed deadline may be referred by the Government to a statutory independent advisory committee. The establishment of a permanent body similar to the existing interim advisory committee is the second breach of conformity. The proposed permanent advisory committee, like the existing body, will be obliged to consult the relevant parties and will be empowered to make recommendations to the Secretary of State, who will retain the right to accept, modify or reject those recommendations as he sees fit. As far as I can see, that is no improvement on the present system. Although it is true that reference to the new committee must be preceded by an attempt to resolve differences by collective bargaining, that in itself does not convert the committee phase into a process of collective bargaining. Both the negotiations and the committee phase are, as the ILO said:Fed-up teachers in the survey blame poor pay and low status for the exodus, despite the Government's multi-million pound recruitment campaign."
It must certainly be possible to impose restrictions on the bargaining process when lengthy deadlocks ensue, but that is not to say that there should be a mechanism to infringe the autonomy of the bargaining process. While I welcome efforts to restore direct employer-employee bargaining on pay, duties and conditions, the Government have failed to meet the requirement to put collective bargaining arrangements in place. The proposals for time-limited negotiations will serve their purpose only if the limits are not so short as to curtail productive negotiation, since that would allow the Secretary of State to exercise his overriding powers. The third breach is represented by the provisions enabling education authorities and grant-maintained schools to opt out of national negotiations without establishing local negotiating machinery. Local education authorities or the governing bodies of publicly funded schools would be permitted to apply to the Secretary of State for permission to opt out of the national framework and to determine the pay and conditions of their teachers at a local level and at local rates. Some authorities could then conceivably pay more than others under different conditions of employment. All of this is to be done at a time of grave teacher shortages, and a glorious game of leapfrog would become the order of the day. Teachers would be attracted to the places where pay and conditions were the best, leaving gaps that could not be filled because there would be no one left to fill them. Authorities whose teachers were attracted away could only react by increasing pay and improving conditions, thus contributing to the spiral. Before anyone imagines that the opted-out authorities would offer all the prizes, it should be remembered that there is one back in the leapfrog game that will bring everyone down. Local authorities are required by the Government to control their spending. Where are they to raise the cash to make higher settlements than the nationally agreed figure? They will not be able to, so they will not—or, if they do, capping will follow. The purpose of this Bill must be to keep teachers' pay low and thus continue to contribute to decline in the profession. The freedom to arrive at local settlements can only mean the freedom to arrive at low settlements, and that is not what education needs. After opting out, all future pay and conditions settlements would be free from any control and subject only to certain restrictions on changes in pay within the first year and to the general obligation on local education authorities to consult governing bodies and teachers before implementing proposals for changes in local pay and conditions. So the Government are proposing not only that employing authorities should opt out of national collective bargaining but that they should opt out of any form of collective bargaining. This free-for-all outside a common framework may lead to overbidding, instability among teaching staff and an avoidable pay inflation, while not profiting the education service in general. That is hardly in line with the Government's obligation to promote voluntary negotiations between employers and employees. Clause 9 allows grant-maintained schools to do their own thing. That may mean higher settlements by schools which attract additional funds. If so, the best teachers in an area could be enticed into the rich opted-out school, leaving others with the problems of replacing them. That is a device to fool people into thinking that grant-maintained means better when it does not, but we are not fooled—parents will not be fooled, and nor will teachers. The rich will be much richer while the rest will suffer. The intake to teacher training courses is at an all-time low—[Interruption.]—regardless of the figures that the Department may pass in little notes to the Minister. Resignations from the profession continue in numbers that have a harmful effect on education, and the six teacher associations' survey recently revealed that the number of vacancies was at least double the Government's estimate—and it is even worse this year. Despite the continuing trend of graduates away from teacher training, the Government persist in doing no more than tinkering at the edges. Other employers try to attract graduates with sensible starting salaries and career development plans. With such opportunities, it is no wonder that graduates are not coming into teaching. In a profession in which low morale is widespread, the effects of measures perceived as divisive and unfair cannot be underestimated. A free-market auction of teachers held by competing authorities and governing bodies is potentially disastrous. The Government are acting contrary to the conventions that they have agreed. They must not continue to breach conventions that they have ratified and which were designed to promote and encourage voluntary negotiations to bring about mutually accepted agreement. Without a truly independent negotiating machinery, the teaching profession will continue to degenerate. Without a large increase in salary to make teaching attractive, that degeneration will become indelible. For the sake of all our children we must now deal with the main issues—recruitment and retention of teachers. That would enhance educational standards and recognise that the nation's future is in our schools. We need a commitment to a true negotiating system, in which teachers and their employers can arrive at what is best for education."fatally flawed because in both instances the parties lack the freedom to strike their own bargain on their own terms."
I extend a warm welcome to the Bill, which fulfils the long-standing obligation to replace the Burnham machinery, which was inadequate for the negotiation of teachers' pay. The Government have fulfilled that obligation in a creative way, which will in due course commend itself to the whole House and to the teaching profession. Behind the Bill lies the desire to enhance the status of teachers in the community—a desire that will be shared on both sides of the House. This is the right way to proceed.Contrary to the opinion expressed by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw)—I am sorry that he is not in his place now—the Education Reform Act 1988, which was so derided during its passage by all sorts of vested interests and by the Opposition, has become, only two years into its operation, accepted on all sides as having advanced education. I accept that there are the occasional dinosaurs on the Opposition Benches on whom any development will take a few decades to make an impact. Increasingly, those left of centre in politics in this country are beginning to realise that concepts such as attainment testing, the national curriculum and even grant-maintained schools are the germs of progress in education. I accept that we cannot starve an education service and that it would be rank hypocrisy to hide behind the argument that all was structure and resources were nothing. Neither side of the House has fallen for that argument. Before the Education Reform Act 1988, a commitment to quality, standards and diversity was missing. Improvements in quality arose as a result of the enhancement of choice that the Education Reform Act made available
When the Education Reform Bill was published, the Conservative party had a lead over the Labour party on education issues in virtually all the opinion polls. Why, two years after the enactment of the Bill, does the Labour party have a 30 per cent. lead in all opinion polls on education issues? What is the reason for that difference?
Having been told by various pollsters that my party's deficit in the polls has been wiped out by the intervention of my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), who in a week has achieved that as well as the reform of the community charge, I am rather sceptical of reaching any conclusions from polls.However, when the Education Reform Bill was before the House, many people in education derided the proposals from a sectional standpoint which I did not share. Since then, many of those people, perhaps rather more quietly—we can understand why—have come to recognise how much good the Education Reform Bill contained. I want to refer to a point raised by my hon. Friends the Members for Dartford (Mr. Dunn) and for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall). They referred to clauses 8 and 9, which throw a lifeline to areas like mine. Such a lifeline has been sorely needed and I have written to my hon. Friend the Minister and many of his predecessors about it. There is no conflict between the two interventions that I made earlier. I n my constituency, the history of vacancies was made much of by Labour party representatives. They sought to fan all sorts of fears among parents, which were subsequently not realised in 1989 or this year. That was a terrible shame for parents, who naturally become disturbed when they are told, apparently by authoritative sources, that there is a prospect that their children will not be able to go to school or will be sent home from school. I received goodness knows how many letters as a result of that scare. Fortunately. those parents were worried for nothing and they did not have to suffer that experience. That was an incredibly cynical exploitation of the perfectly valid concerns of parents. They were put under pressure in order to make a cheap political point, which frankly did not carry much weight. In response to the interesting patois intervention by the hon. Member for City of Durham (Mr. Steinberg), it is true that we do not get enough candidates of quality on our shortlists. We often get only one candidate, and I would be the first to agree with the hon. Gentleman that that is unsatisfactory. Equally, although we have only a handful of unfilled posts, too many have not been filled by permanent staff, and I agree that that is a less than satisfactory way for children to be taught. Clearly we must look at the way in which teachers are attracted to my part of the world. I have always thought that the logic of differential pay and geographical variations in pay is absolutely irrefutable. My hon. Friend the Member for Dartford referred to what he called a centrist newspaper entitled The Daily Telegraph. I recall an interesting article by Bernard Levin in what must be a left-wing rag called The Times. That article was about a dispute involving Post Office workers, in which local pay bargaining was the central issue. If I recall correctly, Mr. Allan Tuffin raised that issue after it has been suggested that particular payments were being made to postmen who lived in London. He was concerned that those payments should be made available throughout the country. I recall Bernard Levin writing, in what seemed to be a perfectly logical way, that, although he felt that a trade union leader had a perfectly natural obligation to try to secure the best deal for his members—and if that meant that he could secure money for people living in less expensive parts of the country, why should he not do that?—if a postman in Grimsby was paid the same as a postman in Chelsea, either one was being overpaid, or more likely the other was being underpaid. In what was always called "the real world"—I hate to use that expression—there cannot be the slightest doubt that living costs differ substantially around the country. It is asinine not to recognise that that will have a huge influence on the attractiveness of public sector posts. My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South referred to housing costs. In my constituency, one cannot buy a one-bedroom flat for under £55,000. I was once told that mine is the second most expensive constituency in the country. My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns), who kindly assisted me in 1988 during my fraught experience of a by-election which is fast becoming a legend in this Parliament because we won it, will recall that it is considered normal that houses in my constituency cost £100,000 a bedroom once we move up the scale to ordinary three and four-bedroom houses. Unlike many other professions, there is no particular reason why a teacher should wish to come to work in my high-cost area instead of working elsewhere. There is often a distinct reason why people gravitate to London—because that is where their head office is located, and they want promotion and larger salaries. They obviously accept that they will have to pay more for housing. One of the particular features of teaching is that a teacher can get to the top of his or her tree as easily in Northamptonshire, rural Essex or Lancashire as in central London or in the expensive part of Essex that I represent. It is doubly important that we counter a huge natural disincentive to people to come to teach in high-cost areas. As part of the bedrock of this argument, I want to make an important point. It does not matter what salary we start with or whatever the national salary is—be it adequate or inadequate—there will still be an incentive for people to move to areas where their money buys them a great deal more. We find that problem not only in teaching, but in other public sector appointments in my constituency, and I look forward to clauses 8 and 9 addressing it. As I endeavoured to say in an intervention during the speech by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State, I hope that my local education authority will not hesitate to use the provisions of clause 8. I accept that that may mean that community charge payers have to make a greater contribution to teachers' salaries. I believe that my constituents would generally accept that that was the quid pro quo of being fortunate enough to live in one of the most expensive and wealthy districts in the country. I think that they would accept that they can afford to pay teachers enough to attract the quality of teachers that my constituents—and other hon. Members' constituents—deserve.
I have listened carefully to the hon. Gentleman's argument. Is he trying to say that he believes that, by giving local education authorities the right to negotiate, the difference in pay that teachers will receive will be the same as the cost involved in somebody moving from my district of the country, Durham, to the hon. Gentleman's, Epping Forest? Is he saying that the amount of extra salary they receive will compensate for the move? Does he not feel that it would be better for local authorities to be given the right or the power to finalise a system taking into account housing costs, and so give an incentive? Does the hon. Gentleman believe that local authorities will pay teachers enough to compensate for the huge difference in housing costs?
I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman that all the scales of difference available to us understate the actual difference in housing costs—for example, between his district and mine. I do not disguise the fact that local education authorities in regions such as mine are unlikely to be able to go the whole way to compensate for differences in housing costs. That was a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall).Inner London weighting is set at £1,500, which, if one already had a mortgage of £30,000 and so was not eligible for more tax relief would, after tax, amount to an ability to borrow another £10,000 to put towards a more expensive house. If interest rates were at 0·5 per cent., that weighting might give £20,000 but would come nowhere near the £100,000 or so necessary to compensate for moving from the constituency of the hon. Member for City of Durham (Mr. Steinberg) to mine. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his concern on behalf of the electors of Epping Forest, which I shall convey to them. I invite the hon. Gentleman to come with me and see what a delightful place it is—perhaps he might contemplate the economics of such a move. London allowances are of real concern, not just to my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South to whom I am grateful for raising the subject and so allowing my hon. Friend the Minister to see that it is not just a single constituency issue. The fringe allowance to which my constituency teachers are entitled will, from 1 July 1989, be the magnificent sum of £384. The irony is that it is a sum paid regardless of grade; it is almost insignificant in terms of its purchasing power in the context of regional costs. It is particularly galling when compared with an outer London weighting of £984—a full £600 more—and an inner London weighting of £1,500. The reality is that teachers who live in my constituency can often travel shorter journeys to work when they happen to work in one of the London boroughs and, if that borough adds the London supplement of £750, earn more than £1,000 a year more than in my district. I accept that there will always be boundaries and that, close to metropolitan districts, those boundaries occasionally look a bit capricious. I understand that; such anomalies will always exist. I am sure that all hon. Members with experience of metropolitan constituencies know that. I am worried that, when calculating the weighting allowance, there is an assumption that cost in a major city such as London is based on the bull's eye principle that costs are highest in the centre and become lower as one goes further out. That may be true between Belgravia and the wilds of the countryside, but it is not true for London, throughout which there are pockets of high and low cost. When my hon. Friend the Minister considers weighting, I urge him to use a more sophisticated formula than that currently used, so that it allows for a much more general recognition of high cost where that is clearly appropriate, as it obviously is in my constituency. If we received the inner London weighting of £1,500, rather than our fringe allowances of £834, the difference would not go a quarter of the way towards compensating for the differential housing costs to which I referred. In giving the warmest approval to the measure, I urge my right hon. and learned Friend to look with sympathy at allowances, particularly London allowances. I urge him not to impede the progress of grant-maintained schools or local authorities towards taking control of their local pay arrangements. I believe that clauses 8 and 9 throw my constituents a lifeline which is of considerable importance for the education of children in my constituency.
I commend to the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Norris) the Select Committee's report on teacher shortages. It took us more than 12 months to produce the document, within which he will find a list of recommendations dealing with London and outer London allowances, housing costs, additional responsibility allowances and a range of proposals.The Government do not seem to have taken sufficient account of that report. That certainly appeared to be the case when the Secretary of State advanced the Government's argument earlier and spoke of teacher recruitment, retention and the other major problems identified in the report, on which the ink is still not dry. For the Government to say that there has been so much progress during such a short period leaves a little doubt in my mind as to whether they are using an element of exaggeration and deceit about the present state of education.
There may well be an element of exaggeration, but if the hon. Gentleman looks at the statistics for Devon he will see that this January there were 166 vacancies for teachers there, and in September the number had been reduced to just 16.
I am pleased to hear that information, although the same is not true across the whole country. However, like the hon. Gentleman, I am pleassed if there is an improvement in recruitment in Devon and join him in rejoicing in the fact that progress is being made.I am saddened by this debate and by the Bill. In the Select Committee we made proposals which we thought that the Secretary of State might reject. Some Government supporters in the Select Committee expended energy on recommendations that they felt should be followed. When we learned that the former Secretary of State for Education and Science was to recommend a new pay and conditions organisation, we made clear recommendations in our Select Committee report. I was full of hope that the Bill would contain a proper negotiating procedure for teachers. Although the interim advisory committee made sound recommendations on many matters, it has been criticised since 1987 because those recommendations were always curtailed by the Government's cash limits and could not adequately and properly respond to the teachers. There are four basic objections to the proposed negotiating machinery. First, the proposal allows local education authorities and grant-maintained schools to opt out of national pay negotiations. In effect, they can pay teachers local rates. That is unacceptable for a national education service at any time, but at this time of crisis in the supply of teachers it is completely impracticable. Secondly, the Secretary of State's reserve powers to override or refer back decisions of the negotiating committee are not compatible with free collective bargaining. We have heard that the International Labour Organisation and a committee of the United Nations have heavily criticised the Government for that aspect of the legislation. I do not want to go over that ground again. The machinery in the Bill is unsatisfactory for resolving disputes in the negotiating committee. It contains no provision for arbitration, and that is an important issue in all free negotiations. The Government propose to move on from the interim advisory committee, and they should at least have carried the teachers' organisations with them. It is sad that the Government have failed miserably to satisfy the very people to whom they wanted to respond positively. The Secretary of State said that the proposals had the support of the teachers' organisations. We know that the National Union of Teachers is totally opposed to the Government's proposal for national negotiations. Hon. Members have no doubt received from the Assistant Masters and Mistresses Association a document which states:
The association recommends that hon. Members oppose the Bill and ask the Government to go back to the drawing board and bring in a Bill allowing teachers free negotiations. That would take our education service forward into the 1990s and give us tranquillity and progress. The Government should encourage everyone in education to work together to meet the needs of our communities. Even at this late stage, I ask the Minister not to run into great opposition with all the teachers' organisations even before the Bill becomes an Act. He should have another look at it and try to get legislation that everyone can work in the interests of our children and our future."New procedures and powers in the Bill for the local determination of teachers' pay and conditions of employment are at the least ill-judged and premature, and the reserve powers accruing to the Secretary of State are so excessive as to jeopardise the success of negotiating machinery established under the Bill."
I welcome the opportunity to make a brief speech. Last December, when the motion on teachers' pay and conditions was debated, I expressed my disappointment and displeasure at the fact that it had not been possible in the three years allowed to set up a new negotiating body for teachers' pay and conditions. That regrettable delay in setting up such machinery has been to the detriment of teachers.This morning, I attended the presentation of the national schools curriculum awards at which the chairman, Sir Geoffrey Chandler, told a large audience that teaching was the most important occupation, a fact which he said we had succeeded in disguising from ourselves for some time. I totally agree. The future of our country depends upon the quality of the education and training received by our young people, and the best quality will be provided only if teachers themselves are of the highest quality. That was acknowledged in the Green Paper, where it was recognised that the new teachers' pay determination machinery should be designed to provide settlements that pay due regard to the need to recruit, retain and motivate sufficient teachers of the right quality. I visited almost every school in my constituency during the summer recess and I am convinced that, generally speaking, Hyndburn has high-quality teachers. My concern is that we may not retain them unless we give greater priority to education and to teachers. We should all beware of politicians who promise to spend more on everything—on the health service, on roads and on overseas aid. That is impossible, but politicians can re-order priorities, and now is the time to do so. Education and training must be at the top of our list. Change is never easy, but teachers have coped extremely well with Government reforms in education. The reforms will prove beneficial, providing teachers do not get bogged down with administration. Those changes coincided with changes in society, which have led to less respect for people in authority. A reduction in teachers' standing in the community and their inability to negotiate their own pay settlements have caused many experienced and dedicated teachers to leave the profession. At this morning's ceremony, I was with the head teacher, staff and pupils of Rhyddings high school, Oswaldtwistle, which won an award. Rhyddings is a fine school, but in the recent past it has lost the head of the science faculty—a teacher with 30 years' experience—a teacher who spent 15 years in the technology department, and a teacher with a similar length of service in home economics. Those are just three examples of people who have left the profession. Many of my local schools tell the same story. The Government can do little about the changes in society, but by supporting teachers they can show that they understand, and the best possible sign of that understanding would be a substantial salary increase. this year's increases for teachers of 6·4 to 11·8 per cent., with an average of 8·3 per cent., can hardly be described as over-generous or as designed to retain let alone motivate them. The Secretary of State said that teachers' pay had risen by 30 per cent. in real terms since 1979. But that takes no account of how other professions, which have not faced the changes and pressures faced by teachers in recent years, have fared. To allow teachers to develop personally, we must ensure that they are financially secure. That does not seem to be the case at present. If that is true for the north of England, the situation must be worse in the south where living costs are higher. The Education Reform Act 1988 has increased the responsibilities not only of senior management but of the teachers responsible for line management. Unless we have people of high calibre at all levels, the national curriculum will not be delivered to the standards that most teachers would wish. While it is clearly essential to have an attractive commencing salary, if we are to retain the best of our teachers, we must address the problem of progression and try to prevent excellent teachers from coming out of the classroom to become part of the organisation and administration simply on financial grounds when they would prefer to stay in the classroom. I welcome the introduction of incentive allowances to reward teachers for good classroom work or for increased responsibility. I am pleased that a further 89,000 allowances were awarded by September this year, bringing the total to 189,000 or 50 per cent. of all secondary school teachers and 40 per cent. of all primary school teachers. That is a welcome development. I also welcome the way in which the previous Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. MacGregor), constantly recognised publicly the excellent work that is done by the majority of teachers. I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend the present Secretary of State and his Ministers will continue the practice of praising teachers in public. Such an attitude, coupled with a substantial pay increase, would do much to restore the low morale of teachers. Teaching is a calling or a vocation but that is not a reason why teachers should not be adequately rewarded. In April, the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) said:
Fortunately for teachers, there will not be a Labour Government. The Government have clearly done more for teachers than the previous Labour Government. If we are to retain the experienced teachers to whom I referred, we have to do even better. I hope that the Bill will be a vehicle by which we can do that."Teachers will still, under a Labour Government, be less well-paid than they wish to be paid."
The determination of school teachers' salaries and conditions in England and Wales and the method by which those salaries are negotiated may have some influence on the determination of salaries for teachers in Northern Ireland. The conditions and the awards that are made here have in the past tended to be rubber-stamped some weeks later in Northern Ireland—hence my interest in this legislation.Since the abolition of the negotiating machinery for teachers' salaries in England and Wales, their salaries have been determined by the interim advisory committee within certain cash limits imposed by the Government. For the past three years, that has resulted in salary increases lower than the rate of inflation, which means that teachers' pay has been cut year after year while more demands have been made on classroom teachers and principals alike. Teachers' living standards will be further depressed for the fourth successive year due to the cash limit imposed on the interim advisory committee of 8·9 per cent. for the April 1991 salary award. Such a policy on teachers' pay and conditions is insulting to the professionals who give honourable service and show dedication and concern for our children. We have repeatedly heard about the crisis in teacher supply as it affects many areas in England and Wales. Although we in Northern Ireland have no apparent shortage of teachers, the evidence of low morale in the profession, the lack of job satisfaction and the discontent with pay and conditions are there for those who wish to recognise the signs. Since 1980, 10 per cent. of the total teaching force—between 1,800 and 1,900 teachers out of a total of 18,500—have retired prematurely. The number of experienced teachers over 50 years of age who are seeking premature retirement is dangerously high and could result in shortages which could damage the education of our children in the future unless it is controlled. Instead of confrontations with teacher unions, the Secretary of State should ensure that there is meaningful consultation with teachers' representatives. The Government should be prepared to listen to the views of the professionals in education who have first-hand experience and useful advice to proffer. Unfortunately, that attitude does not appear to have been adopted in the past. Teachers in Northern Ireland are paid salaries similar to those of their colleagues in England and Wales. The Bill will therefore have direct consequences on the salaries and conditions of Northern Ireland teachers. There is concern that the proposed legislation is an attempt to divide and conquer, to set school against school and teacher against teacher, and that it will result only in a further lowering of morale in an already demoralised profession. We are very proud of the variety, choice and type of school to which parents may choose to send their children in Northern Ireland and we have no intention of diminishing the options that are available to parents. We are also very proud of our teachers, of their dedication and the service that they give. We believe passionately that they should have pay and conditions which truly reflect their worth to society. The economic future of the whole of the United Kingdom depends on halting the drift from teaching and ensuring that there are sufficient well-qualified teachers who can ensure that all our children can be educated according to their age, ability and aptitude, with proper provision being made for those with special educational needs. Teacher shortages will disappear when pay and conditions clearly demonstrate that the profession is respected, is accorded its proper status and is properly remunerated. Because of the implications of the legislation, I welcome the correspondence that I have had from the general secretary of the Ulster Teachers Union. I do not wish to present the whole communication to the House now because I hope that there will be another opportunity to present the salient matters raised in it, but that correspondence makes it patently obvious that there is no widespread agreement and that there has not been sufficient recognition of the representations made in the past by the teachers' unions. I emphasise the concern expressed in the representation made to me—a concern which I share—that the Bill does not appear to provide for arbitration. That is a serious omission and inconsistent with the principles of free collective bargaining. As others have said, the Government interference in free collective bargaining is contrary to the convention of the International Labour Organisation to which the United Kingdom is a signatory. While supporting a return to free collective bargaining, the general secretary of that union stated that he did not belive that clause 2 and schedule 2 provided the independence necessary in such negotiations. We are concerned that, under clause 8, which provides the opportunity to opt out, our teachers in Northern Ireland, where salaries and wages are already low, would be further disadvantaged. Workers in Northern Ireland receive the lowest average salaries and wages of any region of the United Kingdom. That is why we see the provisions as an attempt by Government to introduce regional rates of pay, which totally deviate from the concept of equal pay for equal work. I hope that there will be further consideration before the Bill reaches the statute book and that genuine account will be taken of the serious opinions of those whom the Government consult.
I am delighted to be called to speak on this historic day in the life of this Parliament —a day when the Conservative party can unite behind our new Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major). Had I been called earlier, I should have wished to pay tribute also to my right hon. Friend the outgoing Prime Minister.I want to praise the Bill. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister, in his reply to the debate, will identify how the new negotiating machinery is preferable to the old Burnham machinery. I want to concentrate most of my remarks on grant-maintained schools. I am delighted to inform the House that Chalvedon school in my constituency is to be the first grant-maintained school in Essex. Essex is the largest education authority in the country. I pay tribute to the governors, the headmaster, the parents and the enthusiastic children who have brought this historic moment to Basildon. Chalvedon school is already benefiting from grant-maintained status. Last night it was announced that, as a result of central funding, huge additional resources will be given to the new school. Morale has improved in only a short time, and I am sure that that will set the trend for the rest of Essex. I am especially pleased that the rules have been changed and that other schools can now apply for grant-maintained status. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will make it clear that grant-maintained status has nothing to do with opting out of the state system—on the contrary, all that it signals is a different method of funding and increased opportunities for schools that achieve that status. I was a teacher in the early 1970s. I taught at St. John the Baptist junior mixed school, which was run by the Inner London education authority. It was a fine school. I welcome the opportunity tonight to pay tribute to all teachers, who work so hard on behalf of our children. They do a magnificent job. Most people find it difficult looking after their own children, whether two or three, let alone looking after a class of 25 or 26——
I was educated in the east end of London in the London borough of Newham. We had 52 in a class. My teacher was dedicated to the extent that, at the age of five, she told my mother that I was dyslexic. I had great difficult enunciating—I could not pronounce the sounds "st" or "fr"—and for two years I went to a speech therapist. I was identified as a child with special learning difficulties, within a class of 52. Because of the Government's policies, the pupil-teacher ratio has now fallen to 19. That is excellent news.
I am delighted to hear that the hon. Gentleman had access to a speech therapist at the age of five. Is he aware that that is exactly the sort of provision that we want for every child, and at an early stage? There is enormous difficulty for children with special needs gaining access to specialists. This afternoon, Conservative Members have attacked the authorities that are retaining and supporting speech therapists and other non-teaching staff to meet special needs through central pools. Will the hon. Gentleman join me in saying that local authorities should be providing those opportunities for children with special needs?
The hon. Member for Doncaster will note that I am an enthusiast about all that speech therapists can do——
Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not drag me into the debate—I am the hon. Member for Doncaster.