HC Deb 03 April 1984 vol 57 cc796-8
8. Mr. Litherland

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what action he is taking on teachers pay.

9. Mr. Skinner

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what discussions he has had with teachers unions about pay; and if he will make a statement.

Sir Keith Joseph

Teachers pay is negotiated in the Burnham committees and direct discussions between the holder of my office and the teachers unions on matters falling within the purview of those committees would be inappropriate. I am represented on those committees, and in that way my views can be made known to the employers who make up the majority on the management panel of each committee.

Mr. Litherland

Does the Minister not agree that the 3 per cent. offered to teachers is an insult and that the employers, by their refusal to go to arbitration, are showing their stubbornness? Does he not agree also that this could lead to an explosion of teachers' salaries, as indicated by the Burnham report?

Sir Keith Joseph

No, absolutely no to all those questions. The hon. Gentleman has not realised that the climate has changed substantially since inflation has fallen. So far as I know, there is no exodus from the teaching profession because of pay. There is a large queue of what I am told are excellent candidates for the teaching profession, at current rates of pay.

Mr. Skinner

Is the Minister not aware that one of the reasons why there are others waiting to take teachers' jobs is the policy carried out by the Government of throwing groups of workers on to the dole so as to depress wages? Is the 3 per cent. that has been offered not a real wage cut in view of the fact that inflation is running at 5 per cent.? If the Tory party chairman can get a backhander of £100 per week for doing no more work, why can teachers not be paid properly? If the Government have £300 million to throw around in the Budget to the Duke of Westminster and his cronies as a result of changes in taxation allowances, does the Minister not realise that they should be able to find money for the teachers?

Sir Keith Joseph

Anyone who pays attention to the rubbish that the hon. Gentleman puts to the House is likely to be harmed. Only when the country becomes competitive again, which means that unit labour costs allow goods and services to be produced at prices that consumers here and abroad find acceptable, will we get full employment.

Mr. Madel

Will not a modest pay settlement this year improve job opportunities in the teaching profession and also ensure that the in-service training and retraining programmes will continue to have adequate funds?

Sir Keith Joseph

I agree with both the points that my hon. Friend makes. Indeed, if teachers were to succeed in getting more than the amount of money that is being put into the calculations for a pay increase the result would be that less money would be available for things like books and the maintenance of equipment, which we all think should be provided for the children.

Mr. Flannery

Does the Secretary of State remember that some 10 years ago, when the Houghton commission reported that teachers' pay had been eroded so dreadfully —by well over 25 per cent. —the so-called Houghton money gave the teachers a 30 per cent. increase to enable them to catch up? Does he realise — I wish that he would listen—that the erosion of teachers' pay has put them back to where they were? In other words, they have lost 30 per cent. over the last few years. Does he not think that the offer of 3 per cent. at a time of 5 per cent. inflation is a disgraceful offer to an orderly and well-behaved group of working people?

Sir Keith Joseph

On the contrary, I think that the Houghton dependence on comparability — part of the fashion of those days—was one of the principal causes of the lack of competitiveness and inflation that led to the unemployment of today.

Mr. Radice

Does the Secretary of State believe that the best way of motivating teachers—something which he thinks is very important—is by insisting that they take a cut in real pay?

Sir Keith Joseph

What the hon. Gentleman does not take on board is the fact that in an effective society pay will reflect supply and demand. The fact is that teachers are not leaving the profession in large numbers on pay grounds and that very good candidates are coming forward on the present pay conditions.