§ 3 pm
§ Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, about the statement.
§ Mr. Foulkes
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is unclear whether the statement applies only to England and Wales or to the United Kingdom. It was the same—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) may have an opportunity to put a question during the statement. I call Mr. MacGregor.
§ Mr. Speaker
I now order the hon. Gentleman to leave the Chamber for the remainder of today's sitting.
§ Mr. Speaker
I repeat that I order the hon. Gentleman to leave the Chamber for the remainder of today's sitting.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Member will put himself in jeopardy if he does not now obey the order of the Chair.
§ Motion made, and Question put,
§ That Mr, Dick Douglas be suspended from the service of the House.—[Sir Geoffrey Howe.]
§ The House divided: Ayes 177, Noes 25.23
|Division No. 310]||[3.34 pm|
|Arbuthnot, James||Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Gregory, Conal|
|Ashby, David||Hague, William|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Hanley, Jeremy|
|Baldry, Tony||Hannam, John|
|Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)||Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')|
|Batiste, Spencer||Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Harris, David|
|Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Blackburn, Dr John G.||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Haynes, Frank|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Hayward, Robert|
|Boswell, Tim||Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Bowis, John||Hind, Kenneth|
|Boyes, Roland||Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall)|
|Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard||Hordern, Sir Peter|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)|
|Brazier, Julian||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)||Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)|
|Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)||Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)|
|Burns, Simon||Irvine, Michael|
|Burt, Alistair||Jack, Michael|
|Butler, Chris||Janman, Tim|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Jessel, Toby|
|Carrington, Matthew||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Cartwright, John||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)||Key, Robert|
|Coleman, Donald||Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Knapman, Roger|
|Couchman, James||Knight, Greg (Derby North)|
|Cran, James||Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)|
|Cunningham, Dr John||Knox, David|
|Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Davis, David (Boothferry)||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark|
|Dickens, Geoffrey||Lightbown, David|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)|
|Dover, Den||Macfarlane, Sir Neil|
|Durant, Tony||MacGregor, Rt Hon John|
|Dykes, Hugh||MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)|
|Evans, John (St Helens N)||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Fallon, Michael||McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick|
|Favell, Tony||Madel, David|
|Fenner, Dame Peggy||Malins, Humfrey|
|Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)||Mans, Keith|
|Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey||Maples, John|
|Flynn, Paul||Marshall, John (Hendon S)|
|Fookes, Dame Janet||Martin, David (Portsmouth S)|
|Forman, Nigel||Mates, Michael|
|Foster, Derek||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|French, Douglas||Michael, Alun|
|Gale, Roger||Miller, Sir Hal|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)|
|Glyn, Dr Sir Alan||Moate, Roger|
|Golding, Mrs Llin||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Montgomery, Sir Fergus|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Morris, M (N'hampton S)|
|Gow, Ian||Morrison, Sir Charles|
|Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)||Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester)|
|Moss, Malcolm||Spearing, Nigel|
|Mudd, David||Speller, Tony|
|Neale, Gerrard||Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)|
|Nicholson, David (Taunton)||Squire, Robin|
|Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)||Stern, Michael|
|Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley||Stevens, Lewis|
|Owen, Rt Hon Dr David||Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)|
|Page, Richard||Summerson, Hugo|
|Patnick, Irvine||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|Pawsey, James||Taylor, Ian (Esher)|
|Porter, Barry (Wirral S)||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Price, Sir David||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Raison, Rt Hon Timothy||Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)|
|Renton, Rt Hon Tim||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Rhodes James, Robert||Tredinnick, David|
|Riddick, Graham||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Roe, Mrs Marion||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Rooker, Jeff||Waller, Gary|
|Rossi, Sir Hugh||Ward, John|
|Rost, Peter||Wheeler, Sir John|
|Rumbotd, Mrs Angela||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas||Wolfson, Mark|
|Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)||Wood, Timothy|
|Shersby, Michael||Yeo, Tim|
|Shore, Rt Hon Peter||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Skeet, Sir Trevor||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)||Mr. Sydney Chapman and|
|Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)||Mr. Tom Sackville.|
|Soames, Hon Nicholas|
|Ashton, Joe||Meale, Alan|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)|
|Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)||Mullin, Chris|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Nellist, Dave|
|Cohen, Harry||Patchett, Terry|
|Cryer, Bob||Redmond, Martin|
|Cummings, John||Salmond, Alex|
|Douglas, Dick||Skinner, Dennis|
|Galloway, George||Vaz, Keith|
|Godman, Dr Norman A.||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Hughes, John (Coventry NE)|
|Lambie, David||Tellers for the Noes:|
|McAllion, John||Mrs. Margaret Ewing and|
|Madden, Max||Mr. Harry Barnes.|
|Mahon, Mrs Alice|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
That Mr. Dick Douglas be suspended from the service of the House.
§ Mr. Speaker
I have to direct the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) to withdraw, in compliance with the order that the House has just made.
§ The hon. Member withdrew accordingly.24 3.44 pm
§ The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. John MacGregor)
With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement on new negotiating machinery for school teachers' pay and conditions.
I wrote to the local authority employers and the teacher unions on 26 April setting out proposals for new permanent pay negotiating machinery for settling the pay and conditions of school teachers in England and Wales. Over the past two months I have engaged in full and careful consultations on the basis of those proposals. I am now able to announce the Government's decisions about future machinery for determining the pay and conditions of school teachers. I intend at the earliest opportunity to bring forward to the House a Bill to give effect to these decisions.
Different and incompatible views on the proposals were expressed during the consultations. Most urged on us a restoration of negotiating rights for teachers; others preferred independent review, but they were not willing to agree the establishment of a permanent body similar to the present Interim Advisory Committee on School Teachers' Pay and Conditions. It is clear that we are far from a consensus in favour of independent review on a basis that would be acceptable.
Accordingly, we intend to provide for free 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 on the negotiations. The employers will know the aggregate external finance that the Government are ready to make available for local authority expenditure as a whole and will consider what they can afford in the light of that. There will be a time limit on the negotiations.
If the negotiators agree recommendations before the time limit, it will fall to the Secretary of State to consider implementation. If the time limit passes without agreement, however, the negotiations will come to an end. The Government will seek recommendations instead from an independent advisory committee, broadly similar to the present interim advisory committee. This will not be arbitration. The Government will set the body a clear and specific remit. Again, it will fall to the Secretary of State to consider implementation.
I hope that it will normally be possible to accept the recommendations that are put to us, but we have also to provide for circumstances in which that is not the case. If the Government are unhappy with aspects of negotiated recommendations on pay and conditions they will be able to refer these issues back to the negotiators, giving their reasons. If agreement does not result from this process, however, the Government will need to be able to resolve the deadlock. We shall provide for that through a power for the Government to substitute their own provisions on matters referred back, subject to negative resolution of each House of Parliament. The Government would intend not normally to refer back recommendations on cost grounds if the overall cost was within the inter-quartile range of private sector settlements for non-manual employees.
Within the negotiating body there will be a separate sub-committee to deal with heads and deputies. Responsibility for initiating proposals for changes in pay and conditions of heads and deputies will rest with the sub-committee. The sub-committee's recommendations 25 will come to me for consideration unless both sides of the main committee agree to refer them back to the sub-committee, and subsequently to change them. The precise machinery for this and other, more detailed, features of our proposals are explained in the paper placed today in the Vote Office and in the Library of the House.
I recognise that some employers—be they local education authorities or the governors of grant-maintained schools—may judge that they could better respond to local needs and circumstances if they settled the pay and conditions of their teachers themselves. As envisaged in the consultation document, LEAs will have the opportunity to apply to me to opt out of the national provisions governing pay and conditions, on the basis that they are able to put in place satisfactory arrangements of their own. Grant-maintained schools, too, will be able to opt out of the national provisions.
Teachers are due a review of their pay to take effect next April. Given the need for legislation to establish the new negotiating arrangements, it would not be possible to deal with this settlement under the new arrangements, and that was accepted by all those whom I have been consulting. None supported the option of dealing with the settlement retrospectively through the new machinery once it is statutorily in place. There was insufficient agreement about the possibility of running the new machinery on a voluntary, shadow basis in advance of legislation. I have concluded, therefore, that I should seek the approval of the House later in the year to extend the Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act 1987 for a further, and final, year, and to invite the interim advisory committee to make recommendations to me for a settlement to cover the year April 1991 to March 1992. The first settlement decided in the new machinery would be that to take effect from April 1992.
The arrangements which I have outlined offer full and fair opportunities for negotiations between teachers and their employers, and a means to resolve deadlock if the negotiators cannot agree. They acknowledge the interests of employers, teachers and Government in the determination of teachers' pay. They afford a basis for the peaceful resolution of questions of pay and conditions, and their adaptation to the changes which face our schools in the 1990s.
§ Mr. Jack Straw (Blackburn)
Is the Secretary of State aware that the removal of negotiating rights from teachers in 1986 and the continued delay in re-establishing them has in itself been gravely damaging to teachers' motivation and self-respect, and that that is one reason why our schools face greater problems today than at any time in living memory? Will he confirm that by his statement the first negotiated settlement cannot take place until 1992, six years after the last one? Will he give more detail of the veto that he intends to retain?
Will the clear and specific remit to the new advisory committee include cash limits set without reference to the negotiations, notwithstanding the fact that in his statement the right hon. Gentleman said guardedly that there would beno pre-set financial limit on the negotiations"?Does that undertaking cover the exercise of his veto? Given the substantial powers of veto which the right hon. Gentleman is taking unto himself, does he understand the strong case for this to be subject to the affirmative procedure, not to the negative resolution procedure?
26 Is the Secretary of State aware that his proposal to allow individual local education authorities and grant-maintained schools to opt out of the national pay negotiating machinery will be seen as no more than an attempt by him to appease his critics on the right of the Conservative party and as a cheap dodge to avoid his responsibility for the current nationwide teacher shortage crisis? Why does he not understand that the reason why teacher shortages have risen by 50 per cent. in two years is primarily that teachers' pay nationally has fallen so far behind that of comparable groups, and that in real terms their pay is now even lower than in 1986?
If local authorities are allowed to set whatever salary scales they choose, what additional resources will the Secretary of State give them to back his words with hard cash? Since such an arrangement could work to solve teacher shortages only if it led nationally to leapfrogging and wage drift, how much does the Treasury think that this will add to public spending?
If a local education authority which is poll tax capped opts out of national pay bargaining, does the Secretary of State have the agreement of the Secretary of State for the Environment to lift poll tax capping in respect of such teachers' pay settlements?
Is the Secretary of State aware that, far from this being a new idea, such a system operated before the war and was abandoned because of the damage that it caused to the education service? Is he aware that the proposal is opposed by the Conservative-led Association of County Councils? Is he also aware that his own Interim Advisory Committee on Teachers' Pay and Conditions, under the chairmanship of the Conservative Lord Chilver, gave the issue of differential subject and regional pay the most thorough examination in both its 1988 and 1990 reports and rejected it on the grounds that it would reduce teacher mobility, be unfair and inflexible, would move shortages round rather than solve them, and would be ineffective? Why has the Secretary of State rejected such powerful advice from his own appointed committee? Why does not he build on the wide local discretion within a national framework which the interim advisory committee has recommended?
This proposal is a shallow and damaging trick. It will not provide an extra penny for the system nor guarantee an extra teacher in the classroom. It shows yet again that the Ministers who have so damaged our education service are incapable of improving it. It is not just failed Education Ministers who need to be removed, but failed and discredited policies which must be abandoned forthwith.
§ Mr. MacGregor
I reject all those charges and I shall endeavour to deal with as many of the hon. Gentleman's points as I can. He asked when the new negotiating machinery comes into operation. I made it clear to him, on the assumption that there will be legislation in the next parliamentary Session, that it would be in March 1992. I think that there was general agreement in all my discussions that it would be necessary to have some interim arrangement, and the discussions centred on that. In the light of those discussions, I have concluded that this is the most sensible way forward for one year. Teachers will recognise that, as this is the final year, the proposal is sensible.
The interim advisory committee did an excellent job throughout the period during which it carried these 27 responsibilities. Many of its recommendations were widely welcomed and had a good deal to do with a better career structure and pay and greater local flexibility in the system.
The hon. Gentleman asked about conditions for the use of either referring back or override powers. I shall consider all recommendations from the negotiating body on their merits. I expect that if there are issues that I want to address with override powers in mind, they would be concerned not just with costs but might be concerned—clearly one cannot be specific in advance because the matter is hypothetical—with a range of other factors, including professional duties and the pay structure. One possibility may be cases of disagreement about the pay of heads and deputy heads. As I have said, it is not possible to specify in advance, but I think that I have indicated why the powers are necessary.
The hon. Gentleman asked about a cash limit for any interim advisory committee or committee's recommendations. Clearly, such a possibility must be available to the Secretary of State. I do not know why the hon. Gentleman is so surprised about that because I recently asked him in our correspondence whether he would have cash limits and he replied:Cash limits would apply in the normal way … (if we inherited an IAC arrangement)".A negative resolution offers a simpler procedure which will yield more timely pay settlements. That is clearly important in relation to some of the long delays that occurred in the machinery before 1986.
The hon. Gentleman asked about opting out. As he knows, there are teacher shortages in particular geographical areas, and in some parts of the country, especially in some London boroughs, the shortages are serious. I have been adopting a whole range of measures to try to assist local authorities to deal with that. The overall average vacancy in the country as a whole, excluding Greater London, is 1.3 per cent.
§ Mr. MacGregor
Yes, 5.3 per cent. The proposals that we advocate build on local flexibility and will act in precisely the right way to respond to market conditions in relation to pay. Therefore, what the interim advisory committee has done is already extremely helpful. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the interim advisory committee recommendations this year, which I have fully accepted and which will be fully implemented by 1 January, came into effect after the collection of the vacancy survey data, details of which I announced recently. The pay recommendations will build on local flexibility and will be extremely helpful, not least in London, in resolving local shortages.
The hon. Gentleman referred to opting out. Precisely what I am doing will be helpful in resolving local teacher shortages and other difficulties. I am building on the local flexibility that we have achieved in the past three years, or so to tackle teacher issues. The proposed new machinery for opting out is a natural extension of that process.
Differential regional pay is also relevant to opting out. My statement today is not a set of proposals for regional pay, but I make it clear, as I have done on many occasions, that it is important to create greater differentials in the pay of individual teachers so as to relieve shortages in certain 28 subjects. Therefore, the increasing flexibility that we have achieved in the system is necessary to recruit mature entrants and people who have a range of skills which command a high market premium. Therefore, the proposals that I put before the House and recommend today will assist us further in addressing those issues. They are positive and constructive.
The hon. Gentleman asked for additional resources, but he will know that the amount of resources from aggregate external finance was settled in the announcement by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment last week and in the decisions about the breakdown of resources into subject areas in the autumn. Local authorities will know before they embark on the pay negotiations what is available from central Government.
It is extremely rich of the hon. Gentleman to keep pressing for additional resources, because each time I ask him about the matter he carefully avoids the question. He knows that the Labour party would not provide additional resources. It is worse than that from his point of view. He will be aware that in his response from the Front Bench on community care last week, the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) committed the Labour party to an additional £1.5 billion. Where would that leave the hon. Gentleman?
§ Mr. James Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth)
Is my right hon. Friend aware that his refusal to introduce a Son of Burnham or Burnham mark 2 will be widely welcomed? Is he further aware that his proposals, which will allow local education authorities and grant-maintained schools to opt out of the national pay machinery, will be welcomed by schools, teachers, governors and parents and will do a great deal to answer problems of teacher recruitment and shortages? In short, his statement is widely welcomed, not only by Conservative Members but by people outside the House.
§ Mr. MacGregor
I am most grateful to my hon. Friend. The proposals strike the right balance between the interests of the teachers in restoring their pay negotiating rights, those of their employers, who must take community charge payers into account, and the interests of the Government, who clearly have an interest because the taxpayers fund a considerable proportion of any local authority expenditure. I believe that the balance is right.
I am particularly grateful to my hon. Friend for what he said about the opportunities to opt out. We shall be legislating for some time to come. We shall provide clearly for not only the immediate and early stages of the legislation but the possibility of evolution. It will be for local education authorities and grant-maintained schools to decide if and when they wish to opt out. They should have the maximum flexibility to respond to local needs and circumstances. If they believe that the best way to achieve that is through establishing a local pay framework, they should have the opportunity to propose it. That will be particularly relevant to grant-maintained schools, where the governing body will be able to review the position in the school itself and possibly enjoy additional flexibility and freedom even beyond that which we have already given.
§ Mr. Peter Shore (Bethnal Green and Stepney)
Tower Hamlets has a teacher vacancy rate of more than 10 per cent., compared with the national average of a little more than 2 per cent. How does the Secretary of State propose 29 to prevent what could easily degenerate into a competitive scramble for scarce teaching resources spreading throughout the entire inner London area in particular? If an authority produces plans for paying its teachers more, can the right hon. Gentleman guarantee that it will be able to obtain the resources necessary to meet the cost of those plans?
§ Mr. MacGregor
The new education authority in Tower Hamlets is already tackling the problems that it inherited from ILEA with great vigour and with considerable effect. I believe that we shall see a better position in September than last year, due to the way that that authority is tackling its tasks, the increased flexibility that we have allowed, and the increased possibilities open to London authorities as a consequence of the interim advisory committee's recommendations on teacher pay. As to the right hon. Gentleman's general question, a considerable amount of flexibility already exisits in the system, which education authorities can use if they judge that that is where they should put their priorities. By giving them the additional opportunity to opt out, I am only building on that and allowing education authorities, in the light of their local circumstances, to address that aspect further. As to resources, there is already available to Tower Hamlets, as to many inner London boroughs, a supplement for additional education need from central Government.
§ Mr. Patrick Thompson (Norwich, North)
I welcome the fact that my right hon. Friend has not been tempted back to the old and discredited Burnham procedure. It must be right to move pay bargaining closer to schools, which is the trend that I detect in the statement. Will my right hon. Friend clarify how that might help with differential pay, in dealing with teacher shortages—which, as he knows, is still a serious and worrying problem?
§ Mr. MacGregor
The proposals represent a considerable advance on the discredited Burnham procedure. I will give two examples of that. There will be a timetable for negotiations, and no possibility of deadlock—both of which were problems in the past. The system that we have been building on for the past three years—thanks not least to the recommendations of the interim advisory committee —allows individual LEAs and schools to offer more flexible pay to recruit not only those offering scarce skills but those whom they particularly want to attract in dealing with specific problems in London. Considerable flexibility, offering significant scope, already exists—but given that that is the right approach, it is proper to build on it. Opting out provides an opportunity to do that.
§ Mr. Matthew Taylor (Truro)
Teachers will welcome the plans to restore negotiating rights, albeit a year late. Can the Secretary of State explain why that is so? Only recently, he was failing to admit that state of affairs, although it was apparent to all that that was the case. Will not his plans for opting out create a wage war between rich and attractive local authorities and poor and less attractive local authorities—despite the fact that the latter suffer the most teacher shortages? Will not opting out simply ratch up teacher costs and the problems for some local authorities?
30 The Secretary of State said that local authorities will have to apply to him for permission for their schools to opt out, but will grant-maintained schools have to do so—or will they be free to opt out come what may?
§ Mr. MacGregor
On the first point, it is very clear to me from the fairly extensive consultations that I have had twice with the six unions and with local authority employers that these are complex matters. That is why it is not possible to reach agreement earlier. It became clear that it simply would not be possible to reach agreement because of the wide disparity of views that I was still facing. I have had lengthy consultations which have helped considerably, not least on many of the details in the proposals, and I believe that the time is now right to take decisions. That is what I have done.
As regards the position of what the hon. Gentleman described as "poor" authorities, they already have a higher standard spending assessment allowance per pupil, compared with other areas, and that is reflected in aggregate external finance. For example, the allowance per primary pupil in Hackney is about 70 per cent. more than the allowance in Somerset, and that makes my point clearly. As for applications for opting out, local education authorities will require my approval, and that is clearly laid out in the document which is now in the Vote Office. Grant-maintained schools can apply to me for opting out and they will get it automatically.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I remind the House that there are two other statements, and ask for single questions.
§ Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)
Will my right hon. Friend take the opt-out principle further than he has done, although I congratulate him on the points that he has made today? Has not the time come to assess teachers' salaries individually? Could not that be done under a system of local management of schools throughout the country? Would not that system be more effective in overcoming regional and subject teacher shortages than anything else could be? Is it fair to say that a teacher in deepest Wales must cost less than a teacher in deepest London?
§ Mr. MacGregor
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks. It will be open to local education authorities to decide whether, if they wish to apply to opt out, they want to put a different arrangement in place. That will be available to them and to grant-maintained schools. It is important to take into account the fact that the extra flexibility in the system now goes a considerable way to enable local education authorities and new governing bodies of schools, under LMS, to have greater flexibility between schools. As my hon. Friend will know, there are may opportunities, such as incentive allowances and paying teachers on different grades of the scale which are now available to schools, but there will be additional opportunities as a result of the proposals.
§ Ms. Harriet Harman (Peckham)
Is the Minister aware that the worst teacher shortages are in the poorest areas, and that those areas will be least able to opt out and to pay teachers more? Therefore, will not the opting-out proposal that he suggests make things worse as boroughs such as Lambeth and Southwark, which are unable to opt out and pay more, lose teachers, who are siphoned off to Bromley, 31 Surrey and Westminster, which can pay more? Is that not a fraudulent con-trick which will make the position in London far worse?
§ Mr. MacGregor
I have already pointed out to the House, and I repeat it to the hon. Lady, that authorities in the system, in the sort of boroughs that she talked about, already get higher standard spending allowances per pupil. I repeat, as an example, that the allowance per primary pupil in Hackney is about 70 per cent. more than the allowance in Somerset.
§ Mr. David Madel (Bedfordshire, South-West)
With this greater financial independence, is my right hon. Friend encouraging local education authorities, in conjunction with housing authorities, to buy property which they can rent to teachers? That would be useful in many parts of the country where there are high housing costs—I am obviously thinking of Bedfordshire and its neighbouring counties.
§ Mr. MacGregor
Some authorities, especially London boroughs, which are also housing authorities, are considering arrangements, and one or two schemes are now coming through. I was happy to agree a scheme for some of the properties inherited from ILEA earlier this year, to help with the problem of teachers' housing in London.
§ Ms. Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington)
The Secretary of State has referred to the level of standard spending assessment for Hackney. He will be aware that we get more because we are one of the poorest boroughs in the country. The Minister will also know that we have a teacher vacancy level of 12.5 per cent., which is the second highest in the country. Does the Minister agree that it is nonsense to give boroughs like Hackney facilities to pay teachers more, if he is not prepared to fund that increase? Hackney and parts of east London are increasingly engulfed by a serious teacher shortage crisis. His statement today is a cruel fraud on parents and teachers in Hackney. When will he address the issue seriously, when will he tackle the problem of housing costs and when will he do something to stop the blight of a generation of children in east London?
§ Mr. MacGregor
Hackney gets more through the additional educational needs element. That is the point of it. In addition, a number of new measures have been introduced this year for teachers' pay which London boroughs can use, some of which are specifically directed, as the hon. Lady knows, at London boroughs. We have been assisting the inner-London boroughs in their teacher recruitment campaign. A number of other measures that we have taken on teacher supply are designed to help inner London. The hon. Lady will have noticed that one of the problems in Hackney is that the borough has been unable to pay its teachers so far because of its computer arrangements. I hope that they will be sorted out soon, because the money is there.
§ Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury)
I congratulate my hon. Friend on bringing to a conclusion a particularly delicate and long procedure and thank him for keeping his promise to restore negotiating rights to teachers. Will he confirm 32 that the legislation that he outlined, which I shall welcome, will lead to far more open debate about the merits and demerits of teachers' pay than we ever had?
Yes, I believe that that will be one result of the proposals, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for welcoming them.
§ Mr. Allen McKay (Barnsley, West and Penistone)
Does the Secretary of State realise that one of his statements is entirely wrong? If the present system provides flexibility, why is there a need for additional flexibility? If the present flexibility does not work, what makes the Secretary of State think that additional flexibility will work? Has he not taken into account the fact that staff are already leaving poll tax-capped authorities purely and simply because they find it easier to work for a non-poll tax-capped authority, and that the only ones who will suffer because of his ideas are the children whom we are supposed to educate?
On the hon. Gentleman's latter point, it is interesting that the vast majority of local education authorities were perfectly well able to draw up their education programmes this year without the need for community charge capping at all. On the hon. Gentleman's first point, the sort of flexibility that we have now has come only fairly recently into the system, and since April has been built on considerably. Some of the benefits, therefore, have still to flow through. It is right to allow local education authorities and grant-maintained schools to make their own arrangements, if they think that that is a better way to meet local needs. Their arrangements should be allowed to evolve.
§ Dr. John G. Blackburn (Dudley, West)
Will my right hon. Friend accept the warm and sincere congratulations of many hon. Members, and of those who are interested in education throughout the nation, on his proposals? Does he agree that the new negotiating procedure—a new chairman, a new sub-committee and a new concept of flexibility—heralds a new era in education, which we welcome?
§ Mr. MacGregor
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. My proposals regarding the negotiating machinery and the restoration of teachers' negotiating rights are a considerable advance on Burnham and overcome some of the difficulties of which everyone had become aware. They will, I am sure, provide a sensible balance between all the interests concerned.
§ Mrs. Rosie Barnes (Greenwich)
While I welcome the provision that local education authorities and grant-maintained schools will be able to set their own pay levels, which will enable them to respond to local needs and circumstances and to reward good teacher performance in the classroom, does not the Secretary of State recognise that inner-city boroughs such as Greenwich which are poll tax-capped will find it almost impossible to offer improved salaries to attract much-needed teachers, since cuts amounting to £10 million have to be made?
§ Mr. MacGregor
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her welcome of the new flexibility, but may I point out to her that already there are immense variations in how local education authorities deal with priorities in their budgets. Let me give her one example. We have now moved to local management of schools. As a percentage of the general 33 schools budget, a considerable amount of money is held back by individual local education authorities. Haringey, for example, is holding back 25 per cent., whereas Berkshire is holding back 10 per cent. There is therefore considerable scope for getting the money into the schools. Furthermore, an assessment of the returns that we have already received shows clearly that for administration—for bureaucracy alone—between 2 per cent. and 10 per cent. is held back. There is, therefore, considerable scope for greater flexibility, including in pay.
§ Dr. Keith Hampson (Leeds, North-West)
In welcoming my right hon. Friend's remarks, may I ask him to improve the general standards of literacy by asking the Department of Education and Science not to use the verb "disapply"? As the major Labour education authorities may start leapfrogging on salaries to increase all teachers' salaries, does my right hon. Friend agree that there is a case for taking a firmer line at local school level? Given the disparities that my right hon. Friend has just outlined, will he ensure that the governors in LMS schemes will have a greater say over differentials of pay?
§ Mr. MacGregor
I agree with my hon. Friend's main point. I am looking carefully at the returns that we are getting on the local management of schools from local education authorities to see whether there is justification for such a wide disparities in the amount held back in the centre—
§ Mr. MacGregor
We gave flexibility to local authorities, but the figures are raising some interesting issues, one of which is that there may be more opportunity for getting more money into the schools, and hence teachers' pay, in many authorities. We have created a system where everyone will be able to see the figures and ask the questions.
On my hon. Friend's first point, he will notice that I used the words "opting out" in my statement, but I am advised that "disapply" is the correct legal word for the document.
§ Mr. David Lambie (Cunninghame, South)
As a former chief negotiator of teachers' salaries in Scotland, may I ask the Secretary of State, on behalf of the Government, to give a guarantee that no such proposals will be introduced into the Scottish teachers' salary negotiations?
§ Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke)
As a former local education authority officer, I welcome the flexibility that my right hon. Friend is giving to the state sector which already exists in the independent sector in other professions. There is no reason why teachers in Totnes and Toxteth should be paid the same. Does he agree that the Opposition have shown a lack of reality—they may believe that teachers would uproot themselves every few months to go to new schools, but schools would be wary about employing such people.
§ Mr. MacGregor
My hon. Friend makes the point that there are considerable opportunities to allow greater responsibility at school and governing body level, which is consistent with all that we are trying to do in the other reforms. Therefore, I agree with him.
§ Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)
Is the Secretary of State aware that the percentage vacancy rate, according to his Department, is 13 per cent. in the London borough of Newham, in the next-door borough of Hackney it is 12.5 per cent. and in Tower Hamlets it is 10.2 per cent.—there is an enormous concentration of teacher shortages in the east end. Newham is not in the Inner London education authority area, but has the highest percentage vacancy rate. Does he not realise that he is perpetrating a heartless fraud on the people of this country, particularly the east end, by suggesting that Newham, Hackney and Tower Hamlets—the three poorest boroughs in the country—are able to deal with the crisis? They simply do not have the resources. Will he make the resources available, because without them, we cannot solve the present crisis?
§ Mr MacGregor
What is interesting when we look at the London figures is the wide disparity in London itself—Brent's vacancy level is 1.5 per cent. Local issues are involved and we are doing all that we can to deal with teacher supply. It is then for local education authorities to recruit. Not all the issues affecting the boroughs to which the hon. Gentleman drew attention are entirely educational; there are problems of attracting people to those boroughs, which is where we are trying to help.
§ Mr. Donald Thompson (Calder Valey)
I know that my right hon. Friend is aware that my local authority keeps 40 per cent. for the centre. Is he also aware that governors will be overwhelmed and delighted at the proposal to enable them to choose first division teachers and put pressure on LEA to choose first division teachers instead of fourth division football clubs.
§ Mr. MacGregor
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who will know that, as a result of the obligation on local education authorities to publish the arrangements and figures involved in the local management of schools, it will be possible for governing bodies, governers, teachers, staff, parents, the general public and him to see whether the holdback is too great, exert pressure if they think it is, and ask questions.
§ Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax)
Does the Secretary of State accept the crisis in education will not be solved by these rather cheap measures, as my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) described them? Will he address himself to capping? Is he aware that the Tories in Calderdale propose to wipe out in-service training for teachers? If that happens, they will not be trained to fulfil the requirements of the national curriculum. What guarantee will he give local authorities on funding? Is he aware that the 40 per cent. that is kept at the centre by Calderdale is spent on special needs, music and everything else that makes up a comprehensive education system? It is nonsense to suggest that it has anything to do with spending a lot on administration.
§ Mr. MacGregor
Government funding is allocated on a fair basis. Local authorities—and, within them, local education authorities—must decide their priorities.
Mr. Alan Haselhust (Saffron Walden)
For counties such as Essex, which is an area of high housing cost and is experiencing increasing problems recruiting teachers, is not my right hon. Friend's announcement about opting out a natural extension of the help that Essex county 35 council has been receiving through education support grant—and on its own initiative—to attract teachers to its employ?
§ Mr. MacGregor
Yes. I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who will know that to recruit back qualified teachers who are not teaching—for example, because they are bringing up a young family—I have increased education support grant from £2 million to £10 million. In Essex and many other parts of the country, much more can be done to keep teachers who are not working—there are about 200,000 such teachers aged between 31 and 44—in touch with education changes so that, when they wish to return to work, they will not fear that education has moved on as a result of the national curriculum.
§ Mr. Peter Hardy (Wentworth)
Will the Secretary of State note that in the House the other day some hon. Members demonstrated the corrupt nature of this year's distribution of central support for local government and therefore have profound anxieties that that corrupt system might continue when the new arrangements come into operation? Does he accept that, whatever some teachers might tell him, those who observe and are interested in British education recognise that the crisis of morale is worse now than at any time since the war and that the proposals of the Government, who have turned the educator into the bookkeeper, will not restore the morale of the profession?
§ Mr. MacGregor
I am aware that every local authority feels disadvantaged compared with every other local authority, but to describe the system as corrupt is ludicrous. We have progressed well in achieving a fairer system. The main issue affecting teacher morale is that they feel that they have an enormous challenge in implementing the national curriculum. More and more of them are aware that I am introducing the national curriculum in a way that will enable them to cope. As I visit schools, I find that that many more, as they get to grips with the national curriculum, are excited and enthusiastic and becoming positive about it.
§ Mr. Spencer Batiste (Elmet)
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on achieving a solution that is well adapted to current reality, but during his consultations how many teaching unions showed a willingness to enter into no-strike agreements to enhance the professional standing of their members in the community at large?
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)
Is the Secretary of State aware that his continual use of the word "flexibility" shows only that his scheme and statement are like a conjuring trick: they do not produce any more money or teachers. The slickness of the word defeats the logic of the news. As the London borough of Newham has £5 million less than it requires for education, what would he do as a councillor in Newham? Would he be unfair to the children or to the poll tax payer? What would he do, given the circumstances that he has produced in the statement?
§ Mr. MacGregor
Community charge payers' interests must also be taken into account in all these decisions. The hon. Gentleman has missed the point that increasing 36 flexibility, which we have already and on which we hope to build, could increase the supply of teachers. I believe that it will do that by recruiting qualified teachers who are not teaching, because they are, for example, bringing up a family, and by encouraging mature entrants to join the teaching profession. There is considerable interest among people in other careers about moving into teaching. This flexibility will enable a pay system to be adopted in schools which can respond to those interests and needs and will thereby increase the supply of teachers.
§ Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay)
Will my right hon. Friend confirm the information sent to me in a letter by the National Union of Teachers to the effect that, far from there being a shortage of teachers, 400,000 trained teachers are not practising their profession? Rather than poaching teachers, my right hon. Friend's measures will enable us to attract that enormous unused resource back.
§ Mr. MacGregor
That is precisely the point I made in reply to the previous two questions. There is a considerable supply—sometimes inelegantly described as a "pool"—of people who are not teaching for good reasons, for example, because they are bringing up a family and wish to be with their young children. Many such people will wish to return to teaching. It is important to have arrangements to encourage them to do so, including keeping in touch with them while they are not working as teachers.
§ Mr. Martin Redmond (Don Valley)
Will the Secretary of State accept that his statement is a recipe for chaos and that it is dictatorship under the guise of democracy—if not, why retain an absolute veto? What discussions has the right hon. Gentleman had with the Department of the Environment about money values?
§ Mr. MacGregor
These matters have been fully discussed in the Government as a whole. I do not for one moment accept the hon. Gentleman's initial allegation. We have override powers because the Government must have the opportunity and the powers to take account of taxpayers' needs, should that prove necessary.
§ Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South)
Is my right hon. Friend aware that his statement will be warmly welcomed by all those who recognise that national negotiations have created regional shortages? Is he aware also that his statement will be particularly welcome to London local education authorities, which will at long last be able to give realistic London weighting allowances?
§ Mr. MacGregor
I note what my hon. Friend has said. I hope that the statement will be welcomed by the excellent grant-maintained school which I visited in his constituency.
§ Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)
Is not the Secretary of State setting up a Heath Robinson machinery to avoid restoring free and fair negotiating rights to the trade unions? Are not aggregate external financing, the time limit and his veto a three-barrelled gun held at the head of the teachers' unions? When will the right hon. Gentleman realise that the continuation of inadequate pay procedures, which his statement confirms, does nothing to tackle the serious problems of teacher shortages and low morale?
§ Mr. MacGregor
The hon.Gentleman must recognise that aggregate external finance cannot be unlimited; it 37 comes from the taxpayer. I shall again quote from the letter written to me by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw):Cash limits would apply in the normal way, as they have in respect of other local authority employees whose salaries are negotiated".
§ Mr. Derek Fatchett (Leeds, Central)
Does the Secretary of State recognise that he has shown amazing ignorance of the way in which the standard spending assessments work? The right hon. Gentleman says that the poorer London boroughs are given more money. Does he understand that they are given additional resources because it costs more to provide education in those boroughs and, without the additional resources, they would not be able to provide an education service?
Is it not a deceit on the children and parents in those boroughs and on people in all parts of the country facing teacher shortages for the Secretary of State to pretend that the resources that are currently available in the SSAs will result in the recruitment of additional teachers? Not one additional resource is made available through this statement. Is not the reality of the right hon. Gentleman's statement that he is merely redistributing resources and teachers from the poorer to the richer boroughs because the Government do not care about the children of Lambeth, Hackney or the other boroughs which are suffering from shortages? This statement is a deceit on all those children and all those boroughs.
§ Mr. MacGregor
I reject that absolutely. I made precisely the same point myself about additional educational needs: the extra resources were going into the boroughs through the additional educational needs budget, because it was recognised that there was such a need.
The statement was about teachers' negotiating machinery; there are other occasions when we discuss resources. I remind the hon. Gentleman that each time that I have asked the Labour party what it would propose to do about the additional money it has always ducked the question. We know why: so many of the hon. Gentleman's colleagues are beginning to make additional spending commitments, and the bill is starting to add up. It is clear what the Labour party's position is.
§ Mr. Lambie
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. When the Secretary of State for Education and Science was answering questions on his statement, I asked him to give a guarantee on behalf of the Government that his proposals would not affect Scotland and Scottish teachers' salary negotiations. The right hon. Gentleman said that 38 that was not his responsibility. He may not have a responsibility to Back-Benchers, Mr. Speaker, but you have. My hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) was expelled from the House today for making a point similar to mine—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Unhappily, the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) was—I say this with deep regret—expelled from the House for raising a point of order before we knew what was contained in the statement. However, I am now prepared to hear a point of order on what was contained in the statement.
§ Mr. Lambie
My point of order is this, Mr. Speaker. We have recently heard similar statements from Secretaries of State—representatives of the Government—but when Scottish Members have asked whether the statements are to apply to Scotland, we have been told that they have no responsibility. About an hour later, we have heard that the Secretary of State for Scotland has dealt with the position in Scotland in a written answer, but is not prepared to come to the House to defend his policies against—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. In view of the time, I will stop the hon. Gentleman there. I am not aware of any written answer on this matter. The hon. Gentleman's best course—I keep saying this—would be to take up the matter with hon. Members on his own Front Bench to see whether, through the usual channels, a statement relative to Scotland could be made.
§ Mr. Speaker
No. I have told the hon. Member for Cunninghame, South (Mr. Lambie) that I cannot say any more. Mr. Spearing.
§ Mr. Spearing
I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker. In a democratic, accountable body such as the House, is there not a doctrine that all Ministers are responsible and accountable for the Government's actions? When it comes to the question of a time for debate, clearly the Leader of the House must arrange occasions for debates on matters about which debate is agreed to be necessary. What we have heard about this afternoon will be of enormous interest to Scotland, as well as to England and Wales. Is it not the duty of the Secretary of State at least to tell the House whether such a statement is contemplated for another part of the United Kingdom?