§ 11.38 a.m.
§ Lord Cavendish of Furness
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Belstead, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.
347 The School Teachers' Pay and Conditions (No. 2) Bill is a short Bill; it is straightforward; the principles which it enshrines have not proved to be particularly controversial. But I believe that over time it will have a profound and beneficial effect on the quality of the education offered to the children in our schools.
The quality of that education depends in large measure on the quality of those entering and remaining in the teaching profession and the quality of the leadership which is given. That in turn is influenced by the public perception of teachers' status and of their professionalism in educating the nation's children. Teachers themselves have done much in recent years to rebuild the public's confidence, and their own, in their professional abilities and commitment. It is the Government's clear purpose, through the establishment in this Bill of a review body for teachers' pay and conditions, to show their commitment to enhancing still further the esteem in which the teaching profession is held.
Let me remind noble Lords of the position in 1987, when the present temporary arrangements for determining teachers' pay and conditions were set up. The Burnham machinery had broken down amidst scenes of bitterness and confusion. The education of large numbers of children was being wilfully and unnecessarily disrupted. The Government and parents throughout the land decided that enough was enough. The Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act was passed and Burnham abolished. Teachers received a generous pay increase and, most importantly, the teachers' pay structure was fundamentally overhauled with an emphasis on rewarding achievement and responsibility.
The interim advisory committee took over where the 1987 restructuring left off. Its four reports have greatly extended the capacity of employers to respond to local priorities. Local management of schools means that more and more decisions are taken by the people who know best—the governing bodies. Should anyone doubt what can be achieved in terms of motivation and morale by creating a structure and a climate in which there can be effective management at school level, they need look no further than the IAC's latest report.
Teachers have responded by getting on with doing what teachers do best—teaching children—and they have done far more than that. They have successfully introduced a range of essential education reforms and responded positively to the challenge to raise standards and improve the service they provide. Change, I acknowledge, is often unsettling, but the teaching profession as a whole has risen to the challenge.
It is in recognition of this changed climate that the Government have concluded that a review body should be established to make recommendations on their statutory pay and conditions of service. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has made plain his personal commitment to a well-paid and well-qualified teaching force and his belief that teachers should be given parity of treatment with other key professional groups.
348 The school teachers' review body, unlike the existing review bodies (for the Armed Forces, for doctors and dentists, for nurses, midwives and professions allied to medicine, and the Top Salaries Review Body) will be established by statute. These others have established their mode of operation through custom and practice. There will be one other significant difference: the school teachers' review body will not be a simple pay review body. It will consider pay, professional duties and working time in the round.
In all other essential respects the school teachers' review body will match existing review bodies. Its members will be appointed by the Prime Minister; it will report to him; it will not be given a financial constraint; written evidence will be invited from all relevant representative organisations, supplemented by oral presentations; it will receive technical support and assistance through a secretariat provided by the Office of Manpower Economics, answerable directly to the review body itself; it will decide for itself what weight to place on the various evidence presented, including the Government's, and may commission evidence on its own initiative; it will make recommendations as it thinks fit. Finally, the Government have given an undertaking that recommendations of the school teachers' review body will be implemented in full unless there are clear and compelling reasons to the contrary—exactly the same undertaking as for existing review bodies.
The Government's proposals, however, are made on the basis that teachers will recognise their professional responsibilities and will not in future take industrial action about matters within the review body's ambit. The vast majority of teachers recognise the benefits of review body status and professionalism and see industrial action for the damaging nonsense it is. Five of the six teachers' associations have given clear and unequivocal support to the principle of a review body status for teachers. In that, they are speaking not only for their own members but are also, I have no doubt, reflecting the views of very many members of the National Union of Teachers.
The Government believe that teaching is an honourable profession which deserves—and by the same token should not lightly jeopardise—the respect and esteem of society. That, in essence, is what this Bill is about.
I turn now to the Bill itself. Clause 1 provides for the appointment of a review body by the Prime Minister and requires the review body to consult interested parties on the matters which are referred to it. Its reports are to be submitted to the Prime Minister and to the Secretary of State and are to be published. The clause also makes clear that the review body will be concerned only with statutory conditions of employment—that is, pay, duties and working time. Just as now, teachers and their employers will be free to agree non-statutory conditions of employment as they think fit.
When matters are referred to the review body the Secretary of State may direct it to have regard to particular considerations. These are likely to include the Government's views on the need to recruit, retain 349 and motivate sufficient teachers of the right quality within what can be afforded, as expressed at present in the level of education standard spending set by government. The Bill, however, does not give the Secretary of State the power to impose a financial constraint, as he may do at present when giving a remit to the interim advisory committee. This is a key distinction between the IAC and the review body.
Clause 2 provides for the making of orders to give effect to changes in teachers' pay and conditions. But it also requires the Secretary of State to consult the local education authority associations, teacher unions and of hers about the review body's recommendations and on his proposals for implementation.
Clause 3 enables grant-maintained schools, if they so choose, having consulted their teachers, to opt out of the statutory arrangements and to decide matters for themselves. I believe it is right that governors of grant-maintained schools, who employ the staff and pay the bills, should have this flexibility. We considered carefully whether to extend the same freedom to local authorities. I can think of some authorities who would use it wisely, but many others may riot. An authority, unlike a grant-maintained school, can load the cost of an irresponsible settlement on to its local taxpayers. But I look to the review body to give all employers within its purview a proper degree of flexibility within the national framework.
Clauses 4, 5 and 6 are largely technical; Schedule 1 deals with the details of the membership and proceedings of the review body.
The Bill will come into force on such day as the Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument appoint. It is the Government's wish, if possible, to bring the Bill into effect without delay and to ask the review body to make recommendations on school teachers' pay and conditions for the year beginning 1st April 1992.
The Bill is a tribute to the dedication of the overwhelming majority of our teachers and to their achievements over the past five years. It marks a watershed in the evolution of the teaching profession and will give it the recognition and stability it needs to face the challenges of educating our children for the 21st century. The reaction of my right honourable friend's announcement confirms what we on this side of the House have always known: that the majority of teachers are dedicated professionals, committed to providing the best possible education to the children entrusted to them. It is precisely because we respect their professionalism that we have made the offer of a review body. It is both an acknowledgement and a guarantee of their professional status. I believe it will be widely welcomed for that reason. I commend the Bill to the House.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Cavendish of Furness.)
§ 11.47 a.m.
§ Baroness Blackstone
My Lords, the quality of the education we provide in our primary and secondary schools is far more dependent on the quality of the teaching profession than on anything else. The nature of the curriculum, systems of assessment, standards of 350 equipment and accommodation and the structure of school leaving examinations are all important but they pale into insignificance when compared with the quality of our teachers. Teachers' input is absolutely central to children's learning, to children's progress and to young people's acceptance of the value of education. Bad teachers can blight a child's chances in life in a more devastating way than any other failure of inputs in our schools. Good teachers can make all the difference to a pupil's performance and to his or her motivation to learn more.
Investment in the teaching profession is the most essential element in a successful education system. However, it is not just investment that counts: it is also a public recognition of the importance of teachers; it is support for them in the difficult role they have to play in modern conditions; and it is public encouragement and praise for what they achieve, sometimes against the odds. I was glad therefore to hear the noble Lord, speaking on behalf of the Government, praise teachers. For the same reason, I was saddened the week before last to read of yet another attack on teachers by a leading politician—this time none other than the Secretary of State for Education.
The quality of our teaching profession is determined by a number of factors. It is determined by the talent and ability of those who come forward to be teachers. It is determined by their training which includes in-service training. It is determined by the system's capacity to retain good teachers, to retain the best teachers. It is determined by opportunities for promotion and by other aspects of their conditions of service. Above all, it is determined by their pay which influences all the other factors that I have just listed. How much we pay teachers and how we decide this are central questions. I am therefore rather sad that so few Members of your Lordships' House have decided to take part in the debate on the Second Reading of this important Bill.
When the Government decided to abandon the Burnham arrangements, which had determined teachers' pay for many years, they set up an interim advisory committee in which teachers played no part in negotiating their pay. Many of us, while certainly not lamenting the demise of Burnham, were critical of these arrangements. Above all, we have been critical of the fact that for nearly five years teachers have been denied satisfactory, permanent pay machinery and have had to rely on temporary arrangements. The Government produced a Green Paper on teachers' pay machinery as long ago as 1987. They promised the teachers and their employers that pay settlement machinery would be restored by 1990. The Government broke that promise. Here we are halfway through 1991 debating a Bill on teachers' pay and conditions, the provisions of which cannot be implemented until 1992.
This long saga has been made worse by the Government's recent handling of the legislative process. They brought in one Bill earlier this Session and spent a considerable amount of time on it in another place only to withdraw it and replace it with the Bill before us. The previous Bill actually left 351 Committee in another place. There was then a long delay with no date fixed for the Report stage and Ministers pretending that the reason was lack of parliamentary time. It is extraordinary that Ministers should claim they suffered from a lack of parliamentary time in a Session in which we have had one of the lightest legislative programmes for a decade. The claim was clearly ludicrous. The Government were simply trying to cover up the disarray they were in on this matter.
In the Government's original Green Paper there was no reference to a review body—the central proposal in this Bill. Indeed it was explicitly rejected as an option. In the four years of consultation it was never discussed. It is then suddenly pulled out of a hat and the previous Bill is abandoned halfway through its progress through Parliament. Is not the extraordinary history of the handling of this important matter yet another sign of the uncertainty and indecisiveness on central questions of policy that now seem to characterise this Government? Whatever the merits or weaknesses of the Bill before us, no one could condone the way the issue has been handled.
Having made those points, let me welcome the fact that we at last have before us some proposals for dealing with teachers' pay and conditions on a permanent basis. Let me begin by saying that on these Benches we have nothing against the idea of a review body in principle. Indeed, if a review body were to be the best route to improve the pay of teachers—bearing in mind that they have had no real-terms increase in their pay since 1987, in spite of the fact that there is a consensus in the country that they ought to be better paid—we would even be able to give it a qualified welcome. However, while not opposing the idea of a review body in principle, we are concerned about some aspects of the Bill which lead us to believe that these particular proposals for a review body are flawed. They are especially flawed with respect to the powers that they give to the Secretary of State.
As the review body will make recommendations to the Prime Minister on changes to teachers' pay and conditions, it is important to ensure that the power to set aside these recommendations is not only carefully structured but is also subject to proper safeguards. The Secretary of State has said that the recommendations would be accepted unless there were "clear and compelling reasons" why this should not happen. The Minister repeated that statement today. The Secretary of State has repeated it on several occasions. I am inclined to believe him for I am sure he is an honourable man. But a different and less honourable Secretary of State may use the powers of direction and rejection that this Bill gives him in a wholly undesirable way. Why is the Secretary of State taking powers beyond those he says he wants or will use? Other review bodies do not have such powers. We shall certainly wish to table an amendment in Committee to write on to the face of the Bill that the review body's recommendations will be accepted unless there are "clear and compelling reasons" not to do so. Moreover, any decisions to overturn the recommendations should be subject to affirmative 352 resolutions by both Houses of Parliament rather than simply being subject to annulment through resolutions of either House. It is important that stronger safeguards are built into the Bill.
A further concern we have is how the review body's recommendations are to be funded. We understand that the pay review body is to take account of standard spending assessments for education. But if a major increase is recommended for teachers' pay, it will be important to increase the standard spending assessments. To do other than this will leave the employers in an impossible position. They would be faced with the requirement to pay teachers more without the funds to do so. This would mean cutting other parts of the service or sacking teachers to make ends meet, or both. This could hardly be a good deal for teachers. And a good deal for teachers is something we all want to secure.
I welcome the fact that the Government now recognise that it may be reasonable to make extra provision above that originally planned in order to provide the necessary funding. However, the suggestion that the standard spending assessment would normally cover it seems unrealistic in the light of the proportion of local education authorities' bills taken up by teachers' pay and the size of the education service relative to other services. Any suggestion that efficiencies in other services could cover the cost of a substantial improvement in teachers' pay really will not wash. I hope the Government will take back any suggestion that this would be possible. There is no point in introducing an independent review body unless some commitment is made to fund its recommendations when they have been accepted by all the parties. The suggestion that recourse will be made to phased awards when funds are not available is an admission that its recommendations would not be fully implemented.
There is also concern about the membership of the review body. It will have before it many complex issues relating not just to pay, but, unlike other review bodies, also to conditions of service. For that reason there ought to be a provision as there was in the 1987 Act for,persons having relevant knowledge of or experience in educationto be members of the review body. I am puzzled as to why the Government are unwilling to accept this. It would seem to me more likely to lead to well informed recommendations. Surely some members of the review body should be qualified in this way. I have no doubt if such an assurance were provided the confidence of the teaching profession in the proposals in this Bill would be enhanced.
Finally, there is concern about another U-turn the Government have made with respect to flexibility for local authorities. When the previous Bill was being discussed in another place, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary appeared to favour local authorities being able to opt out of national pay structures in the interest of greater flexibility. There was certainly some rather wild talk about the so-called advantages of this from some government supporters. I am delighted that arguments of this kind have not found any place 353 in the present Bill. They are sheer folly. However, the Bill has now swung to the other extreme in actually increasing constraints on employers to act flexibly on the question of conditions of service, while perversely allowing grant-maintained schools to opt out of the nationally determined provision altogether. The Bill departs from the previous consensus that local authorities can, through locally agreed contracts of employment, develop the national framework of conditions. That seems to be an unwarranted restriction on local flexibility.
We shall, of course, have the opportunity to take up this and other matters in Committee. What we now need above all is acceptable machinery for determining teachers' pay and conditions which commands widespread support. The status of our teachers must be raised if our education service is to flourish. For too long teachers have been messed about. It is high time to give them a better deal. This is needed in order to recruit and, above all, to retain high quality teachers. Only when they are retained can we be secure in the hope that educational standards in Britain can improve.
§ 11.58 a.m.
§ Lord Rochester
My Lords, I wish from these Benches to thank the noble Lord, Lord Cavendish of Furness, for the clear way in which he has introduced the Bill. During the Second Reading of the first Bill that was introduced in another place last November the Secretary of State, commenting on the interim arrangements made in 1987 for determining teachers' pay, said that it was time to put more permanent machinery into place. As we all know, the machinery contemplated in November proved to be anything but permanent. However, I do not wish to make too much of a meal of that for it is the present Bill that we now have to consider.
I should like at the outset to make it clear that my noble friends and I fully support the principle underlying the Bill, namely that the pay of school teachers in England and Wales should be determined by an independent review body. That support was evidenced by my right honourable and honourable friends in another place when, in contrast to the action taken by the Labour Party, they voted in favour of the Bill at Third Reading.
The main reason for our support is that the last thing that is now needed is further delay and confusion. The House's primary concern today should be, through giving the Bill a Second Reading, to help to restore the morale of teachers by correcting the way in which they feel they have been treated in recent years. I very much hope that by the time the Bill leaves this House it will have the general support that it deserves.
It is plain that the great majority of teachers welcome the concept that their pay should in future be determined by an independent body. I am not now speaking of the various trade unions representing teachers' interests, although even in their case it is significant that only one, the National Union of Teachers, opposes the Bill in principle.
354 Much of the discussion in another place was concerned with doubts as to whether the review body proposed by the Government would be truly independent. On that point perhaps I may say at once that I very much welcome the assurance given by the Minister of State at Report stage—to which the noble Lord, Lord Cavendish, referred this morning—that the secretariat of the review body should follow the pattern of other such bodies in being provided by the Office of Manpower Economics so that the teachers' review body:will receive the support and advice of the same kind and quality, including support on statistical and technical matters. from the same independent source as other review bodies". —[Official Report, Commons, 6/6/91; col. 447.]Having said that, on these Benches we have a number of reservations about the details of the Government's proposals to which we shall wish to return in Committee. They concern among other things, both the composition and powers of the review body. I recognise that, following the normal pattern, its members are to be appointed by the Prime Minister. At the same time it seems to us that there is a good case for ensuring that as under the 1987 Act, as the noble Baroness mentioned, some at least of those appointed should have practical knowledge and experience of teaching.
I noticed that at Report stage in another place the Minister resisted an amendment proposing that before appointments were made there should be consultation with those representing the interests of local education authorities, school governors and teachers. He did so on the grounds that that would be contrary to the principle of an independent review body. However, he said that interested parties would be free to put forward names for the Prime Minister to consider. In Committee we may well suggest that that assurance should find expression on the face of the Bill.
Next, in Standing Committee in another place the Minister said a number of reassuring things about the powers of the review body which do not at present feature in the Bill itself. For example, at col. 26 of the Official Report, he said that the review body would be able to work to its own agenda. In other words, as I understand it, it will have the power to consider matters other than those referred to it by the Secretary of State under subsection (4) of Clause 1 of the Bill. That assurance, too, it seems to us merits inclusion in the Bill itself.
Then there is the question of how the pay and conditions of sixth-form college teachers should be determined. Under Clause 5 of the Bill they are deemed to be school teachers and are therefore covered by the review body. Yet it is plain from the Government's White Paper on further and higher education that in England and Wales responsibility for sixth-form colleges is later to be transferred from local authorities to the new further education councils which it is proposed should be established. To say the least, that places the teachers involved in an invidious position. In terms of career development alone there are at present strong links between teachers in sixth-form colleges and in those secondary schools. We should therefore think carefully before allowing those links to be broken. If the pay and conditions of 355 teachers in primary, secondary and grant-maintained schools is to be determined by a statutory review body, it is difficult to see the justification for excluding sixth-form college teachers from the same treatment.
Indeed, similar considerations extend to colleges of higher education, polytechnics and universities. They do not come within the ambit of this Bill and it would not therefore be appropriate to discuss their position in Committee. However, one wonders why the pay and conditions of teachers and lecturers in those institutions should not also be determined by a review body. Under the discredited bargaining system now applicable to them, the Secretary of State effectively has a veto over settlements reached between vice-chancellors and the Association of University Teachers. In the 1987 White Paper on higher education the Government acknowledged that the current negotiating machinery for university lecturers was defective, but they have since done nothing to improve it.
I can speak with some authority on the matter because for 10 years, until recently, I was chairman of a university council. There is a widely perceived unfairness, as the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals has said, not only in the way salaries of university teachers are determined but in their salary levels. I was frankly astonished to learn that the Secretary of State did not even have the courtesy to meet representatives of the CVCP to discuss the question of a pay review body for university lecturers.
When the matter was raised on Second Reading of the Bill in another place the Secretary of State referred to the fact that at that time the AUT was balloting its members on whether to take industrial action in support of its pay claim. It has not done so. The Government's proposal to establish an independent review body for school teachers has been made on the basis, as the noble Lord, Lord Cavendish, has told us this morning, that teachers will not in future take such action on matters within the review body's ambit. If a review body is now to be established for school teachers, who in recent years have taken industrial action on a number of occasions, would not a review body for higher education equally ensure that such action would, in the words of the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers in support of the Bill, recede into the mists of history. I do not see the logic of the Government's position in this regard. I should be grateful, therefore, if in replying to the debate the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, would explain it, if he can.
As has been said, when the Secretary of State announced his intention to establish a review body for teachers he said that its recommendations would be accepted unless there were what he called "clear and compelling reasons" why that should not be done. That wording is not included in the Bill. Surely it should be.
From Clause 2(9) it is plain that if the Secretary of State decides to make any, in the words of the Bill, "material modification" to the review body's recommendations, his decision will be subject to annulment only by a negative resolution of either 356 House of Parliament. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, we think that a decision to overturn the review body's findings should be validated by an affirmative resolution in both Houses. That is not simply because we are talking about an annual pay bill of about £10 billion.
It may be said that such positive parliamentary endorsement is not required in the case of other review bodies, but the review body for teachers, unlike others, is to be a statutory body set up by Parliament. In our view, therefore, it is Parliament which should positively take responsibility if the body's recommendations are to be rejected by the Executive. That is the procedure now operative under the 1987 Act which established the interim advisory committee. Immediately after this debate we are to discuss an order provided for under the 1987 Act and based on that very procedure. I am glad that it is the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, who is to reply to this debate for it was he who, in support of that procedure, said on 26th January 1987 at col. 1224 of Hansard:I really do think that that is a sensible balance. It promises that your Lordships' House as well as another place will not be obliged to spend time on matters where there may be little controversy, while ensuring specific parliamentary approval is secured on every occasion when the Government want to alter any aspect of the committee's advice".On the question of finance, the Government have undertaken that no predetermined financial constraints will be placed on the review body. On the other hand, we are told that pay levels will have to be set within what can be afforded. Local authorities are understandably concerned that they may be able to finance the treatment agreed for school teachers only by having to make unreasonable reductions in other public services. I am sure that this is a matter to which the House will wish to return in Committee.
As the noble Lord, Lord Cavendish, said, Clause 3 obliges the Secretary of State, on application by the governing body of a grant-maintained school, to make an order exempting teachers in that school from a pay and conditions order. The clause further stipulates that, before making such an application, the governing body must consult the teachers whom it employs. I welcome that safeguard for it shows that the Government have taken heed of the advice pressed on them when the first Bill of this kind was discussed in another place.
The fact remains that, during the passage of the Education Reform Bill through Parliament, the then Secretary of State gave assurances that grant-maintained schools would be treated no more favourably than those controlled by local education authorities. If a pay review body is judged to be the appropriate determinant for LEA schools, surely, to avoid the poaching of teachers and to provide a reasonably level playing field generally, its findings should apply also to grant-maintained schools.
Moreover, under Clause 3, the Secretary of State has been given no discretion to accept or reject an application by the governing body of a grant-maintained school to be exempted from a pay and conditions order. I should be grateful if the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, will tell us why that is so.
357 In conclusion, I should simply like to reiterate that, although as I have indicated we on these Benches have a number of reservations about the details of the Bill, we support its underlying principle.
§ 12.13 p.m.
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
My Lords, I should like first to congratulate my noble friend Lady Blackstone on her introductory comments from our Benches. She is always a great pleasure to listen to on matters of this kind in view of her competence and her concise presentation of the case, which, in the field of education, is a great help to the layman. The noble Lord, Lord Rochester, with his usual examination of the detail of a Bill of this kind, has compiled an agenda of some importance for the Committee stage.
I do not know whether I am wrong in my impression, but it appears to me that Bills come from another place these days singularly unclear and unfinished. Our work in scrutinising Bills from another place seems to increase. One of our functions is that of a revising Chamber, but, when I read, as I have done, the proceedings in another place on this Bill and on the Bill of last November, I can see what goes wrong down there. For one thing, there are far too many interruptions of the leading speakers to enable the reader to retain any idea of what they are talking about. One finds that Ministers are interrupted before they have got going and they have great difficulty in getting back into the debate. When they do, everyone has forgotten what they were saying before and a certain amount of repetition occurs. Quite frankly, I find it tedious to read the proceedings in another place on all matters relating to education. On this Bill and the Bill of November last year —the main, No. 1 Bill—a whole range of subjects, including teachers' conditions and the state of education were thrown into the debate quite early on and one wondered how the Second Reading of the Bill was ever reached.
I have had a long association with the problem. It goes back to the days when the late Sir Edward Boyle, who later became Lord Boyle, was trying to make sense of the Burnham scheme. That certainly broke down. I came to the Houghton Committee in 1974 because, the Burnham scheme had broken down and it was impossible to achieve a settlement through the usual procedures. The Scottish teachers were on strike. I went to Scotland within the first fortnight of my appointment and was met at the station in Edinburgh by a huge placard which said, "Hurry up, Houghton!". That shows what an impatient lot they are up there. They do not give you a chance to begin. That was certainly a criterion with regard to the pace that the Committee had to keep up in trying to reach its conclusions.
Perhaps I may comment on two aspects of the nature of the staff of the education service which are a constant source of trouble in relationships with the Administration. Teachers are so highly intelligent and alive to the responsibilities and professional aspects of their job that they have many different opinions. One finds refinements in the organisation of the teaching profession that one does not find in, say, the Civil 358 Service. The problem in all staff relations in the education service stems from two disturbing factors: first, the disunity among the teachers' organisations and, secondly, the fact that they have never dealt with one employer; it was always two. The differences between local education authorities and the department and the Treasury were often the cause of the lack of progress of the Burnham Committee. It is difficult to overcome those two problems.
When I started work on the Houghton Committee in 1974 I called all the teachers' organisations together and said, "Look, I've heard that you've never before all appeared together in one room. Well, you're doing it now and you'll continue to do it throughout the proceedings in this Committee. I shall not see any individual union separately. We shall have all the discussions with the teachers at the same time so that we all know where we stand". That approach worked very well indeed.
Again, in negotiations on a matter of this kind, staff interests cannot, with the best will in the world, always sort themselves out. In addition, some institutions can never reform themselves from the inside. That is why, on occasion, it is useful for an outside body to look at them. I am glad that the review body will now begin on a permanent basis with more authority and, I am sure, with better results. It is not only acceptable, it is the only possible solution at the moment, with the education services undergoing such rapid change.
In my researches I have not discovered why the No. 1 Bill, which had its second Reading in November, started in Committee of the House of Commons but then ceased to be discussed and seemed to run into the sand, being followed by the No. 2 Bill in April this year. There must have been a sea change in the Government's attitude toward the proposals in the November Bill. I viewed that Bill with deep anxiety. Quite frankly, I did not think that it was a workable scheme. The Bill that is before us this morning is the best solution in the present circumstances.
I should like to raise one or two points about scope. I am not clear, first, whether "school teachers" includes head teachers and deputy heads, and, secondly, I am not clear about the polytechnics. When I was involved, the polytechnics were included but the universities were not. That was an inconvenience and I shall come to the universities in a moment. The polytechnics will now come under a different regime as regards government responsibility. However, I have lost sight of where they are intended to go and should be glad to know.
With regard to university teachers, there is some indignation among the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals. Some terse correspondence has passed between the committee and the Government. It seems to me that there is some discontent there. I mention that because, when I was involved with teacher's pay, the university teachers were waiting in the wings. Their case was being looked after by Sir Alec Johnston, the former chairman of the Board of the Inland Revenue. The university teachers waited for us to produce a report. They wanted to see the report on teachers' pay before proceeding with the negotiations on university teachers' pay. However, by 359 the time university teachers' pay was dealt with, the economic atmosphere had deteriorated seriously, and they were right in believing that they suffered from the delay. When it came to their turn, the Government were by no means as ready to settle on such reasonable conditions as they would have been otherwise.
Two other points arise. My noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, have referred to one of them; namely, the Government's attitude and power as regards the recommendations of the review body. This is most important in connection with teachers' pay because the whole Burnham set-up was in constant danger of interference from government. To begin with, agreements could be reached between the employers' and teachers' organisations and overthrown by the Government. Later, the Government took part in the Burnham Committee itself so that they could participate in the decisions that were reached. That helped.
The Civil Service Whitley Council, to which I have been devoted ever since it began in 1919, has a proviso that the decisions reached are implemented subject to the overriding power of Parliament. One has to reserve to the overriding power of Parliament really large settlements which affect hundreds of thousands of people and have considerable economic consequences. But the Government should be very careful not to interfere with the recommendations of review bodies except in fully understandable, if not acceptable, circumstances.
We have had experience of that already with review bodies. The tendency has been for the Government to accept the recommendations but to introduce them by instalments. That can have its justification in certain circumstances. But one has to vest in a review body a considerable amount of responsibility for coming to decisions virtually in the name of the Government—in the name of the Government but not necessarily in harmony with their views every time. Something very special is needed before one considers overthrowing the recommendations of review bodies. It means that for good reasons the Government have placed in a committee their responsibility in the public interest to settle a matter rather than have it settled within the machinery of direct contact between the interests involved. The committee becomes, as it were, the representative of the Administration in the matters under consideration and its responsibility should rest very heavily upon it. In deciding its composition, that aspect of the matter should be borne in mind.
One should also consider how variations, if any, are to be carried out. I understand that there is now a negative procedure for statutory instruments, whereas under the 1987 Act they were sent to both Houses of Parliament. I believe that we should have the affirmative procedure in connection with any statutory instruments laid which vary the conditions and recommendations of the review body. They are important enough for that. That point also should be borne in mind.
We are sufficiently familiar with the way in which review bodies work to have considerable confidence that this one, being a statutory body, will receive the 360 full weight of public confidence. We have to proceed as well as we can with the other big changes that are needed in the education system. Let me add that one of the advantages of a review body in the present circumstances is that it can make comments in its report which nobody else can make. The employers cannot, the unions will not want to, and probably the Government will not wish to say these things. But, in making its recommendations, a review body can express views, and that may be a good thing to do. I tried to do it in my report all those years ago but it is very difficult for a chairman to introduce into his report on the agreed document too many of his own views about what should be done in the future.
Certainly conditions of service should have been within our terms of reference but nobody wanted them to be included. The belief that teachers and professionals should have no rigid and stereotyped conditions of service forbade us to consider what was in some respects the most important aspect of the matter; namely, their claim for higher remuneration and greater confidence. So that aspect should be included. The statutory conditions of service should leave a great deal of flexibility for local education authorities and the schools themselves to adjust their resources to the needs of the curriculum or the types of people in their particular areas. Teaching will not be a nine to five job anyhow but some flexibility is needed. One can distinguish between the statutory conditions of service and those which form part of extra services rendered by teachers as part of their professional interest and devotion to their task. I believe that introducing such a distinction will make some difference.
I can only wish the Bill well. It is very important that education shall now come to the top of the political agenda. We must be sure that we deal with all the matters involved with enough imagination and consideration to achieve the best results for the future development of the education service.
§ 12.30 p.m.
§ The Paymaster General (Lord Belstead)
My Lords, we have had an interesting debate today on which the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, brought to bear her formidable knowledge of the education service. The noble Lord, Lord Rochester, also brought his wide experience of education and training. We have now heard from the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, who, when I first started working in politics, was a household name (as he still is) because of the important report which he brought forward during the 1970s.
We on this side of the House have made clear in the speech given by my noble friend Lord Cavendish that establishing a review body should do a great deal to restore the status of the teaching profession within our society, to raise the morale of teachers and ultimately to benefit the education of the nation's children. In all essentials, except for the fact that it will deal with conditions as well as with pay, the school teachers' review body proposed in the Bill will be identical to those review bodies which deal with other professional 361 groups. In all those cases there is a general recognition of the substantial benefits which the privilege of review body status brings.
The noble Baroness spoke from the Opposition Front Bench. Not unreasonably, she criticised the Government for withdrawing one Bill and introducing the Bill before your Lordships' House today. However, that was done precisely because, as the noble Baroness said, the quality of teachers is the fundamental ingredient in the education service in our country. Teachers have demonstrated their professional commitment by the way in which they have tackled the major educational reforms that the Government have introduced. The interim advisory committee's reports bear witness to their efforts and their achievements.
However, last year the air was full of talk of disruption for one reason or another, either because of pay, conditions of service or the education reforms. I believe it is fair to say that there was a division between the teachers' organisations about what pay machinery ought to be introduced. But I would argue that today there is strong support for the principle of a review body among the teacher associations. Indeed a vast majority of the associations is in favour. It is for that simple reason, and for the deeper reasons concerning what has happened in the education service (in particular in facing the reforms) that the Government believed it was right to change course, and to bring forward this Bill providing for a review body.
In that general context, I welcome a great deal of what the noble Baroness said. However, she will forgive me if I say that the problem so far as concerns the Government is that whereas we hear that the Labour Party has nothing against a review body in principle, there is continued opposition to certain aspects of the Bill. We shall not have a situation in your Lordships' House such as we had in another place, as the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, reminded us, in which the Opposition voted throughout against the Bill almost on principle. But there is not agreement on the Bill.
I realise from the noble Baroness's speech that, like the Opposition spokesman on education in another place, the noble Baroness believes that the power of direction in Clause 1(4) is one of the main issues for noble Lords opposite. The main thrust of the noble Baroness's argument was that the clause gives the Secretary of State unprecedented powers to give directions to the review body. Perhaps I may examine that briefly. Under the provisions of the Bill, can the Secretary of State constrain the review body's freedom to make recommendations as it thinks fit? I wish to say from the Government Front Bench that from my reading of the Bill he cannot. Can the Secretary of State prevent the review body from considering any matter? Again it is important for me to say that from my reading he cannot. Clause 1 defines the review body's duty to make recommendations on any specific matter referred to it and to report within a set time. But its report will be able to range more widely if it considers that to be appropriate.
362 Your Lordships have expressed concern over the way in which references are made to the review body. Throughout the debate today there has been apprehension that there may be a prevention from making recommendations across the range of pay and conditions, despite what I have just said. That is not the Government's reading of Clause 1(1). My right honourable friend the Secretary of State would expect to ask the review body to report on a regular basis and, except when making limited references asking for advice on a specific issue, in his remit letter my right honourable friend would expect to invite the review body to address any matter concerned with school teachers' statutory conditions of employment as it thinks fit. In fact a review body would not need such an invitation. When it has been asked to report on any matter, it would be able to recommend on any other matter if it thinks fit. The Bill does not preclude that. My right honourable friend would have the power under Clause 2(1) to put such recommendations into effect.
Clause 1(4) gives my right honourable friend the power to direct the review body to have regard to certain considerations. But the review body, having taken those considerations into account, can then make recommendations as it judges best. To suggest that the Government will be able to tie the hands of the review body would be simply wrong. The review body will be required to exercise its own objective independent judgment and to report on that basis. That proposition has a powerful attraction—powerful enough to have attracted the support and good will of five out of the six teacher associations.
Perhaps I may add a word on the giving of directions. The noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, have expressed unease about the matter. All the Bill enables the Secretary of State to do is to give the review body directions about considerations which it is to have regard. Having had regard to those considerations, the review body will be free to recommend precisely as it thinks fit. However, it is surely helpful to all concerned for my right honourable friend to give the review body at the very start of its deliberations a general indication of the Government's broad policy objectives, and to do so in an open and above-board way. That is the effect of Clause 1(5). I believe that it is also reasonable to require the review body to have regard to what the Secretary of State says. That is all that Clause 1(4) provides for.
Perhaps I may flesh the matter out. The considerations which the review body would be asked to have regard to would no doubt include matters such as the Government's desire to recruit, maintain and motivate sufficient staff of the right calibre to stay close to the present pay and conditions structure, to move towards more flexible pay arrangements targeted towards meeting specific needs. I suggest that those are matters on which it is right and proper for the review body to know the Government's position from the outset. I do not believe that such considerations could constitute unacceptable restrictions on the review body's freedom to recommend as it thinks fit.
363 Perhaps I may make a brief reference to affordability. I believe that there is agreement between both sides of the House that, whatever arrangements are in place, the Government have the final word on a pay settlement. That will be as true for the review body under the Bill as brought forward as it is true for the interim advisory committee. However, again there is a crucial difference. The Government will undertake to implement the review body's recommendations unless there are clear and compelling reasons for not doing so. That places teachers on exactly the same footing as other review groups.
The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, raised the affordability issue and will probably return to it in Committee. Although there is agreement between the Front Benches of the noble Baroness's party and mine on the use of the words "clear and compelling", the issue is one of interpretation. Without wishing to be too pedestrian perhaps I may remind your Lordships that my right honourable friend in another place made the point that if in future the review body were to make recommendations which had not been anticipated by the Government, the Government must then face the fact that when they take a decision, in particular on the authority of the Prime Minister, they must consider carefully whether the decision can properly be funded. My right honourable friend said that normally he would expect the standard spending assessment to cover the situation, but it might not. One must then consider whether efficiencies could reasonably be made in other areas or whether it might be necessary to phase.
I listened carefully to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, about the essential need for government to think carefully and responsibly about funding. For that reason I have covered the points that were raised. When the Government look at any clear and compelling reasons why it might be necessary to make some modification to the funding of a review body report, those are exactly the criteria which exist at the present time for the other review bodies, although it is true that they are in non-statutory form.
The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, and the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, suggested that the words "clear and compelling" should appear on the face of the Bill. In his Statement to the House on 17th April my right honourable friend gave an undertaking that the Government would implement the review body's recommendation unless there are such reasons for not doing so. In using that form of words my right honourable friend was deliberately replicating the commitment given by the Prime Minister in respect of recommendations from the existing review bodies. Therefore, teachers will enjoy exactly the same assurances as do the other review body groups.
The noble Baroness and other noble Lords raised the issue of membership. We are setting up a review body and not an interim advisory committee. The Prime Minister is not constrained in the way that the noble Baroness would wish; namely, having members with knowledge of, and expertise in, education. Indeed, it is interesting to note that the health service 364 review bodies specifically exclude from membership representatives of the professions whose pay they determine. That may be a matter to which the noble Baroness will wish to return, but for the moment that is my reply.
§ Baroness Blackstone
My Lords, the anxiety is that some members of the review body should have requisite knowledge and experience of education; it is not that all the members should be in that category. Indeed, I should be opposed to that suggestion because it is desirable that independent outsiders look at the issue of teachers pay. I make the suggestion in particular because the review body will be looking in detail at conditions. That is not true of the other review bodies. I do not believe that the Prime Minister would be greatly constrained in having to appoint a small number of members of the review body who have such experience. After all, there are many people around.
§ Lord Belstead
My Lords, I entirely take the noble Baroness's argument. I understand the point she makes that there are conditions in the mix as well as pay. I assure your Lordships that provided my right honourable friend the Prime Minister can obtain people to do the job it is possible that we shall be able to appoint people who can reach the right conclusions on both pay and conditions. However, at the moment, that is not written on the face of the Bill. I understand the noble Baroness's point and I hope that I have made my position clear.
The noble Lord, Lord Rochester, and the noble Baroness spoke about grant maintained schools. The noble Lord said that there needs to be a level playing field, otherwise there could be poaching of teachers. He also said that my right honourable friend should have the power to reject a grant maintained school's application in order to make its own arrangements. I suggest that the budget of a grant maintained school is determined by the same formula as is used for local education authority schools with a proportion of its central budget, if it can use that more wisely, being able to go to teachers. Therefore, I believe that the playing field is level.
As regards the noble Lord's second point, that is a management decision for an individual school. It is not my right honourable friend's place to second guess the grant maintained schools. However, as the noble Lord fairly said, staff must be consulted before schools make proposals. I know that the noble Lord welcomed that—
§ Lord Rochester
My Lords, the Minister understood, did he not? I referred not so much to grant maintained schools in general but more particularly to those which have opted out?
§ Lord Belstead
My Lords, indeed I did. The noble Baroness bracketed her comments about the grant maintained schools with the points that local authorities have made recently about changing their situation relating to non-statutory conditions of service. I am aware that local education authorities have expressed anxiety that some existing non-statutory conditions of service which have little if 365 anything to do with pay—for instance, duties and working time—would nonetheless be caught by the definition of statutory conditions used in the Bill. My honourable and right honourable friends in another place have said that they will look carefully at the points which the employers have raised. It is not my colleagues' intention that the review body should concern itself with matters other than the central areas of pay, duties and working time. If there were agreement that a particular condition of employment, perhaps among those presently to be found in the Burgundy Book, should remain in the non-statutory areas but there was nonetheless doubt that that would be the effect of the Bill, my right honourable friend would certainly be prepared to exercise his power under Clause 5(3) to remove any uncertainty.
The noble Lord, Lord Rochester, spoke about teachers in sixth-form colleges. If he will forgive me I shall not follow him down the road of university teachers. He was right in saying that once the new further education sector has been established, teachers in sixth-form colleges will no longer fall within the scope of the review body. I must point out to the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, that lecturers in polytechnics do not fall within the scope of this Bill; it is concerned entirely with school teachers. The lecturers to whom the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, referred will be covered by new arrangements which will be set up for all staff in the new sector.
The Government intend pay and conditions in the new sector to be settled through negotiations between employer and employee. We believe that there should be the maximum freedom for institutions to set pay in response to their own needs and circumstances. The detailed arrangements for the negotiations must be considered by the institutions themselves with the staff concerned and with the Government. Unlike the noble Lord, I do not believe that there is anything contradictory in that proposal. The Government's objectives are to improve as far as possible standards and efficiency and to raise the status of education. Our policies for school teachers and for the FE sector will in different ways achieve precisely that. However, the two sectors have different structures and different needs. We believe that the mechanisms to raise standards and efficiency should reflect those differences—
§ Lord Rochester
My Lords, the noble Lord said that he would not follow me down the road of university lecturers. I hope that I made it plain that I appreciate that university education does not come within the scope of the Long Title of the Bill. Nevertheless, the noble Lord may agree that we are discussing the principle underlying the Bill. I suggest that in logic the same principle should apply to university lecturers and school teachers. Perhaps the noble Lord will comment further at this stage or write to me on the subject.
§ Lord Belstead
My Lords, I should be only too pleased to write to the noble Lord and to copy the letter in the usual way. I hope that I do not sound discourteous, but this Bill is concerned with school teachers' pay. It arises because of what happened to 366 the Burnham Committee. We are discussing a matter which is different from the university sector. However, I shall write to the noble Lord on the matter.
The last point to which I wish to refer, because nearly all your Lordships referred to it, is the use of affirmative or negative resolution. The use of the negative resolution procedure is parallel with the procedure used by other review bodies. In some cases there is no parliamentary procedure at all. As regards doctors and dentists, the Secretary of State for Health makes an order in a manner similar to that provided for in the Bill. For that statutory order, affirmative resolution is not required.
The noble Lord, Lord Rochester, quoted back to me my words from three or four years ago, which is always rather unnerving. For once perhaps the noble Lord was being rather less than fair. I do not believe that he was comparing like with like. I must check but I believe that my words were in the context of the setting up of the interim advisory committee. Here we are not setting up an IAC but an independent review body. Unlike the IAC, the review body will not be subject to financial constraints and will be free to recommend as it thinks fit. Under Clause 2(1) the Secretary of State is required to consult interested parties on the review body's reports and on proposals for implementation. Therefore, there will be a wealth of consultation and exchange of information. That is yet another reason why we have veered towards the negative rather than the affirmative resolution.
In bringing forward this Bill I believe the Government have given the clearest possible evidence of their commitment to enhancing the professional status of teachers. There has been a wide welcome for the Bill by the teachers' associations. That is right because it is a tribute to what the teaching profession has achieved since Burnham ended with a good deal of chaos and confusion. The Bill holds out the prospect of recognition and stability in the years ahead. I believe that that is good news for teachers, parents and children. Now that the Bill has arrived in your Lordships' House, I hope that your Lordships will be able to support it.
§ On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.