Column 272There is now in the teaching profession, particularly among its professional organisations, a welcome feeling of glasnost which I do not wish to upset. It must be recognised that there is a great deal of disquiet about the financial constraints--£600 million --on the interim advisory committee. They are widely resented, largely because they are misunderstood. I have tried as a former economics teacher to explain the nature of public spending rounds and the way in which we run the financial affairs of this country, but I must be rusty as I have not got very far. I invite my right hon. Friend to explain these constraints.
As my right hon. Friend said, we must move towards a permanent pay system. I hope that it will include a full and open role for Government. I do not want a return to the Burnham system, which led to breakdown. There is a spirit of realism in the teaching associations now, and the AMMA has written to me as follows : "We hope that proposals will now evolve towards a system where the Government has a full and open role, where the evidence and reasoning of particular cash figures can be debated sensibly." It adds :
"We regret the continuation of the Act's provisions for another year, although we fully recognise that there is no better alternative yet available."
That is important, and that is why I shall support my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State this evening.
I have for a long time agreed with my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South-West (Mr. Madel) that we must face the issue of teachers being paid centrally. A few years ago, with the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery), I visited Germany and became acquainted with the interesting system of mixed funding that prevails there. Teachers' salaries are paid centrally, but local communities have great autonomy over the extent to which they support their local schools. That is important, and with the advent of the community charge it will become more important. The system provides for parental support, and local taxation is accepted by the community, which recognises needs and wishes to meet them. That sort of flexibility would be allowed under the system which I have in mind. We all want to see a well motivated, well paid, fully trained and effective teaching service. I believe that that is the aspiration, too, of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.
Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey) : We live in a strange world--one in which teachers are asking to be allowed to negotiate but being told in effect that the matter will be arbitrated for them, while ambulance workers are asking for arbitration and being told that they must resume negotiations.
I am happy to take up the remarks of the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) who, like the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) and me, is parliamentary adviser to one of the six leading teaching unions. One of the interesting pieces of background to the debate is that there is unanimity among the unions in opposing the idea of an imposed cash limit, which the Secretary of State has introduced. That idea effectively predetermines the outcome of the decisions of the interim advisory committee in January.
My right hon. and hon. Friends will vote against the order unless the Secretary of State or the Minister of State pulls something out of the fire. I think that the teaching
Column 273profession would accept only two courses. One would be a commitment that the day when negotiating rights are reinstated will never again be postponed, especially in the light of the ILO ruling. Secondly, there would have to be a commitment that the Secretary of State would lift the announced £600 million limit. If the right hon. Gentleman fails to take that action, we shall oppose the implementation of the order for strong reasons of principle as well as of practice, and I hope that some Conservative Members will take the same course. It was my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) who elicited a response from the Minister of State to the effect that it was the Government's intention that a negotiating procedure should be in place by now. It is not as though the planning for that has taken place only in recent months. The Secretary of State gave us a date, and the Green Paper was submitted for consultation two years and two months ago. Yet there is still no sign of a conclusion to the deliberations on the Government's proposals. Clear undertakings were given by the then Secretary of State and the Minister of State, but they have been breached.
We are in clear breach of our undertakings as signatories to the ILO convention. Article 4 makes it clear that the Government are obliged to offer voluntary negotiations between employers and employees with independence of negotiating bodies, and that that is the way to regulate the terms and conditions. When the Government argued against that in their submissions to the ILO they were told that submissions to the IAC did not constitute voluntary negotiations, so commitments made both in the House and internationally have been broken.
A further constraint on the £600 million limit is not acceptable. It represents approximately a 7.4 per cent. increase across the board. The Secretary of State will know that to restore the morale of the profession and to reverse the trend of people leaving, we shall need a greater increase in many areas. It is paradoxical that, although the limit is fixed, the teachers have been asked in recent weeks to give their views on what the pay settlement should be. That is like appointing a judge and telling him or her to reach a judgment before hearing the evidence.
It is noticeable that the differences between the unions have faded away. The Secretary of State will have seen the letter which has been sent to all schools by the salaries campaign 1990. It bears the signatures of the general secretaries of the six unions. They are in agreement and state that they are in "unanimous opposition" to a predetermined constraint. They say that they have made that point to the current and previous Secretaries of State and they ask, even at this late stage, for the constraint to be lifted.
That is the prelude to tonight's debate. The hon. Member for Peckham, (Ms. Harman) mentioned the experience of people in one of the areas of acute teacher shortage and crisis. I am her parliamentary neighbour. On a practical basis, as I told the Minister of State a few days ago when she was good enough to see me, there is neither sufficient action nor sufficiently urgent action. That shows a lack of commitment. Teachers do not believe that the Government are committed to them, to their profession or to education. Because they do not believe that, they are not staying. Heads and teachers who have been in the
Column 274profession for 10 years or more are leaving because they do not feel sufficiently valued. Teachers are not applying to schools in high-stress areas, and some of the advertisements are going unanswered in areas which are in desperate need of teachers. That is taking place at the same time as reception and nursery classes are sent home and teachers are doubling up, covering for each other and coming under increasing stress.
Mr. Richard Livsey (Brecon and Radnor) : Does my hon. Friend agree that the loss of status implied by the award is having a severe impact on morale when teachers are working harder than ever to bring into play local management schemes and the national curriculum? That is putting a great strain on them, and they are not being rewarded adequately.
Mr. Hughes : My hon. Friend is right. It is the same in rural areas of Wales as in urban areas of England. As a result of the Education Reform Act 1988, teachers have been charged by the Government with considerably greater responsibility. They are being asked to take on the consequences of recent legislation, but they are finding it difficult to sustain the additional level of commitment when there is no recognition of their right to negotiate or any prospect of adequate remuneration. I wish that the Secretary of State and Ministers were more aware of the profession's concern. People in the profession want to convince the Government of that but, sadly, the Government do not seem to have been convinced. For that reason, we shall vote against the order.
Mr. Ken Hargreaves (Hyndburn) : I listened with interest and reassurance to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. Hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree that the withdrawal of the right to negotiate one's wage or salary is a serious step. I supported that step for teachers' salaries in 1987 because at that time, once the majority of those involved in the teaching profession agreed that the Burnham arrangements were unworkable, there seemed to be no alternative. However, we are now two and a half years on. During that time it should have been possible to set up new negotiating machinery.
The Government may blame the unions for the failure to reach agreement, and the unions will undoubtedly blame the Government. I am not interested in allocating blame. My concern is for the teachers. Whoever is to blame, the Government had the overriding responsibility to ensure that the new body was set up in the time scale allowed in 1987. Their failure to do that and the resultant need to extend the order are difficult to accept, especially at present.
I could not in any way support the industrial action taken by some teachers in the mid-1980s, but since then teachers have coped admirably with the education reforms introduced. Change is never easy. For teachers, the changes in education have coincided with changes in society which have resulted in less respect for people in authority. Teachers come face to face with the results of that change every day.
The cumulative effect of all that, the trauma of the reforms, the changes in behaviour of pupils, the reductions in teachers' standing in the community and their inability to negotiate their pay are responsible for so many
Column 275long-serving, dedicated, experienced, excellent teachers leaving the profession. That is extremely worrying. Applications for entry into teacher training may well have increased by 15 per cent. this year, but we must stop the loss of teachers with years of experience.
The Government can do little about changes in society, but they can show their support for teachers and show that they understand the problems, first, by constantly recognising publicly the excellent work that the vast majority of teachers do--I am pleased that the Secretary of State does that --and, secondly, by paying teachers at a level which compensates for the additional problems that they face and which improves their standing in the community.
That cannot be done while this order is in place. It is a matter of regret that the order must be renewed, and I hope that this is the first and last time that the Government will seek to renew it. I hope that the establishment of the new negotiating body will be dealt with as a matter of the utmost urgency, as the Secretary of State promised. Otherwise, there will be a further loss of morale and of experienced teachers.
Ms. Mildred Gordon (Bow and Poplar) : The Government's refusal to negotiate pay and conditions with the teachers' unions causes great resentment and makes our teachers feel that they are enslaved--in worse conditions than teachers anywhere in Europe.
In Tower Hamlets the position is critical. Hundreds of children cannot be placed in schools and hundreds more are in the hands of supply teachers-- sometimes as many as 15 different teachers a year. That is child-minding, not teaching. When the matter was mentioned in the House the other day, the Prime Minister's reply was, in effect, "What a pity that they cannot come to my constituency where they would get the best education." What a solution. It would be nice if children could all be removed from the east end to a leafy suburb. However, a couple of days later I read in the Hendon Times, which covers the Prime Minister's constituency, that the London borough of Barnet was taking on licensed teachers--I nearly said unlicensed teachers, because that is what we used to call unqualified teachers--so the position cannot be so happy there either, although it is probably easier than in Tower Hamlets.
Teachers cannot come to Tower Hamlets because of the housing shortage, the high cost and difficulty of travel and because they cannot afford a place to live. The worse the shortage of staff, the more reluctant teachers are to come. In some areas teachers will not even apply for a post as head or deputy head because the task is impossible.
Recently the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teacherscarried out a survey which revealed the degree of stress on teachers. Sixty-six per cent. of serving teachers said that they would leave if they had the chance. There is a great increase in mental illness among teachers who are suffering from severe stress. Throughout the country there are people who have left teaching who have no intention of ever returning, whatever is offered. When the Government ask women who have left teaching to start a family to come back to teaching at the same time as the number of evening meetings is being increased, they are being ridiculous, as
Column 276such meetings make it quite impossible for mothers to take on a teaching job when, increasingly, they have to stay behind at school when their children have come home.
All teachers worthy of their salt keep good records and know how important good recording is, but the Government's new measures have introduced an entirely unbalanced situation of recording, with yearly profiles and formative and summative reports. Teachers are having to keep their classes quiet while they sit in front of them ticking boxes. They cannot find time to teach or prepare work because of the amount of recording and ticking of boxes that is required. They do not have enough free time to do their recording. Their task is becoming impossible.
Teachers bitterly resent the Baker days. They bitterly resent the fact that, throughout the country, in other professions, people are getting longer holidays, but five days of their holidays have been stolen. That rankles very much.
Ms. Gordon : They do not do nothing in those 12 weeks. They take children on trips, they prepare their work for the coming year, and they need a restorative period because teaching is a profession of great physical and mental stress. If the hon. Gentleman has never taught, he should come and try it for a day or two in one of our local schools--he will see why teachers need a restorative period.
Mr. Roy Beggs (Antrim, East) : I have been a teacher. Does the hon. Lady agree that Conservative Members appreciate teachers taking their children away for holidays and educational experiences, but that they need a holiday themselves when they come back?
Another form of stress on teachers is the introduction of the national curriculum without sufficient teachers and without sufficient money. Teachers have marked the fact that the national curriculum is not being forced upon private schools. We have the worst working conditions in Europe. I hold my surgery in a sixth form centre. The women's toilet is partitioned off a room where there is a butler sink and a gas ring. It looks like something out of the 1930s, not the 1980s. That is where teachers are expected to prepare their lunch. The conditions in many schools are a crying disgrace. We are scouring the world for teachers. We cannot get our own teachers to come back because of the appalling conditions. Yet when we get teachers from abroad, we treat them in a very uneven fashion. Teachers from New Zealand, for instance, sometimes have to spend years, waiting for their qualifications to be recognised. Teachers from Bangladesh with 14 years' experience who speak the mother tongue of the children in the schools are considered unqualified, but teachers from European countries, who often cannot understand the children, are considered qualified.
Teachers in our schools are watching the money that is being poured into the city technology colleges while their own schools are being starved of money. This order is just another nail in the coffin of state education. It will increase resentment and the seepage away from the teaching profession of well qualified, experienced, good teachers.
Column 27711.28 pm
Mr. Michael Carttiss (Great Yarmouth) : I declare an interest in that some years ago I was a member of the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers, but I do not advise it. I believe that free advice is a waste of time and that paid advice is a waste of money. I speak simply as someone who has been in the classroom as a teacher. When I left teaching, I eventually became chairman of an education committee. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science and I met many times in Norfolk to discuss education before he reached the office which I know that he will adorn with great success and to the great benefit of the education service nationally.
I welcome the fact that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that this is an interim order for one more year. My hon. Friend the Member for Hyndburn (Mr. Hargreaves) said that he hoped that this was the first and last time that such an order would come before the House. In fact, it is the third time that we have been asked to continue the life of the interim advisory committee.
I understand all the points that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made in advancing the case for our supporting the measure today and I will have no difficulty in doing so because I know my right hon. Friend to be a man of his word. He was cautious in saying that it would be his aim to have the new negotiating machinery in existence in time for the next round of pay awards. I am sure that he will do his best to meet that aim, but we have to tell him that he must meet it.
I have strongly supported the Government's employment legislation because it is important that in a free society everyone should have the right not to belong to a union. I also believe, however, subject to the obvious constraints of national security and the public interest which apply to some occupations, that people should equally have the right to belong to a union and that that union should be able to represent them. I regret that the teachers' unions are denied the opportunity to engage in negotiations on their pay. I do not blame the Government for that. Teachers must accept a large measure of responsibility. I cannot understand why the teachers' organisations have never been able to sink their differences and get together to approach the Government with a clear-cut idea of how they would like their salaries and conditions to be dealt with. They never come along.
The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) quoted my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State talking about a shortage of doctors in 1966, as though that had anything to do with us now. The power of the British Medical Association, lately abused in its idiotic approach to the National Health Service reforms, has nevertheless enabled that profession to achieve a great deal for its members, which teachers, too, should be able to obtain if they were united in their approach to their problems.
I would not go along with my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South -West (Mr. Madel) in all that he said, but he made one of the most powerful speeches that we have heard on this subject. Everyone has spoken extraordinarily well, but my hon. Friend encapsulated succinctly many of the concerns that inform all of us who are keen to see a successful education service.
Column 278Teacher shortages go in cycles. I do not want to minimise the problems that the education service is experiencing today. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will know that on the schools sub-committee agenda for Norfolk county council tomorrow for the first time ever there is an item dealing with teacher shortages. We have never had difficulties recruiting teachers in Norfolk, but we are beginning to do so--and if we are beginning to have problems in Norfolk, whatever must it be like in other parts of the country? It is no good my right hon. Friend pretending that the problem does not exist. It is no use pretending that, while money will not solve everything, we can expect a highly motivated teaching profession if we do not reward teachers accordingly.
Many teachers do not deserve as much as they get. I deeply regret that in the one reform with which the Government should have gone ahead rapidly-- teacher appraisal--they have backed off because they are not prepared to fund the additional teachers who would be necessary to introduce the properly run teacher appraisal scheme that many teachers would like to see. If I am wrong on that and my hon. Friend the Minister of State can reassure me when she replies, I will take back what I have said. Nevertheless, I am still worried about the attitude on some of these issues.
The teacher shortage is cyclical. The year 1966 has been quoted, but I started teaching in 1959, as a student with no qualifications. We were so short of teachers that we were appointing people on the basis that they had A-levels and the offer of a place at college. We were also appointing teachers with just one year's mature training, straight out of the services. I trained with some of those people and they were first class, but let us not pretend that it is good for the teaching profession to solve shortages in that way.
The Government must get their act together on teacher negotiations. There must be a body to deal with conditions. Teachers must also stop bleating about low morale. There have always been teachers who do not like their jobs. I know that they are required to do more, but the more they tell us about their suffering and their breakdowns, and how difficult their job is, the more one wonders whether they are the right people to be in those jobs. If they are not the right people, the negotiating body must be the right mechanism to attract more of the right people into the profession.
Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough) : The hon. Member for Great Yarmouth (Mr. Carttiss) ended on a sad note. Nobody hearing that ungracious remark would ever think that he had taught. The last negotiated pay settlement for teachers was in April 1986. In 1987, the then Secretary of State imposed the interim advisory council and settlements for 1988 and 1989. The year 1990 is now coming, and if this continues for a year after, it will mean that, for five years, the democratic machinery of trade unionism will have been abandoned by the Government. As my hon. Friends have said, the Government were denounced for violating the International Labour Organisation convention, which has existed for a long time. The ILO is a United Nations body, so the Government have contravened international law. No other nation has done this. it is disgraceful that that should have been imposed on the teachers when at the
Column 279same time the Secretary of State was attacking the teaching profession and trying to split its ranks. Instead, they have been united because the Government have driven them into such a corner that they have decided to get together.
The Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act became law early in 1987, and the Government said that it was only a temporary measure. They needed such a draconian measure because they could not get what they wanted to impose on the teachers through free democratic negotiation, because the teachers were resisting them. Therefore, they imposed their diktat and destroyed the negotiating machinery, saying that it would be for only a year.
It is sad to see how easily Tory Members go along with violations of democracy when they are done by their Government, but denounce everybody else. I would never have thought to hear from the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) some of the things that he said today. He jollied us along with a heap of anti-democratic proposals under the guise that they came from the Assistant Masters and Mistresses Association. It is one of the bodies that have written to the Secretary of State demanding the right to a negotiating machinery. The letter says :
"We are equally agreed that teachers should have genuine participation in the determination of teachers' pay and conditions whatever the nature of the machinery."
If I read the whole letter, it would strengthen what I said. Five other bodies, including the Professional Association of Teachers, signed that letter.
During the period of consultation on the Education Reform Bill, head teachers drew attention to the teacher shortages, and in his evidence to the Select Committee, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers pointed out that the shortage was becoming "a catastrophe". Conservative Members who have cited the figure of 1 per cent. grossly under -estimate the problem. It is as though they do not want to solve it and will not face reality. Now that the Government have imposed this draconian measure, they are in such an economic mess that they cannot find their way out. They have decided once again to hold down teachers' pay and conditions and imperil the education of our children. Let me make it clear that it is not the education of their children--
Mr. Flannery : No, I do not have time to give way to the hon. Gentleman, although I would if he had spoken more briefly. All the members of the Cabinet--with perhaps one exception--went to public and preparatory schools. Conservative Members criticise a Health Service that they do not use and an education service into which they do not send their children. [Interruption.] One of them may have done, but the reality is as I have explained.
The Government were condemned by the ILO in May 1988 for denying teachers their negotiating rights and breaking a convention to which they themselves were a signatory. We appeal to the Minister to fulfil his promise, although if the Government can remove negotiating rights for five years, there is no reason to have any faith whatever that they will restore them at the end of the fifth year. They are eminently capable of imposing the conditions once more. They have got themselves into an impasse by their actions, their leadership election and all the other nonsense that they are crying about, and they are ready once again
Column 280to impose the conditions on teachers. It is the Government who are the cause of the low morale in the teaching profession and of the shortage of teachers, about which the Select Committee is trying--against the Tory party's wishes--to publish an important report. It is vital to show the real picture.
Mr. Beggs : Does the hon. Gentleman agree with me, as a long- standing teacher, that since the early 1970s, when teachers had their morale restored and were given a decent salary increase arising from the Houghton report, teachers' morale, the conditions in which they work and the rewards that the Government make available to them have continued to deteriorate, and that the responsibility now lies with the Government to put matters right?
Mr. Flannery : The hon. Member for Antrim, East (Mr. Beggs) is absolutely right that things have gone downhill since 1974--[ Hon. Members-- : "1974?"] In 1974, the Houghton report gave teachers the lift to which the hon. Member for Antrim, East referred. Did not Conservative Members know that? But in the past 10 years, things have gone steeply downhill, to the plaudits of Conservative Members. It is up to the Government to set matters right. Otherwise, the education of our children will be as ruined as the British economy now is. 11.43 pm
Mr. David Evennett (Erith and Crayford) : As a former teacher and also a member of the Select Committee on Education, Science and the Arts, I was appalled at the speech made by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery). He finds it easy to criticise and condemn, but his speech lacked any constructive suggestion. Opposition Members generally have had nothing constructive to say about teachers' pay and conditions ; their remarks have been appalling.
Conservative Members believe that teachers are a vital part of our education service and our nation and that they should be paid a decent salary for the important job that they have to do. The education of our children is vital, both for individual children and for the future of our country. Historically, Opposition Members seem to have forgotten how the Burnham committee worked. It was a total and complete failure. It did not work effectively, because the whole aspect of teachers' pay and conditions was not considered. It considered only the annual pay review. In the past few years, the interim advisory committee has been quite successful at formulating teachers' pay. However, it is interim and temporary. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said earlier, we are looking for a permanent structure to determine teachers' pay in the future. We have heard many reasons why no permanent structure has been created to date. One of the most important of those reasons must be that the teachers' unions are not united in their approach. It has been very difficult to achieve agreement across the teachers' unions. We have heard that the teachers want more money, but there has been no general agreement about the machinery to formulate teachers' pay negotiations in future. The IAC has therefore been necessary. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, there are already shortages of teachers in key subjects and in certain regions. However, we must not overstate the
Column 281problem. It is easy to talk about the problems and make them worse. There are limited problems but that does not mean that they are not serious, because they are.
As a Member of Parliament representing an area in greater London, I believe that the problems are greater in London than elsewhere. The London allowance is totally inadequate for teachers working and living in London today. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State told the House today, as he told the Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts last week, that the IAC is considering that, and we look forward to the Select Committee's comments.
I should like to see more emphasis on supply and demand in teaching recruitment and pay, more local bargaining and more regional agreements. I believe most passionately that living costs in greater London are different from those elsewhere in the country. That factor must be considered when we are looking at teachers' pay.
We obviously need a well trained, well paid professional teaching force. We owe teachers a great deal. The hon. Member for Bow and Poplar (Ms. Gordon) was wrong to say that Conservative Members do not appreciate the difficult job that teachers have to do. We want them to be paid a decent salary, but we must look at the whole problem and not just at specific parts of it.
We need a new body to negotiate teachers' pay and conditions, and we look to next year with great interest. Conservative Members hope that this is the last time that we have to debate and discuss an interim advisory award and an extension of the Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act 1987. Under my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, we shall get there, and we shall have a good new negotiating body which will do the best for the teaching profession.
Mr. Derek Fatchett (Leeds, Central) : Two main themes have run through the debate--the quality of education, and the democratic rights of teachers. It was very interesting to note that every hon. Member who spoke was prepared to accept that we are now facing a crisis in the supply of teachers and that we have a teacher shortage. The hon. Member for Great Yarmouth (Mr. Carttiss) even went so far as to say that, if the problems had come to Norfolk, they must be deep elsewhere.
I suspect that one discordant voice will not recognise the problem of teacher shortage, and it will be that of the Minister of State. At the beginning of this term, when she was presented with the figures on teacher shortages and vacancies, she said that they were "very encouraging". They do not seem to encourage Conservative Members, nor do they encourage parents. As my hon. Friends the Members for Peckham (Ms. Harman) and for Bow and Poplar (Ms. Gordon) and others have said, parents are concerned about the quality of education. They are concerned in London and in the inner-London boroughs because there may not be a teacher in front of the class. Parents in many parts of the country are concerned because there are hidden shortages and because a teacher in front of a class may not be qualified to teach the subject on the timetable. They are concerned because they know that the problem of the supply teacher may get worse.
Column 282The Minister may have recourse to the Prime Minister's response to me during the debate on the Queen's Speech. The answer, she said, for all parents and children in inner London is to live in Barnet. Does that not show total contempt and disregard for the children and parents of this country and for the quality of our children's education?
Conservative Members talk about teacher supply and say that they are now concerned about teachers. I am pleased that Central Office has now supplied them with a new script and that they are talking to it. In the early years of this Government, every Conservative Member used to denigrate the teaching profession and run down teachers' contributions.
Mr. Key rose --
That is why there has been such a collapse in teacher morale. The Secretary of State shakes his head and says that that is not true. Let me pose two more questions to him about teacher supply and morale. First, I refer to the £600 million envelope on the interim advisory committee recommendations for this year. The right hon. Gentleman knows, as every Conservative Member knows, that that figure will lead to a reduction in teachers' real living standards. How will we attract people into the teaching profession if we are to run from paying teachers what they need and what they deserve? This country should value their contribution to our society and economic well-being.
My second question is about democratic rights. How are we to restore teachers' morale when we hear from the Minister of State that teachers' democratic rights are still not to be restored and there is still no definite promise from the Secretary of State? As the hon. Member for Great Yarmouth said, the Secretary of State chose his words very deliberately. It is his aim to restore collective bargaining machinery. We heard those words from the previous Secretary of State in 1986, 1987, 1988 and 1989, and we have heard them from the Minister of State. When will the Government act and turn that promise into reality?
The Government are quickly turning an interim, temporary arrangement into a permanent arrangement. I suspect that teachers will simply not believe the Secretary of State and the Minister of State when they say that this year is the final year for the interim advisory committee. Teachers have good reasons for that. The previous Secretary of State, backed up by Conservative Members, at a stroke wrote away teachers' democratic rights to bargain with their employer, so why should they believe the Government now? Why should they believe a Government who, under section 222 of the Education Reform Act 1988, challenged the employment rights of teachers and others in the teaching professions? Why should they believe a Government who take away from workers at GCHQ the right to belong to a trade union? Why should they believe a Government who, in consecutive Employment Acts, have taken away from workers rights that are enjoyed throughout the rest of western Europe? Why should they believe a Government who so passionately and dogmatically resist the social charter? This is a Government whose record on employment rights stinks, and that is why teachers simply do not believe them.
What we want to hear from the Minister of State is not just a name or an objective but what the hon. Member for Hyndburn (Mr. Hargreaves) said, a real commitment and
Column 283a real promise that this is the last occasion on which teachers will have their pay fixed by the Secretary of State. We want to hear a real commitment to the restoration of collective bargaining. We shall oppose the order in the Division tonight and make one final promise to the teachers : in two years, when there is a Labour Government, we shall restore collective bargaining to teachers. 12.56 am
The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mrs. Angela Rumbold) : We have had an interesting debate and I have notedwith pleasure the number of hon. Members who have made a contribution this evening. It has been interesting not only because we have heard from several hon. Members who represent London constituencies and who have expressed their concerns about the situation of teacher supply, recruitment and retention in the London area, but because we have also heard from colleagues of all parties who have been teachers in the past.
At the outset, I should say that I hope that all hon. Members will vote for the order, if for no other reason, for the very good reason that without a clear vote for the order, the recommendations that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will receive from the interim advisory committee will not be able to pass through the House and into teachers' salaries next year, which would be a great mistake. Of course, many teachers throughout the country will note those hon. Members who did not wish to give them the rewards to which we believe they are entitled.
Several hon. Members have spoken about teacher morale and have made their points in various ways. Some have said that teacher morale is low because of the circumstances in which they find themselves, especially in inner cities and in London--[ Hon. Members-- : "Everywhere."] It is particularly important to realise that there are difficulties for hon. Members representing London. We have been talking with the London education authorities-to-be following the abolition of the Inner London education authority. A number of those authorities are taking the retention and recruitment of teachers extremely seriously and are making intelligent plans, such as those to which the hon. Member for Peckham (Ms. Harman) referred, including recruiting married women back into the profession.
Like several of my ministerial colleagues, I spend a considerable amount of time in schools talking to teachers about their conditions and about the new national curriculum and many of the things coming into schools at present. When one discusses with teachers the introduction of the national curriculum and of local management schemes, one finds a great deal of enthusiasm for the new ways in which the schemes are going to be taken on in their schools. They recognise the great improvements for the children of this country from the introduction of the national curriculum and the ability to run their own schools with their own budgets. They see possibilities in that for the schools to achieve better value for their budgets and for better resourcing, because they are managing their schools as governors and teachers.
When it comes to considering the interim advisory committee and the discussions that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and his predecessor have had with the teacher unions, it has been said that we have not been
Column 284moving very fast. I must point out to the Opposition that discussions have taken place for a number of months about, for example, the Green Paper published for discussion with the unions. That document made important proposals for a teacher negotiating group that gave some rights to the Government to intervene should that group not reach satisfactory conclusions.
After extensive discussions with the teacher unions over a considerable time, it was not possible for the unions to agree. For that reason, a new set of proposals were put to the teacher unions and to the local education authority employers earlier this year. My right hon. Friend has already said that those proposals included the possibility of a new negotiating body composed of the unions and local education authority representatives, which might also include Government participation. Another proposal related to local negotiations. I note that my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South-West (Mr. Madel) warmly welcomed the possibility of introducing some form of local negotiation. My hon. Friend and others have recognised the difficulties encountered in the home counties and in London in recruiting as successfully as other less costly parts of the country. The third possibility related to some form of review body.
Those various proposals are currently under discussion by the unions and the employers, and they are showing considerable interest in them. My right hon. Friend wants those talks to reach a satisfactory conclusion. Although he has been in office for only a relatively short time, he has already managed to conclude a complete round of discussions with the interested parties. That shows conclusively that he is extremely interested in making progress on this matter. Hon. Members must therefore accept the good faith that he has demonstrated.
My right hon. Friend, other Ministers and myself have been accused tonight of under-estimating and undervaluing teachers. My right hon. Friend has gone to great lengths to demonstrate his genuine belief that teachers are doing an excellent job.
My hon. Friend the Member for Great Yarmouth (Mr. Carttiss) asked about appraisal. My right hon. Friend asked the teachers if they would postpone the introduction of appraisal because he understands the pressures to which our teachers are now subject with the introduction of the national curriculum and local management schemes. That request was not made because my right hon. Friend does not want appraisal to be introduced--he knows full well that the teachers are anxious for such appraisal to be introduced. As soon as the national curriculum and the local management schemes are operating, it will be possible to introduce the appraisal scheme. I believe that all hon. Members want that.
The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) noted the letter that had been signed by the six leaders of the teacher unions. We are glad that those unions have agreed on at least three points in that joint letter. That letter is significantly briefer than the individual representations from those unions to my right hon. Friend. Therefore, we must continue to have discussions. We shall have those discussions in good faith, and I hope that the House will vote for the order.
Question put :--
The House divided : Ayes 221, Noes 181.
Column 285Division No. 9] [12.3 am
Alison, Rt Hon Michael
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Bevan, David Gilroy
Biffen, Rt Hon John
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Body, Sir Richard
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas