The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)
Like the hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), I know that teachers are at present harbouring a sense of grievance. This in part may come from a feeling that their lot—certainly in parts of the big cities—has become harder in recent years, while their contribution to our society has been undervalued. New teaching methods are more demanding, discipline is more difficult, and there are special problems of deprived children. The raising of the school leaving age, desirable reform though it is, has added this year to the difficulties of teachers in the secondary schools.
Increases in pay are subject to the code for stage 3 of the counter-inflation programme, and there can be no question of any pay settlement for teachers going beyond the terms of the code. However, paragraphs 156 and 157 of the code leave some scope for improvement in pensions, and I have been seeking for some time ways of helping them in the pensions field. Of course, any arrangements made will have to be subject to the approval of the Pay Board to see that they come within the terms of the code. Naturally. I cannot commit the board, which is independent of the Government.
To take the last section of the motion first, that relating to war service, the Government have great sympathy with those teachers who, having spent their whole working lives since the war in teaching, will receive no pension credit for service in the Armed Forces in the Second World War. Since I received last June a deputation from the National Association of Schoolmasters, which has been taking the lead on this matter among the teachers' associations, I have been examining some of the possibilities in conjunction with my hon. Friend Norman St. John-Stevasthe Under-Secretary of State and my right hon. Friend G. Campbellthe Secretary of State for [column 426]Scotland, who have likewise received representations.
There are bound to be great practical difficulties and problems of definition in re-opening at this late stage the question of reckonable service of teachers who trained and joined the profession immediately after the war. The Government think, however, that it should be possible think, however, that it should be possible to work out in the teachers' superannuation working party an agreement on the basis that war service in the Armed Forces by a person who entered the teaching profession immediately after the war and who has given continuous service until the retiring age of 60 should be reckonable as to half for pension purposes.
There are, of course, teachers who trained and taught before undertaking war service. Many of them have paid contributions in respect of their war service. So some basis must be found for assessing the contribution for post-war entrants. To do otherwise would create an unacceptable anomaly among teachers. Inevitably, at this distance of time, we shall have to accept that there will be an element of rough justice, but I hope that the working party will be able to find a formula which will cover the majority of teachers affected.
Mr. Michael McGuire
(Ince)As the right hon. Lady has referred to war service counting for pension purposes, perhaps I may raise the case of one person who has encountered some difficulties.
The man in question qualified as a teacher before the war but, because of the job situation, was unable to obtain a teaching post. He was called up for service and completed nearly six years in the forces. On his release he took up a teaching post, and for a number of years he tried to get the Department—under various Governments—to agree that his war service should count for pension purposes. He was unable to get that agreement until—and I say this in all modesty—I took up his case.
The right hon. Lady spoke about rough justice. As I understand the position from replies that I have received from the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas), those who qualified as teachers before the war but were unable to get a teaching job and returned to the profession after doing their war service are [column 427]able to count that service for pension purposes. Does not the right hon. Lady think that the Department should publicise the fact that teachers in that category have no need to go to the length of asking the appropriate local education authority to credit their war service for pension purposes?
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu)
Order. The hon. Member is making a speech. He must not do that.
I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I have developed my question to such an extent; but would the Minister give a promise that she will seek to use the fullest possible means of publicity to inform teachers that the position is as I have indicated and as has been indicated by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley); namely, that war service counts if the people involved were qualified as teachers?
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman fully understands the particular case to which he has referred, but he will also understand that on that brief description I could not possibly take in all the details. I stand precisely on what I have said, which I believe is the point at issue. If the hon. Gentleman will contact me about it I will do my best for that case as I would for any other.
I turn now to the question of teachers' contributions, with which the first two sections of the motion are concerned. The motion is framed, and the teachers have put forward their claim, on the basis that where benefits and the relevant conditions of service of different schemes are substantially the same the employee's contribution also should be the same. In the only comparable local government scheme this is 6 per cent. The Government, and in particular, my right hon. Friend G. Campbellthe Secretary of State for Scotland and I, who are directly responsible, are anxious to be able to do something to help the teachers in their present difficulties, if this can be done within the pay code. I do not, of course, know what the Pay Board would say about a 6 per cent. contribution, but the Government for their part will be ready to consult [column 428]the local authorities, with a view to meeting the teachers if they will resume negotiations in the working party on this footing. This will affect the contribution of the employers—that is, the local authorities—and, of course, I cannot speak for them today.
So the Government are ready to accept today's motion in principle on the basis that the first and third sections can form a suitable framework for negotiation if the teachers are ready to resume discussions in the working party. I hope that they will be ready to do so and that they will accept what I have said today as an earnest of the Government's wish to help them wherever we properly can.
I have refrained from giving an actuarial lecture or taking up technical points. The main point, I believe, has been met, and the rest must be done in the working party and then submitted to the Pay Board. I hope that the teachers will accept this in the spirit in which is given by the Government.