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Teachers Pay Wednesday, 19 July, 2000, 18:41 GMT 19:41 UK
Ministers 'misled MPs' on pay
Doug McAvoy
Doug McAvoy: Accusing ministers of "untruths"
The teachers' union whose court victory has delayed the government's plans for teachers' performance pay is accusing ministers of misrepresenting the judge's ruling.

The Department for Education rejects the charge of "untruths" and "false statements".

The question of whether or not the Welsh Assembly has devolved power in the matter is at the heart of the vitriolic exchange.

The government has said that teachers' 2,000 pay rises will now be delayed while it consults through the independent pay review body on the standards they must meet to get the extra money.

Estelle Morris
Estelle Morris: Rejects allegations

The Education Minister Estelle Morris told MPs on Monday that the High Court had said the standards were invalid "because they should have been formally referred to the review body".

And in a letter sent to all head teachers in England and Wales, Mr Blunkett says: "the judge ruled that we should have consulted the School Teachers' Review Body."

But the National Union of Teachers, which brought the case, says that is not what the judge said.

"Deliberately or otherwise, you misled the House, the public and teachers," says the NUT's general secretary, Doug McAvoy, in a letter to Ms Morris.

In a statement, her department said: "We completely reject the NUT's allegations."

Referring the matter to the review body was the best way of getting it sorted out as soon as possible, a spokesman said.

Route back to legality

The devolution issue arises because of the route ministers have now chosen to follow in seeking to comply with the law.

The judge, Mr Justice Jackson, found that the Education Secretary, David Blunkett, had "evaded scrutiny" by not following either of two available procedures when he introduced the standards - he simply announced them, albeit after informal consultation.

The government's response, referring the standards to the School Teachers Review Body, is a route which relates to a 1991 piece of legislation.

The alternative route involves regulations arising from a different, 1986 law - and had that been used, a decision on the standards to apply to teachers in Wales would have been devolved to the Welsh Assembly.

The Assembly is not opposed to performance pay, but it has voted against a link with pupils' results, which is one of the standards.

Assembly opposed

In the Commons Estelle Morris repeated the government's view that the matter could not be devolved.

David Blunkett
A separate letter has been written to David Blunkett

That line has been consistently followed by Labour ministers in Wales, too - much to the annoyance of the Assembly. It was repeated on Wednesday by the Welsh Education Secretary Rosemary Butler.

Mr McAvoy says in his letter that if the government uses the 1991 legislation as it proposes, "the National Assembly and the people of Wales will yet again be denied powers conferred on them by devolution."

And in a separate letter to Mr Blunkett, Mr McAvoy says: "You seek to deceive Parliament and the National Assembly in Wales".

The education department, while not addressing that issue directly, said the NUT had been left with "egg on its face" by the ruling, while teachers were caught in a "deeply unhelpful crossfire".

Pay delay

The department also repeated another taunt which has annoyed the union - that it was the NUT's action which was preventing teachers, including its own members, getting their 2,000 rise.

The union says it was always unlikely that many teachers in England would have had the money in their September pay, and that it was always going to be backdated.

In practice the assessment process would not have been completed in many bigger schools until halfway through the autumn term anyway.

In Wales, teachers did not have to submit their applications until the end of September. A new deadline has yet to be set.

See also:

12 Jul 00 | Teachers Pay
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