Amendment would put paid to unions

22nd November 1996 at 00:00
A Tory MP is considering tabling an amendment to the Education Bill that would curb the power of teacher unions and encourage the formation of teachers' professional associations.

David Shaw, MP for Dover and a member of the Education Bill's standing committee, wants to add a clause to the Bill that would promote a professional body and reward members. He said: "I'm a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants. Members of this organisation are able to command a higher income, and likewise I would like to see teachers who were members of a similar organisation able to demand a higher salary.

"I can see teachers do have problems - for example, the recent problems at The Ridings school - but taking strike action cannot be the answer."

Mr Shaw said he would have to confirm whether his clause would be suitable for inclusion.

He has, however, already tabled another amendment, with James Pawsey MP for Rugby and Kenilworth, that would give headteachers' power over their staff's dress sense. While he has not got tacit support from the Government, this proposal has won some favour elsewhere.

Don Foster, Liberal Democrat education spokesman, said: "I believe the way a teacher is dressed does have a bearing on how children behave. I can see a dress code for staff suitable to the type of school or a particular stage in a school's development making a difference."

The Bill started its committee stage in the House of Commons this week and Sir Michael Shersby, chairman of the committee, was welcomed by the members as they sized up their opponents.

Leading for the Government is Eric Forth who finds as his opposite number for Labour, fellow bruiser Peter Kilfoyle. Mr Forth's pantomime villain approach will find a doughty response in the smart-suited Scouser. Both have right-hand women: Cheryl Gillan, whose knowledge of galactic black holes has won her more acclaim than her acumen in the education under-secretary's role, and the competent Estelle Morris, MP for Birmingham Yardley, otherwise known as the teachers' friend.

While the Tories have packed the committee with many of the rottweiler-religious tendency of the party, some of Labour's choice would have even a seasoned Westminster watcher reaching for their Vacher's Parliamentary Companion. "They'll make a thoughtful contribution," Mr Kilfoyle said.

Mr Forth said he recognised a number of the usual suspects on education committees who would probably be giving the usual speeches. Mr Pawsey admitted he had been on education Bills "since time began", but bridled at the soubriquet of "Flogger Pawsey" that Mr Kilfoyle tried to foist on him. Mr Pawsey's amendment to the Bill would allow caning on the hand if governors agreed. Mr Kilfoyle promised to regale the committee with colourful tales of his many beatings over Latin declensions at a later date.

David Jamieson, Labour MP for Plymouth Devonport, gave a handy hint for those new to the committee: it would be a perfect time to write their Christmas cards as they listened with half an ear to the Government pushing through amendments to clear up shortcomings in the Bill and the Opposition would put forward probing debating points and hear all their amendments overturned. He hoped Mr Forth would brighten the proceedings with his colourful waistcoats.

Mr Kilfoyle said it was a Bill of two parts. The Opposition is prepared to support changes to detention, home-school contracts, baseline assessment, and the merger of the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority and the National Council for Vocational Qualifications, but it will fight the Government's proposals to increase selection and to give grant-maintained schools further powers.

Mr Forth gave no sign he was going to drop any part of the Bill. He will be hoping to push it through as quickly as possible, although the Whips concede it could take until mid-January. Mr Forth's lieutenants will be free to write their Christmas cards and keep up their jibes concerning certain Labour MPs' choice of school for their offspring.

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