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Education Bill

Volume 10: debated on Thursday 22 October 1981

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Lords amendments considered.

4.2 pm

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is traditional in the House that when we consider matters of great importance, such as the Education Bill, which has been through all its stages in the House, a Minister should be on the Front Bench to speak on it. Other hon. Members are in their places waiting for this debate.

I beg to move, That the debate be now adjourned until a Minister is present.

I am not prepared to accept the motion at this stage. I am sure that another Minister can speak on the amendment.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (

):

I apologise sincerely to the House that at the beginning of the consideration of the Lords amendments to the Bill the appropriate Minister is not present. I readily acknowledge that it is a discourtesy to the House. Ministers will clearly be in their places in a few moments.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask you to enlighten the House as to why you gave your ruling? I am not challenging you; I am simply asking for an explanation. It is extraordinary that a matter should come before the House and the Minister concerned is not here when it is called.

I never give reasons for rulings. It might be extraordinary, but it is not unprecedented. It happened in the previous Parliament, so I have dealt with it before.

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (

):

I apologise for my slightly late arrival. Debate on the Bill has been good-tempered so far and I trust that my lateness will not in any way spoil that.