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Orders Of The Day

Volume 281: debated on Wednesday 17 July 1996

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Nursery Education And Grant-Maintained Schools Bill

Lords amendments considered.

10.15 pm

Before we enter upon the next business, Mr. Deputy Speaker, may I raise a point of order relating to it on which I seek your guidance?

As you know, the main debate today will be on a motion to disagree with Lords amendment No. 2 relating to the evaluation of the nursery schools scheme.

By a letter which came into my possession, I have a copy of a letter written on 5 July to "Dear Colleague" from the Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment, on House of Commons paper, and not written, therefore, in his capacity as a Minister, which relates to methods of evaluation which the Government already have in hand relating to the nursery schools scheme.

I shall not go into detail, but the evaluation is already in hand and two of the documents have been placed in the Library, one some days ago and the other only today. Subject to correction from the Minister or the Secretary of State, I believe that the letter was sent to only a certain number of hon. Members, so it is purely by chance that some of us have become aware of the letter, the information that it contains and the presence of the documents in the Library which relate heavily to the matter of evaluation.

The question that I put to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is this. Irrespective of it being strictly in order for these matters now to be debated, is it the practice of the House for Ministers of the Crown to distribute information relating to documents in the Library which are highly germane to the merits of a motion to be moved tonight without informing all hon. Members concerned, whether or not they were members of the Standing Committee?

That is surely, at least in spirit, contrary to the way in which we should debate these matters if we are to have full information and make a sensible decision. I ask you to rule on that and to determine whether the matter should be cleared up, either on a point of order or on a motion for the Adjournment before we start the debate itself.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of his point of order. I have carefully considered the points that he has raised, but nothing that he has said calls for the intervention of the Chair. Nevertheless, all that he has said would be entirely relevant to the debate which I understand is about to take place on Lords amendment No. 2. I therefore suggest that we proceed and if he rises he will doubtless catch my eye.

Lords amendment No. 1 agreed to.