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Education and Skills Bill (Programme) (No. 2)

Volume 475: debated on Tuesday 13 May 2008

I beg to move,

That the Order of 14th January 2008 (Education and Skills Bill (Programme)) be varied as follows:

1. Paragraphs 4 and 5 of the Order shall be omitted.

2. Proceedings on consideration shall be taken in the order shown in the first column of the following Table.

3. The proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the times specified in the second column of the Table.



Time for conclusion of proceedings

New Clauses other than those relating to Part 1 or to duties of local education authorities in relation to the provision of education and training

Three hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order

New Clauses, and amendments to Clauses, relating to the application of Part 1 to persons in Wales

Four hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order

Remaining proceedings on consideration

One hour before the moment of interruption

4. Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the moment of interruption.

We have limited time for debate, so I hope that we will not have to put this to a vote.

Before it was announced that there was to be a statement today, we were relatively happy with the programme motion. We were, however, uncomfortable with the fact that the Government were shoehorning into the Bill at this late stage 16 new sections on admissions with 27 regulation-making powers that had not been debated in Committee. Some of those sections relate to the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, but some are new and propose significant powers for the Secretary of State. As a constructive Opposition, we nevertheless did our best to accept the timetable despite the 150 amendments and 23 new clauses, but that was on the assumption that that tight timetable would not be squeezed by a statement.

Given that this is meant to be a flagship Bill for the Government, it is surprising that they are content to squeeze time on such important amending provisions, particularly new clause 6, which is designed to provide support for vulnerable young people and has the backing of both Barnado’s and Rainer. What is more, it is being squeezed by a statement made today for essentially party reasons, which could easily have been made on another day when the business was much lighter.

Even now, we would support a change to the programme motion to calculate the time from the commencement of proceedings on this motion, which would give us back the full five and a half hours of debate. If the Government will not make that change, I urge hon. Members to vote against the programme motion.

I do not want to delay proceedings either, but I want to support the comments of the hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Mr. Gibb). The time allotted is totally inappropriate for a Bill of such importance, especially when we are unlikely to have time to debate almost 110 amendments and new clauses set down for consideration in a portion of today’s proceedings and given that, in our earlier proceedings, we did not have the opportunity to debate certain issues, particularly those relating to new clauses 6 and 9. It is wholly inappropriate to shoehorn the business in this way, thus preventing us from debating issues that were not properly covered in earlier stages. The programme motion makes it impossible for us to do justice to the scrutiny required for this Bill and the amendments and new clauses before us. Unless the Government are willing to make the sort of concessions requested, I am afraid that we will also have to oppose the programme motion.

I, too, urge hon. Members to oppose the programme motion. Mr. Speaker has been exceedingly generous in his selection of amendments, but the programme motion will not allow us to reach many of the amendments far down the line that need to be discussed. Because of the statement, a maximum of half an hour or, if there is a vote after the second group of amendments, perhaps only a quarter of an hour would be left available to discuss a raft of amendments.

I have tabled two of the amending provisions: new clause 16 and new clause 23. New clause 16 deals with an issue that the Secretary of State kindly got involved with earlier in our proceedings when a constituent of mine, who was an orphan, was expected to leave school because she could not afford to stay on. My new clause would do something to tackle that. We have amendments that are designed to address the problems that Kirsty Oldfield faces, but we do not have time to vote on them or even to debate them. How must this House look to constituents of mine such as Kirsty? It looks like a complete and utter shambles, and that brings it into disrepute.

Given that the statement has eaten into the time available—I certainly do not want to waste any more time discussing the programme motion—and that there are important matters to be debated, to which hon. Members have tabled amendments which deserve to be given time for consideration, it is beholden on the Government to reflect on what is in them that will not get debated unless we change the motion. If they will not listen, are intent on being dogmatic, and will not change it, I urge hon. Members to oppose the motion.

I am very pleased that some important amendments on admissions have been tabled by the Government, even at a late stage. I remind the House that many of them are based on recommendations of the all-party Select Committee on Education and Skills, to which the hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Mr. Gibb) was party two years ago. Some very good amendments have been tabled. I hope that the House will be a little more positive than it otherwise might be, especially as no one is sitting on the Liberal Democrat Back Benches, and only three people are sitting behind the Conservative Front-Bench spokesmen.

There is other business beyond this. I hope that we do not waste 15 minutes on a vote and that we can get on with it.

Question put:—