Education Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 22nd April 1970.

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Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Minister (Education) 12:00 am, 22nd April 1970

The most important point of order on the Instruction concerns the fifth category, where Erskine May says that an instruction is inadmissible if it is not specific. I submit that this Instruction is not specific. Erskine May says: An instruction is out of order unless it is drawn in clear and specific terms, so that the committee may understand definitely what provisions the House desires that they should take into consideration. It follows that with three precedents. The Motion on the Instruction says: …notwithstanding that they have disagreed to Clause 1 of the Education Bill The only Question put to the Standing Committee was: That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 14th April, 1970; c. 322.] Clause 1, as amended, was materially different from Clause 1. The Question on Clause 1 was never put to the Committee, and I believe could not be put, and the Committee could not therefore disagree with Clause 1. It is a matter of conjecture what would have happened had it been put, or could have been put. The Instruction therefore refers to an event which did not happen, and rests—I am grateful to the Chief Secretary—upon that non-event.

The Instruction continues: …they have power to insert in the Bill provisions with a like effect. Like effect to what? The Committee disagreed to Clause 1, as amended, but it had no opportunity to disagree to Clause 1. It cannot be Clause 1, as amended, because that is not what the Instruction says, and in any event the provisions in Clause 1, as amended, were radically different from the provisions in Clause 1. I submit, therefore, that the Instruction is out of order because it is not clear; alternatively, because it is null and void, as it depends upon an event which did not happen, and could not have happened.

I turn to the relevant precedents. The first one is the Land Law (Ireland) Bill, 1st June, 1896, in which case an Instruction was ruled out of order for the following reasons. The Instruction was on the Order Paper, and the then Speaker said: There are on the paper two Instructions, the first standing in the name of the hon. Member, Yarmouth Division. That is out of order. It is of the highest importance that Instructions should be perfectly clear in their terms, that the Committee may understand definitely what provisions the House desires that it should take into consideration."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th June, 1896; c. 977.] As the Instruction gives no information to the Committee what the provisions are which the House desires it should take into consideration, I think that the Instruction is bad for want of clearness and definite direction.

The second precedent mentioned in Erskine May is the Education (Scotland) Bill, 21st July, 1897. There, an Instruction came before the House, and Mr. Speaker, referring to the first Instruction, said that it is out of order in the first place, on the ground that it proposes to instruct the Committee to repeal ' part of Section 19 of the Elementary Education Act 1876'. To be in order it should be clear and specific, and should indicate expressly to the Committee what part of the section it is proposed that it should deal with."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st July, 1897; c. 641.] That Instruction was also out of order.

The third and final one in which the Instruction was out of order because it was not specific was the Marriage with Deceased Wife's Sister Bill, 12th February, 1902, in which Mr. Speaker, ruling immediately on an Instruction, said: That Instruction is out of order, because think, in the first place, an Instruction to the Committee ought, on the face of it, to state plainly and clearly what further alterations in the law the Committee are to consider …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th February, 1902; c. 1112.] This Instruction is neither clearly one thing, nor clearly the other. Indeed, it is not clear, and hinges upon an event which did not happen.

Those, Mr. Speaker, are the submissions which I wish to make, and I am grateful to you for your patience.