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 occasion for this Motion is the inability of the Government to manage their business competently and their inability to foresee what might happen. The Leader of the House has raised many points, the first relating to the Second Reading. A Standing Committee of the House, it is said, cannot disagree with the principles established on Second Reading of a Bill. A Standing Committee's duty is to look at the Bill in the light of the principles and to see whether it is a proper vehicle for putting those principles into effect.

Each Clause usually contains not merely principles but methods of applying those principles. It is quite open to hon. Members to vote against Clauses which contain principles on the ground that the Clause is not a proper means of putting that principle into effect.

If there were any suggestion to the contrary it would mean that the Chairman of the Committee would have to direct a Committee that any particular Clause which contained a principle could not be voted against by the Committee or could not be voted against in sufficient numbers to defeat it. It is quite in order, as the 1964 edition of Erskine May says, for it if need be to defeat all the Clauses of a Bill and still not necessarily go against the principles behind a Bill. The two matters are entirely different.

As to the Recommittal Motion, a few days ago the Secretary of State for Education and Science moved, " That the Committee do not proceed further with the consideration of the Bill ". We are now faced with a Motion telling the Committee to proceed further with consideration of the Bill. As the Leader of the House has said, there is no precedent for recommittal being used in this way. The proper way to have dealt with it, I suggest, would have been either to have dealt with the matter on Report, which was open to the right hon. Gentleman, or, to take the precedents cited in the 1964 edition of Erskine May, to have combined recommittal and instruction proceedings. There have been cases, not of whole Bills being recommitted, but of combined recommittal and instruction Motions. All of those Motions have been for recommittals to Committees of the whole House. If there has been a matter upon which a Committee of the House appeared to disagree, it would seem that the only right and honourable course was for the whole House to deal with the Committee stage.

There are no precedents for major Clauses being lost in a Government Bill. There are 11 cases where the effective Clause was lost but all of those cases were Private Members' Bills. In all of those cases no further action was taken, and the Bill was lost.

In a twelfth there was a curious Bill which had on the front of it the name of a junior Minister at the Home Office, but was not a Government Bill. An Amendment was carried, defeating the object of the Bill. The Bill was not proceeded with as such, but the Government introduced a new Bill embodying a compromise. So the present case in the first in which, in the face of a major defeat, there has been a full recommittal to a Standing Committee and the Bill has been proceeded with.

The Leader of the House finally referred to some matters concerning the Bill itself. Let us be quite clear what the Bill to which we are devoting so much time does not do. Clause 1 does not make the abolition of selection compulsory. What it says is that local authorities must have regard to the need for ending it. The Bill, which the Leader of the House regards as so important, will