Clause 43 - Short title, interpretation, commencement and extent

Part of Special Educational Needs and Disability Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 7:00 pm on 3rd April 2001.

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Photo of Tim Boswell Tim Boswell Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Education and Employment) 7:00 pm, 3rd April 2001

Oddly enough, at that precise moment, I was about to make the Minister an offer. It is the kind of criticism that the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) would have made to Ministers of any party in his excellent book, ``How to be a Minister''. She needs a short crash course in how to use words that can get her out of difficult situations, words such as those that are in the Bill and that we have been debating today—``substantial'', ``material'', ``relevant'', and ``adjustment'' for example. All those words could have been deployed to avoid this unfortunate situation, but were not. The fact is that the hon. Lady and the Bill team knew perfectly well that they would have to move a money resolution and, given what was implicit in her remarks, I am sure that she knew, rightly, that she would have to remove the subsection.

My worry is not so much that the Minister is adjectivally challenged, but more materially that the pursuit of the perfection of not amending the Bill might have led to mistakes of which we know not. We are about to debate—I hope not at length—many schedules, which are difficult and awkward matters. It is possible that a Government lawyer rehearsing the legislation may not come to her with an awful confession and say, ``Minister, I am afraid I have to tell you that, on page 37, there is a comma missing.'' It would be unfortunate if the Minister has trapped herself into a position in which she cannot amend the Bill. Luckily, she might have been saved from that.

I entirely concur with the general sentiments about the Minister's conduct that were expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings, because it now looks as if, despite all the odds, we shall have a proper Report stage. Even if she has not felt inclined to amend her Bill by then, except with the single falling from grace that she has shown tonight, I hope that she will have the courage to return on Report to level with the House and amend the Bill if, for example, a comma is in the wrong place.

I must tell the Minister, more in sorrow than in anger, that she has put my hon. Friends in a difficult position. Of course I want to help her to carry out her assertion. To do so, I should vote against the amendment. However, I am also conscious of the rights and privileges of the House, which I think should be asserted, so I am faced with a dilemma and clash of principles. My hon. Friends might well take a different view from mine, and I could not possibly object, or reprove them if they did. On the whole, and by a short head, despite the deplorable situation that has been created, I would have to advise the Committee, with a heavy heart, to condone and tolerate the amendment, which the Minister, despite her pledges, has got round to moving.