On a point of order, Mr. Atkinson. May I propose a vote of thanks first to you, for chairing the Committee in exemplary fashion? I am a keen sports fan and the best referees and umpires are those who are not ever present and conspicuous. With your quiet authority you have demonstrated exactly how a Committee should be handled. I am sure that all Members are grateful for that.
May I also thank thehon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings? Despite our disagreements on bureaucracy, which I think will run and run, he has throughout these proceedings been considerate, reasonable and constructive. I was interested that he described himself as a mild, considerate, romantic high Tory. Three of those I can agree with, the fourth one puzzles me slightly. Perhaps on Report he can explain it in more detail.
I thank the hon. Member for Brent, East for her constructive engagement, her clear commitment throughout the proceedings, and her prediction that we would be done in two days. She has been proved absolutely right. One of my right hon. Friends, who is genuinely a good friend, sometimes describes the Whips Office as the Stasi. My hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole with his quiet diplomacy and force could not be further from the reality of the Stasi. I hope that he takes that as a compliment.
I thank the Under-Secretary of State for Wales, my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen, West and South Pembrokeshire for his expert handling of the Welsh elements of the Bill. I would also particularly like to thank the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Skills, my hon. Friend the Member for Corby, who is a genuine friend. I know that all members of the Committee are pleased to see him back in fitness and health. He was working throughout his difficult times, and hon. Members can be reassured that he never lost his sense of humour. That was proved when, on seeing myself and the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, who is as follically challenged as I am, he looked us both in the eye and said, “At least after chemo, my hair will grow back”. He has been proved absolutely right.
I also offer thanks to my hon. Friends, the Back Benchers on the Committee. The most difficult challenge for Back Benchers supporting the Government when a Bill is going through Parliament is to support it constructively while also making a contribution to the Committee. I know that they have all been able to do that, and have done so in an exemplary fashion.
Finally, I offer thanks to all the officials within the DFES and within the devolved administrations, who have worked their socks off to get us to where we are today. I know that I speak on behalf of the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Skills, the hon. Member for Corby, when I thank them sincerely.
I would just like to say a few words to endorse much of what the Minister has said. His own conduct, both before and during the Bill, has been of the highest order and an example that I hope to follow when I take his job in a short while.
I would like to endorse the thanks given to you, Mr. Atkinson. You have chaired our sittings with your usual competence and style. I also thank all the officials who have made our meetings run as smoothly as they have done.
I thank the hon. Member for Brent, East, with whom I have agreed to an alarming degree. She must be terribly pleased that I have allowed her to indulge her social diary, which I know is a whirlwind of exciting events.
I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Upminster, who has kept me in order, for Daventry, who is not here today, but is always a benevolent presence when we debate issues relating to higher and further education, for Rugby and Kenilworth, who is not entirely focused on financial matters, although occasionally he is rightly focused on them, and for Reading, East, who takes a profound interest and makes a valuable contribution in these areas.
I also want to thank the other Ministers, particularly the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Skills, the hon. Member for Corby, whose courage in recent weeks and months has been an example to us all. When he looks in the mirror, he does not think first of his recent illness; he thinks of that second. First, he thinks of his new-found virility, on the grounds that men without much hair are at least reputed to be particularly manly.
I thank all the hon. Members who have contributed to our debate. It has been a good, healthy, wholesome and productive debate. I am grateful to have been part of it.
May I add my thanks, Mr. Atkinson, to you for chairing this Committee so well and for getting us to the point of finishing before 4 pm? I hasten to add that I do not have a social appointment; I am meeting representatives of Barnardo’s, who will be waiting for me in Portcullis House.
May I thank the Minister for being constructive and willing to amend the Bill as we have gone through it? It is good to have a Bill that is in a much better form now than it was when it first came before our colleagues in the other place.
I suggested to the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Skills, the hon. Member for Corby that he was obviously feeling better, because the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings was clearly irritating him again, and he was willing to fight with him. I thank the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings for a constructive contribution and for often providing opportunities for joint working which were helpful. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-West, who has had to leave just now, but who has been helpful during the debates that we have had on the Bill.
Finally, I would like to add my thanks to the Clerk, who is always extremely helpful on the detail of amendments, and to the civil servants. I was able to pass on to them the detail of what we wanted to do prior to the sittings of the Committee, which was helpful.