Clause 32

Part of Further Education and Training Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:30 pm on 14th June 2007.

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Photo of Bill Rammell Bill Rammell Minister of State (Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education), Department for Education and Skills 3:30 pm, 14th June 2007

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.