Clause 74

Education and Skills Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:45 am on 28th February 2008.

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Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation 10:00 am, 28th February 2008

We have already had the opportunity to debate amendment No. 201. I therefore ask the Minister to move it formally—

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools)

On a point of order, Mr. Bayley. I would have liked to hear the Under-Secretary’s explanation of Government amendment No. 201 before the Committee moved on to a new clause.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools)

If the Government have tabled an amendment or new clause, do they not have an obligation to explain its purpose to the Committee?

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation

I have to say that that is what normally happens. However, I read out the group on the selection list that includes Government amendment No. 201. I paused for quite some time, but no Member on either side of the Committee rose to speak. We therefore proceeded to votes. The opportunity to debate the measures has now passed.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools)

On a point of order, Mr. Bayley. My understanding of what has happened here is that clause 71 was voted on and was passed. You sensibly took the view that the Government Members had misunderstood what was happening, so you put the Question again. My point is that that was the Government’s opportunity to move their amendments, but they failed to do so because again, I believe, they misunderstood what was happening.

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation

I understand why the hon. Gentleman is concerned that we have not fully debated this part of the Bill. Committee procedure when amendments are grouped is that we have a debate on the group, and amendments to later clauses are moved formally when we reach the relevant clause. The opportunity to debate the Government amendments to this clause has now passed. Of course, it is possible for hon. Members to debate the matter further on Report, but the opportunity to do so in Committee has passed.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools)

In this case, I do not agree with your ruling. I clearly heard you put the Question to the Committee, and clause 71 was passed. We all know what happened—the Under-Secretary of State misunderstood what was going on, so you sensibly allowed the matter to be reopened. I do not see why you allowed that, but did not allow the Government to properly explain their new clauses and amendments.

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation

Mr. Gibb, I am trying to be fair to all members of the Committee. Normally when the Chairman puts a Question, he says, “As many as are of that opinion say ‘Aye’; to the contrary ‘No’” After the Chairman has heard the “Ayes” and “Noes”, if the outcome is clear to him, he says, “The Ayes have it, the Ayes have it,” or, “The Noes have it, the Noes have it.” On this occasion, for reasons we both understand, the outcome was not clear to me, because it appeared to me that some members of the Committee had misheard the Question I put. I therefore put it again.

I fully understand why the hon. Gentleman is concerned that the opportunity for the Committee to debate these amendments has gone, but I am constrained by the rules of procedure, which require me to deal formally with the Government amendments and new clauses when we reach them.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Shadow Minister (14-19 Reform and Apprenticeships)

On a point of order, Mr. Bayley. I am sorry to drag the matter out, and I intend no discourtesy to you, but during the exchanges that you described, in which there was some confusion, the Minister clearly asked, from a sedentary position, “Can I move my amendment?”

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation

He can move them, but he has to do so formally.

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation

Before I take any further points of order, let me say that I understand hon. Members’ frustration, but if there is fault on the part of members of the Committee, it is on both sides, because when I called the group for debate, there was a pregnant pause; I waited, but no Member on either side of the Committee rose either to speak to amendments or to ask the Minister to comment on them.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools)

On a point of order, Mr. Bayley. I had no intention of taking part in that debate. I wanted to hear a Minister explain why the Government had tabled the new clauses.

Further to my original point of order, the Question was put and Government Members voted “Aye”. It was only someone outside the Committee who said “No”, drawing attention to the fact that these matters were not properly ordered. I contend that that expression of “No” from outside the Committee was not in order, that clause 71 has therefore been passed, and that the best approach now would be to return to the matter on Report, where the Minister can explain why the new clauses are needed.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Conservative, North East Hertfordshire

Further to that point of order, Mr. Bayley.

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation

Order. I must answer the points of order that Mr. Gibb has raised.

First, if Opposition Members want the Minister to speak in favour of his amendments but the Minister has decided not to do so, it is incumbent on them to challenge the Minister to explain. That is why I paused. No challenge was made.

Secondly, I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman that the decision was made that clause 71 should stand part of the Bill. If I had felt that that was the decision of the Committee, I would have made it clear by saying, “The Ayes have it, the Ayes have it.” Because there was clearly confusion in the Committee, I waited until members of the Committee were clear on what clause I was putting the Question. When I was satisfied that all members of the Committee were clear, I took the vote.

On the final part of his point of order, the hon. Gentleman is correct: there is the opportunity to pursue these matters on Report. From what I have heard today, I am sure that that will happen. I am certain that Ministers are aware that they will need to make statements and give explanations. They might even want to discuss with Opposition Front Benchers how to structure the debate on Report.

Photo of David Lammy David Lammy Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills) (Skills)

On a point of order, Mr. Bayley. I just want to remind the Committee that on 22 February I wrote to hon. Members explaining the nature of these technical amendments. Of course, I am happy to discuss them in detail on Report.

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation

We will now move on to decision on the amendments. I am pleased to hear the Minister acknowledge that the discussion that is necessary will take place on Report.

Amendments made: No. 201, in clause 74, page 45, line 41, leave out from ‘information’ to end of line 42 and insert—

‘(a) used in reliance on section (Benefit and training information)(1)(a), or

(b) disclosed in reliance on section (Benefit and training information)(1)(b) or (Revenue and Customs information).’.

No. 202, in clause 74, page 46, line 2, leave out ‘for the purposes of that section’ and insert

‘in connection with the exercise of an assessment function of the Secretary of State or a devolved authority’.—[Mr. Lammy.]

Clause 74, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.