Exercise of travel functions by local education authorities in England: duty to have regard to religion or belief of persons of sixth form age
‘In section 509AD of the Education Act 1996 (c. 56) (LEAs in England: duty to have regard to religion or belief in exercise of travel functions), in subsection (1), for the words from “to any wish” to the end substitute—
“(a) to any wish of a parent of such a person for him to be provided with education or training at a particular school, institution or other place where that wish is based on the parent’s religion or belief, and
(b) in a case where the person in question (or any of the persons in question) is of sixth form age (within the meaning given in section 509AC(1)), to any wish of that person to be provided with education or training at a particular school, institution or other place where that wish is based on the person’s religion or belief.”’.—[Jim Knight.]
On a point of order, Mr. Bayley, I would like to take the opportunity to thank you for the way in which you have managed the Committee’s proceedings. At times they have not been easy, particularly today when there has been so much business to complete. Last week we thanked Mr. Bercow when we knew that it was his last time in the Chair.
I thank the Clerks, the Official Reporters, the doorkeepers and the police for facilitating the Committee’s proceedings. I could not have performed my duties without the support of my invisible and unheard officials, and I am grateful to them.
I extend my thanks to the hon. Members for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton and for South Holland and The Deepings—a remarkable double act that I have worked opposite before. I have tried to think of the appropriate analogy—Little and Large, Starsky and Hutch, Laurel and Hardy, or Marx and Engels. Morecambe and Wise came to mind, as one of the hon. Gentlemen seems to put the more into Morecambe and the other, on some occasions, puts the wise into Wise. The Committee’s proceedings would not have been the same without the meandering of the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings, as opposed to the comments of the straight man that he works with. His meanderings took us to Proust, William Morris, liberalism, his son and his wife, and were all part of the rich tapestry and entertainment of the Committee.
I also thank the hon. Members for Yeovil and for Bristol, West who provided robust opposition. They are not so much a double act as a tag wrestling team, as I think this is the only occasion when we have seen them in the room together.
The Under-Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham, also helped me with the eight clauses that he took through. During the course of this Committee he became a father, and the football team that his constituency is named after and he supports won a domestic cup, even though it is a less important one. I congratulate him.
We have also had significant contributions from the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire with his obsessions, and great expertise and wisdom from my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli.
I have been ably supported by the Whip. My hon. Friend the Member for Worcester has, as ever, been very helpful to me and there has been great support behind me, principally from my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend but also from my hon. Friends the Members for Hove and for Llanelli and even, on one occasion, my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South.
I have not mentioned everybody because we all want to go home but I am very grateful to them all. Again, thank you, Mr. Bayley.
I thank you, Mr. Bayley, for your objective and cheerful chairmanship. I thank my hon. Friend for sharing the burden of representing the Opposition viewpoint on the Bill. He has a charismatic style that is welcome and he can always be relied upon to fill space and time when needed. He is as much a part of the arts and crafts movement as William Morris—or at least a part of that era. He is also a ferret when it comes to detailed scrutiny of Bills. His support has been very welcome.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster for her assiduous whipping and her contributions to the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for North-East Hertfordshire reflected my passion for phonics with his equally passionate concern about reading standards. I am grateful to him for airing those concerns so assiduously and so frequently. I am also grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne for his friendly and always interesting contributions to the debate.
It has been pleasure dealing with both Ministers, who have always been polite and as full as they dare in explaining the clauses and opposing our amendments.
Finally, it has also been a pleasure listening to the hon. Member for Yeovil, who shares so many of our concerns about standards, and to the hon. Member for Bristol, West in his later contributions to the Bill.
Further to the point of order, Mr. Bayley. I too thank you and Mr. Bercow for the way in which you have chaired what I think has been a very good-natured Committee over these past few weeks. I add my thanks to the Clerks, officials, doorkeepers, policemen and Hansard reporters, and all those who have helped us with our proceedings.
I also thank those on whom Opposition Members tend to have to rely—those outside bodies who provide and, as the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings said, sometimes inspire to a great extent the amendments that we table. I mention in particular the National Union of Teachers and Barnardo’s, who did such a job of inspiring that they may even have helped to tweak elements of the Bill.
I thank the Minister, my hon. Friend, if I may say so, and near neighbour the Member for South Dorset, who was always extremely patient and constructive and very well briefed. We hope to see him in this place for many years to come, if I am allowed to say that without causing offence to anyone in my part of the world. I thank his colleagues for their patience and for their assiduous attendance, which sadly did not permit us to spring any surprises on the Whips. I also thank the hon. Member for Tottenham who was delivering his child—or second child—at the same time as he was delivering, as Under-Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, most of the Bill, covering most of the clauses very effectively.
On this side of the Committee, I obviously thank my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West, particularly for covering during the debates on attendance notices when I was inadvertently absent and unable to move one of my own amendments. He did an excellent job. I read his speech today and it is far better than I could have managed.
I thank the Conservative members of the Committee. We hoped to hear more about synthetic phonics, but we enjoyed the contributions of the hon. Members for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton and for North-East Hertfordshire. The latter kept us on our toes on the importance of reading, writing and, of course, adding-up.
We were grateful for the entertainment value and the acute observations provided by the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings. Only today I was looking at his biographical details. His chosen sport is darts and we note the relevance of that to many of his contributions. I was surprised to see that his main hobby is listed as jam making, which I imagine is an activity that takes some time and involves a great deal of lone activity—we saw evidence of that in his later contributions in the final stages today.
We had one moment of great optimism, Mr. Bayley, when your fellow Chairman, Mr. Bercow, caught the hon. Gentleman reading a book on liberalism during one of my speeches. For a moment, until we discovered the nature of volume, I thought that we could look forward with optimism to the hon. Gentleman’s future political career. I hope that I can lend him a more constructive book on liberalism to influence his future contributions.
I thank colleagues for their kind words about me and my co-Chairman, and I will pass their comments on to Mr. Bercow. Like you all, I am indebted to the Clerks, the Hansard reporters and all the staff who have made it possible for us to conduct business in the Committee. I am indebted to you all for the wise words and good humour with which you have conducted the debate on issues on which sometimes there have been passionate disagreements. Most of all, I am indebted to John Hayes for deciding that he did not need to raise a brief point of order at this point.