New Clause 14

Part of Education and Skills Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:00 pm on 28 February 2008.

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Photo of David Laws David Laws Shadow Secretary of State (Children, Schools and Families) 4:00, 28 February 2008

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.