Education and Adoption Bill

– in a Public Bill Committee at on 2 July 2015.

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[Mr Christopher Chope in the Chair]

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch 11:30, 2 July 2015

We now begin line-by-line consideration of the Bill. Before we do, let me say that, should Members wish to remove their jackets during the Committee’s meetings, they may so do. I hope Members will also make sure all electronic devices are turned off or switched to silent mode.

I am going to make a few other preliminary announcements, including some that I would not normally make, because this is the first Standing Committee for a lot of Members present. As a general rule, my fellow Chair and I will not call starred amendments—amendments that have not been tabled with adequate notice. The required notice period in Public Bill Committees is three working days, which means that amendments should be tabled by the rise of the House on Monday if they are to be considered on Thursday, and by the rise of the House on Thursday if they are to be considered the following Tuesday. I am making an exception to that rule today, and I shall come to that in due course.

First, however, a brief explanation of how our arrangements normally operate may be useful to those who are new to them. The selection list for today’s sitting, which you probably all have before you, shows that various amendments have been grouped for debate. That happens at the discretion of the Chair, but such amendments normally have a similar theme or cover the same issue. The person who has tabled the lead amendment—the first amendment—in the group is called first to speak, and the Chairman will then call others who catch his eye. In a Standing Committee, it is possible for Members to speak on more than one occasion, so if they are dissatisfied with the Minister’s explanations—I am sure they will not be—they can always come back for a second bite at the cherry.

At the end of the debate on a group of amendments, I shall again call the Member who moved the lead amendment if they wish to respond to the debate. Sometimes, the lead amendment will be a probing amendment, and the person who moved it will seek leave to withdraw it. We have to go through that process; we cannot just assume that the amendment disappears—it either has to be put to a vote, or the Committee has to give the Member leave to withdraw it.

It may be possible to ask for a Division on, for example, the third or fourth amendment in the group, and that is at the Chair’s discretion. However, it is normally helpful if the Chair is informed in advance of a Member’s desire to put an amendment other than the lead amendment to a vote. I shall work on the assumption that the Minister wishes the Committee to reach a decision on all Government amendments, although, obviously, we do not have any today.

Decisions on amendments do not take place in the order in which amendments are debated, but in the order in which they appear on the amendment paper. An amendment—say amendment 15—may have been discussed with a group of amendments earlier on the selection list, but we would not actually vote on it until we reached it in chronological order on the amendment paper. I hope that is helpful. The Chair and the Clerk are both available to help Members who want advice.

We sometimes have an issue with stand part debates. We can have one on each clause, but if the substance of a clause is covered sufficiently in debates on the amendments to it, the Chair will advise that there will be no separate stand part debate. Normally, we will give you advance notice, so that the Committee knows where it stands.

Today I have, exceptionally, selected two starred amendments, which arose from issues that were presented in the oral evidence on Tuesday, which meant that the required notice could not be given in time for the deadline. I understand that the text of the amendments was circulated to Committee members yesterday afternoon.

We agreed a programme motion on 30 June, which is reproduced at the end of the amendment paper. The motion sets out the order in which we have to consider the Bill, so today we start with clause 13 and amendment 1.