HC Deb 01 June 1981 vol 5 c645
Mr. Clement Freud (Isle of Ely)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, of which I have given you notice. During the twelfth sitting of the Special Standing Commitee on the Education Bill I tabled a new clause which stated: It shall be the duty of the National Health Service to acquaint the parents of handicapped babies at birth or after identification of the handicap and again after six weeks in writing, of the existence and whereabouts of the support organisation which deals with their child's specific handicap". After I had argued my case the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science said: The Government have no objection to the principle or to a new clause imposing on health authorities a requirement to inform both the parent and the local education authority at the earliest possible time and, one trusts, with the degree of compassion that was mentioned by the hon. Member for Ely". He continued: The services of my Department and all of us will be given to make sure that we get a tight clause which will fulfil all the needs that we have mentioned. As a result of that promise, at the end of the debate I said: I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion."—[Official Report, Special Standing Committee, 2 April 1981; c. 473–79.] When I returned from our short recess I received a letter from the Under-Secretary saying that it had proved impossible to draft a suitable clause embodying the principle underlying your New Clause 1". He added: While we entirely accept and support its aim we have been forced to conclude that it is not a matter upon which we should legislate. The Minister ended his letter by stating: I am sorry that I am unable to meet you fully on New Clause 1 The Minister must either meet the new clause in some way, or not at all.

I withdrew my new clause because of a succinct and specific promise by the Minister. That promise has not been honoured. Committee procedure, like procedure in the House, is based on trust, and trust is a two-way commodity. I trusted the Minister when I withdrew my motion. My point is that if we cannot have an assurance that what is said in April will be honoured in May, what ministerial pronouncements can we accept?

Mr. Speaker

I have been asked many questions in my time, but that one is certainly not for me. The hon. Gentleman's dispute is with the Government, and there is nothing in our Standing Orders on which I should rule.