HC Deb 10 June 1981 vol 6 cc409-11
Mr. Daffyd Wigley (Caernarvon)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I should like to raise a question on the selection of amendments for the Education Bill. As you will be aware, both my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas) and I intervened on Second Reading. However, neither of us served on the Standing Committee that dealt with the Bill. My hon. Friend is a member of the Select Committee on Educaion and Science and has a detailed knowledge of, and interest in, the subject. I have a personal involvement in special education for handicapped children. I hope to contribute from that point of view. Against that background, I point out that only one of the seven amendments that we put forward has been called. I draw your attention particularly, Mr. Speaker, to amendment No. 10, dealing with the need for educational provision in hospital for handicapped childen who find themselves in hospital. This matter was not discussed in Committee. I feel that it should be raised on Report.

Mr. Speaker

I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. Obviously, when a Bill of his sort comes before the House I lean over backwards and do my utmost to try to be fair. I hope that I approach every Bill in that way. An issue relating to handicapped people obviously gives me cause for special consideration. It is unfortunate that some of the hon. Gentleman's amendments were beyond the scope of the Bill. Some of the issues have been discussed upstairs in Committee and voted on. Amendment No. 10 was covered by another amendment debated upstairs, which explains why it was not selected on Report. I must remind the House that there is no point in holding a Committee stage if all that happened in Committee is repeated again on Report. That is the difficulty that faces the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I respect and understand fully your sense of fairness and your difficulties. I appeal, however, for reconsideration of the decision not to select for debate amendment No. 2, which prevents local education authorities from consigning disabled children to special schools away from their friends and non-disabled peers, and sometimes even away from home, merely because the bricks and mortar of local schools are unsuitable for their needs. I appreciate that there was reference to the amendment in Standing Committee by two hon. Members. However, many organisations, including some representing disabled people, would like the issue to be debated here today. This most important amendment could profoundly affect the educational opportunities of disabled children.

There is another factor, Mr. Speaker, that I should like you to consider. Earl Mansfield, Minister of State, Scottish Office, moved in another place on 2 June an amendment to the access provisions of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 as they affect Scottish law, including section 8 of the Act concerning schools and other educational buildings. The amendment is one of considerable importance and represents a development that hon. Members should take into account here today before completing the remaining stages of this Bill. In particular, a debate on amendment No. 2 would give the Minister an opportunity to inform hon. Members how the Government's initiative in another place affects their thinking on access to schools under clause 1 of the Bill. I know, Mr. Speaker, that you will want to do all that is possible to help. I hope that you can accede to my request.

Mr. Speaker

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving me notice that he would seek to raise this point of order. I have had an opportunity to investigate the matter at some length. The whole House is aware of the right hon. Gentleman's special interest, and also that of the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley), in this matter. I find that the hon. Members for Birkenhead (Mr. Field), for Caerphilly (Mr. Hudson Davies), for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock), for Exeter (Mr. Hannam), and the Minister all referred to the matter on a considerable scale in the fifth and sixth sittings of the Standing Committee. I re-read the proceedings this morning. I am, of course, prepared to look at the issue again, but I do not want to raise false hopes that the selection of amendments can be reconsidered. When a matter has been discussed in Standing Committee it is unfair that it should be repeated on the Floor of the House.

Mr. Neil Kinnock (Bedwellty)

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. All hon. Members, I am sure, appreciate the effort that you have devoted to considering the matter and your response to my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris). Your reflections on the proceedings in Standing Committee are correct. A further consideration, however, in the crucial nature and relevance of amendment No. 2 to the principle of the Bill, as defined within the terms of the title of the Bill. As the debate in Standing Committee shows, the contention is that there should be a different provision for children with mobility difficulties, as opposed to those with learning difficulties. They may be disadvantaged by local education authorities that do not acknowledge the principle that hon. Members would like to see fully legislated for in a Bill of this nature.

A second consideration is that the law is in the course of being changed in two respects on the crucial matter of access. I am sure that you, Mr. Speaker, like myself, will acknowledge the expertise of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe. Since the law is in the process of being reconsidered and changed in another place, in two pieces of proposed legislation, I hope that hon. Members, depending on your discretion and reconsideration, will be able to make their contribution to that reconsideration of the definition of access, especially as it affects education. As you will readily acknowledge, Mr. Speaker, the question of access is essential and, indeed, is the major determinant of how disabled and handicapped people are likely to be able to conduct the rest of their lives.

Mr. Wigley

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. I should like to underline what the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) said about a measure being discussed in another place which relates to the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970. Since the matter was debated in the Standing Committee on the Education Bill, the Government have accepted certain amendments in the other place relating to access. These have a material bearing on access to education institutions.

Mr. Speaker

I am much obliged to the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) and also to the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock). I think that I am right in saying that he is the honourable Member for Bedwellty—

Mr. Kinnock

That is correct.

Mr. Speaker

—so far. I am not taking sides. I am completely impartial. Bearing in mind the arguments of the two hon. Members and also that of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris), I shall look at the matter again. Hon. Members must bear in mind the comments that I made earlier. The House expects me to try to restrict the Report stage to matters that have not been discussed, but could have been discussed, upstairs in Committee. I shall, however, give further consideration to the matter to see whether I can help the right hon. Gentleman and the two hon. Gentlemen. I shall let my views be known at least by 6 pm.