HC Deb 30 October 2002 vol 391 cc871-2


Mr. Roy Beggs (East Antrim)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In reply to a question from me, the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Jane Kennedy), said that extensive consultation … showed almost universal support for the abolition of the 11-plus Transfer Tests"— in Northern Ireland— and a predominant view that academic selection should be ended".—[Official Report, 28 October 2002; Vol. 391, c. 513W.] I regret to say that, by providing that answer, the hon. Lady misled the House. I have already advised her office of my intention to raise the matter today.

If you, Mr. Speaker, were to read the Department of Education report on the responses to the consultation, you would find that only 57 per cent. of 200,551 household responses received by the Department supported the abolition of the transfer test, with 32 per cent. disagreeing and 12 per cent. undecided. Fifty-seven per cent. can hardly be regarded as, to use the Minister's words, "almost universal support".

On the question of whether academic selection should he ended, according to the Department of Education report—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I get the feeling that the hon. Gentleman is making a speech. The Minister will have heard his points, but they are not a matter for the Chair.

Mr. Beggs

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The evidence that I have indicates that the House has been misled. I request that you, sir, invite the Minister to come to the House to make an apology and clarify her interpretation of very clear results.

Mr. Speaker

I have no such powers, but the Minister will be able to take note of what the hon. Gentleman has said.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Have you noticed that, because of the rescheduling of the provisional business that was due for this afternoon—the debate on home defence—tomorrow there will be a debate on home defence in the House and a debate on the foreign policy aspects of terrorism in Westminster Hall? There is, as you know, great concern among hon. Members on both sides of the House about those two closely interrelated topics. Is there anything that you can do to advise those who prepare the business of the House that in future such a clash should be avoided?

Mr. Speaker

No, but the hon. Gentleman can certainly approach the Leader of the House.