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Points of Order

12.30 pm

Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I want to raise a question relating to the fitness for purpose of the Home Secretary, the former Home Secretary and the former Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality in respect of a priority question that I tabled just before the former Home Secretary was sacked. It asked what account the Home Secretary had taken, in exercising his discretion in implementing his policy on the deportation of foreign national convicted persons, of the Human Rights Act 1998 and article 3 of the European convention on human rights. It was tabled on 3 May, but 16 days later all I have received is a holding reply. Will you, Mr. Speaker, please insist that that question, which I tabled on 3 May, be answered forthwith?

Mr. Speaker: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of his point of order. There appears to have been a lengthy delay in that case, and I will seek an explanation from the Minister concerned. There are currently too many such delays on questions to Departments. I remind the Ministers of their duty to the House to give timely answers to questions, as set out in “Erskine May”.

The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Jack Straw): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker, I apologise to the hon. Gentleman for that lapse. I have listened carefully to your remarks, Mr. Speaker, and will ensure that that matter is treated with the seriousness that it deserves by my colleagues in the Government.

Mr. Speaker: I thank the Leader of the House.

Mr. Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I seek your guidance. I wonder whether it is acceptable for hon. Members to sell publicly provided documents for the financial benefit of a political party. I would be grateful if you issued guidance for the elimination of doubt for hon. Members. If that practice is not acceptable, will you issue guidance on whether you would handle such
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a breach, or whether it would be better referred to the Committee on Standards in Public Life?

Mr. Speaker: I understand that there is an early-day motion regarding that matter, which the Chair should not be drawn into. The hon. Gentleman should sign the early-day motion, if he so wishes, although I am not encouraging him to do so.

Mr. Edward Vaizey (Wantage) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker, Dr. David Kelly was a constituent of mine. Earlier, the Prime Minister said that no offence was intended to be caused by the sale of that document, but I assure him that it was caused. I have heard you say that you do not want to be involved in the debate, Mr. Speaker, but I wonder whether it would be in order for a Cabinet Office Minister to attend this House to make a statement—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I must stop the hon. Gentleman there, because it was not clear that the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr. Stuart) was referring to an hon. Member’s family. I would not expect anyone to draw the Chair into an argument about any hon. Member’s family, whether that hon. Member is a humble Back Bencher or the Prime Minister. I will not do that, and I hope that that does not become a practice of the House.

Bill presented

Sustainable Communities

Julia Goldsworthy, supported by Mr. David Drew, Gregory Barker, Mr. Elfyn Llwyd, Chris Huhne, Alan Simpson, Mr. Henry Bellingham, Andrew Stunell, Mr. Douglas Carswell, Jeremy Corbyn, Tim Farron and Mr. Dan Rogerson, presented a Bill to make provision for local authorities to submit plans to the Secretary of State in connection with promoting the sustainability of local communities; to provide for parish councils and other persons to participate in the formulation of such plans; to provide for the Secretary of State to assist local authorities in promoting sustainable communities; to specify the indicators by which the sustainability of local authorities may be measured; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 16 June, and to be printed. [Bill 187].

24 May 2006 : Column 1481

Sunday Trading Act 1994 (Amendment)

12.34 pm

Richard Younger-Ross (Teignbridge) (LD): I beg to move,

I am pleased to have the opportunity to present to the House a Bill that will limit the hours in which large supermarkets and other stores trade on a Sunday at present. I do so because I believe that every politician in the House must answer a simple question: what kind of society do we wish to create? In 1994, did we really wish to create a seven-days-a-week society, with each day identical to the previous one? Did we wish to make Sunday the same as a Saturday, Friday or Monday? I do not believe that we did.

A healthy society has a rhythm to life, not a monotony of work, work, work, shop, work, shop, shop, work, or whatever. To me, that is not good for a healthy society. I am worried about families, and I want to help them to be together, not to split them apart so that one partner works on a Sunday while the other looks after the children, allowing them to work on a Monday while the first partner looks after the children. That is not good for families. Families are generally a unit of two partners and children. I think that it is good if families can spend time together as a unit, rather than each partner spending time individually with the children. There are other opportunities that are missing from the rhythm of life.

Although I am a Christian—I am a Roman Catholic and I go to church—that is not the fundamental reason why I am proposing the Bill. I am suggesting that one day has to be different, and it does not matter whether that is for religious observance, a sporting interest, leisure, or time with the children. I fundamentally believe that, for a healthy society, such a difference must go on.

Let us consider the impact of the 1994 Act. The Government-commissioned Indepen report stated that the changes that have occurred since 1994 include the extension of Sunday opening and its continuing growth. The report concludes that congestion has increased on Sundays as more and more people go to the shops. However, more importantly for those who have to work on Sundays, there has been a reduction in the Sunday wage premium. Those who find themselves with little choice but to work on Sundays are thus finding that their reward for giving up their day off with their families is being reduced.

When we consider what people want, we must look at the changes that have occurred. One of the big changes to the grocery trade has been the growth of the big four. The big four now have 70 per cent. of all grocery trade. The Department of Trade and Industry’s response to that is not to say, “Hold on a second. Aren’t just four companies dominating the whole market?” It has refused year after year to examine that situation to determine whether there is fair trading, although there is some give on that at the moment.

The Department’s proposals are actually the reverse of mine. It proposes to consult on deregulating Sundays altogether. The only consequence of that
24 May 2006 : Column 1482
would be to increase the dominance of the big four. It would work to the detriment of small shops, and there would be not only no rhythm of life in society in the week, but no rhythm of where people can go to shop: the convenience stores would all close because they could not compete with the buying power of the large supermarkets.

What sort of society do we want? Is it one that is led by the market? I believe that that should not be the case. The market should serve us, not we serve the market. A survey by the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, which does not support my proposals—it wants the existing regulations to remain in place; it does not want an extension of opening hours, but nor does it want to go back to the situation in 1994—showed that 43 per cent. of those who responded did not want to work on Sundays but often had to, that 37 per cent. did not mind working on Sundays occasionally, and that only 20 per cent. wanted to work on Sundays. The reality is, however, that more and more people are being forced to. I am aware of people in my constituency who are frightened to say no to their employers when it comes to Sunday working. The number of workers who are now protected is falling because work within the sector tends to be short term.

However, not only are shop workers affected by Sunday opening; so are street cleaners, who have to go out on a Sunday because there is now more mess on that day; so are bus drivers, because people want to go to the shops and there is pressure on services on Sundays; so are lorry drivers, who have to give up their weekends to make deliveries to stores; so are the police, who now have to do more work because shops are open on a Sunday; so are traffic wardens, who have to control the traffic on Sundays; and so are fire crews, who have to staff the fire stations because there is an increased risk of their being called out because of the shops and additional offices that are open on a Sunday. The 1994 Act has had an impact not just on the rhythm of life and on workers who are forced to give up their free time to work on a Sunday, but on a lot of other people in many other sectors.

Let me quote two or three cases that have been put to me. A woman working for a large department store in Swansea wrote to Keep Sunday Special, saying:

People have contacted Working Families, which also wants to keep the status quo. It said:

She lost her job as a consequence. Working Families also said:

That is the reality of Sunday work.

24 May 2006 : Column 1483

There is support for a change from the Churches, and the United Reformed Church used the phrase “rhythm of life” in its letter to me. Between 71 and 80 per cent. of parents say that they have no choice about whether they work weekends. They are not like MPs, who may opt to do their casework on a Sunday. Instead, they are the poorer members of society—the people who are forced to work. For them, we need to look at the legislation and to change it. For society as a whole, we need to look at it and change it. I believe passionately that Sunday needs to be different. We need a day when we can relax, meditate, play sport or go to church.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Richard Younger-Ross, Dr. John Pugh, Mr. Colin Breed, Andrew Stunell, Mr. David Anderson, Stephen Pound, Mrs. Claire Curtis-Thomas, Miss Ann Widdecombe, Peter Luff and Mr. Ian Liddell-Grainger.

Sunday Trading Act 1994 (Amendment)

Richard Younger-Ross accordingly presented a Bill to amend the Sunday Trading Act 1994 to limit the hours of opening of large shops on Sundays and other specified days: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 20 October, and to be printed [Bill 186].

24 May 2006 : Column 1484

Orders of the Day

Education and Inspections Bill

[2nd allotted day]

As amended in the Standing Committee, further considered.

New Clause 4

Education of children with special educational needs in mainstream schools

‘In EA 1996, for section 316 substitute:—

“316 Education of children with special educational needs in mainstream schools

(1) This section applies to a child with special educational needs who should be educated in a mainstream school.

(2) If no statement is maintained under section 324 for the child, he should ordinarily be educated in a mainstream school.

(3) If a statement is maintained under section 324 for the child, any person exercising any functions under this Part in respect of a child with special educational needs shall ensure that he is educated in either a mainstream school or a special school, having due regard to—

(a) the wishes of his parent,

(b) the provision of efficient education for other children, and

(c) the efficient use of resources.

(4) Any person exercising any function under this Part must ensure the parents of a child with special educational needs are given sufficient information about the possible options open to them, including both special schools and mainstream provision.

(5) A child with special educational needs being provided for under section (3) above shall not be educated in a mainstream school if that is incompatible with the wishes of his parents.

(6) In this section and section 316A ‘mainstream school' means any school other than—

(a) a special school, or

(b) an independent school which is not—

(i) a city technology college,

(ii) a city college for the technology of the arts, or

(iii) a city academy.”.'.— [Mr. Hayes.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

12.45 pm

Mr. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings) (Con): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 5— Restrictions on special school closures—

‘(1) No special school shall be closed by a local education authority without the consent of the Secretary of State.

(2) The Secretary of State shall only consent to the closure of a special school if there are places at nearby special schools in sufficient number and sufficient quality to replace the school adequately.'.

New clause 30— Professional standards for teachers—

‘Professional standards for teachers shall require that all those receiving—

(a) initial teacher training,

(b) assessment for induction or as a main-scale teacher,

(c) assessment for threshold or as a senior teacher, or

24 May 2006 : Column 1485

(d) assessment for suitability as a head teacher,

shall be required to demonstrate an understanding of special educational needs and disability legislation.'.

New clause 31— Permanent exclusion of pupils—

‘(1) This section applies in relation to the permanent exclusion of a disabled pupil or a pupil with special educational needs by any school at which education is provided for him.

(2) No such pupil shall be excluded unless a review has been held of—

(a) the sufficiency and effectiveness of the reasonable adjustments being made for him if he is a disabled pupil, and

(b) the special educational provision being made for him if he is a pupil with special educational needs.'.

New clause 52— Circulation of materials in relation to course of study—

‘After section 85A of EA 2002 (inserted by this Act) insert—

“85B Requirements relating to materials for courses of study in specified entitlement areas

Where a course of study within an entitlement area specified by the Secretary of State under section 85A(1)(b) is to be introduced, the Secretary of State must ensure that all necessary materials are circulated to schools and other relevant learning providers at least one full academic year before their introduction and that due consideration is given to the time it takes to translate such material into Braille.”.'.

New clause 77— Duty of local education authority in relation to excluded pupils with special needs—

‘(1) Section 19 of EA 1996 (exceptional provision of education in pupil referral units or elsewhere) is amended as follows.

(2) After subsection (3B) (inserted by section 93 of this Act) insert—

“(3C) Where a statement of special educational needs is maintained by the local education authority in respect of a pupil pursuant to section 324, the period following which education referred to in subsection (3A) must be provided must be sufficient to permit the authority to amend or otherwise reassess the statement where required by law.”.'.

New clause 78— Responsibility of governing body for discipline (supplementary provisions)—

‘The governing body of a relevant school must not delegate responsibility for the policy drawn up under section 80(1) to anyone unless that person has demonstrated an understanding of special educational needs and disability legislation.'.

New clause 79— Determination by head teacher of behaviour policy (supplementary provisions)—

‘The head teacher must, in determining measures under section 81(1), show—

(a) how reasonable adjustments are made, taking account of the particular circumstances of pupils with disabilities, and

(b) what special educational provision is made within those measures for pupils with educational needs, with or without a formal statement.'.

New clause 80— Duty of local education authority in relation to excluded pupils with disabilities or special needs—

‘(1) Section 19 of EA 1996 (exceptional provision of education in pupil referral units or elsewhere) is amended as follows.

(2) After subsection (3B) (inserted by section 93 of this Act) insert—

“(3C) The local education authority shall have particular regard to the appropriateness of educational provision made for excluded pupils where those are disabled pupils or pupils with special educational needs.”.'.

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