§ Mr. David Willetts (Havant)
On a point of order, Madam Speaker. May I have your guidance on the extraordinary answer that I received earlier from the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Employment, the hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke)? I asked about the Government's U-turn in abandoning plans to publish a merit table for all schools covering 14 to 16-year-olds, and the Minister said that there would be a statement on the matter later today. Will you remind Ministers, Madam Speaker, of the importance of ensuring that statements of such consequence are made first to the House?
§ The Secretary of State for Education and Employment (Mr. David Blunkett)
Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. We will publish full performance tables in a day or two. There will be no statement to the House today, but I shall issue a press release about a minor change to performance tables. That does not affect our commitment to value-added tables, or to ensuring that information is available on GCSEs and the points system.
§ Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst)
On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I hope that you may clear up some confusion that has arisen. I refer to the House of Lords of yesterday, when a Minister, Lord Williams of Mostyn, said:This is the end of our road. Prorogation is upon us. If the Government are again defeated tonight, the Bill will fall. The Government will therefore have failed to secure safe passage for a manifesto commitment.Just a few minutes later, another Minister, Baroness Jay, said:My Lords, this Bill has now been lost for the Session. However, it will be introduced in the next Session under the procedures of the Parliament Acts."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 18 November 1998; Vol. 594, c. 1354-60.]I ask, therefore, whether you, Madam Speaker, will delay Prorogation in order to allow a Minister to come to the House—helpfully, the Leader of the House is already here—to explain what is going on. Contradictory statements have been made by Ministers in the other place.
§ Madam Speaker
As the right hon. Gentleman and the whole House know, I am not responsible for Government statements. Nor am I prepared to suspend Prorogation. I shall, however, suspend the House until 3.50 pm.
Message to attend the Lords Commissioners:
The House went;—and, having returned: