CSF Bill - Third reading

The CSF Bill went through both its Report Stage and Third Reading as the main business of the day in the House of Commons on the 23rd February. The Commons chamber was almost empty - which is probably indicative of how many MPs really care about home education. Sadly, home education topics were not discussed properly due to lack of time. Many home educators were hoping to see some serious debate about home education at the Report Stage but the main issue of the day appeared to sex education in religious schools. Amendment 63 to delete Clause 26 had obtained around 25 signatures, but no time was found to hold a proper debate, and issues relating to home education were relegated to the comments during the Third Reading.

There was definitely the impression that politicians had gone to great effort to focus on other topics deliberately in order to ensure there wouldn't be enough remaining time for serious discussion of home education. In fact, it verges on insanity that such an important and prominent issue that represents a major shift between parents, children, and the state, is not debated simply because of 'lack of time'. To sacrifice proper democratic scrutiny of proposed legislation because of timetabling requirements originating in centuries old parliamentary protocol is a kick in the teeth as far as democracy goes.

Here's the basic summary of what took place regarding home education.

Vernon Coaker wasn't going to mention home education until Lembit Opik brought up the subject. Vernon Coaker's reply was

"When, or if, the Bill is passed shortly, that will be the case".

It is clear that he is unsure whether the bill will be passed intact.

Nick Gibb and David Laws both brought up home education and pointed out the government's failures and the appalling measures in the bill. Nick Gibb firmly stated the conflation between education and safeguarding, and highlighted how Badman himself seemed in his evidence to the committee to be more concerned about the type of education being provided by home educators.

Graham Stuart was totally emphatic again that Schedule 1 will not become law.

One of the briefest, but most impressive of comments by far, came from the Labour MP David Drew. He criticised the rushed manner of the bill before proudly stating that he's vote against the entire bill because of Clause 26! His words were

"I shall be very brief as I hope, Mr. Speaker, that you will call the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr. Stuart). I just want to put on record my dismay at the introduction of what I see as a steamroller to crack the nut of home education.

I may have disagreements with some of the home educators in my constituency, but I would like to feel that they have had the opportunity to put across their points of view, not just in petitions organised by the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness but in a proper debate in this place. We have not had the opportunity to have that debate. That is why I voted against the Bill on Second Reading, and why I will vote against it on Third Reading."

Such a pity other Labour MPs are nowhere as courageous as he is.

Both the Conservatives and Lib Dems have made public commitments that the parts about home education must be abandoned or the bill won't get through the wash-up. It's difficult to see that either party has anything to gain by going back on their word.

The Second Reading in the House of Lords will take place on 9th March.

The debate on the Report Stage can be found here, with home education being discussed briefly at the Third Reading here.

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