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Absence note

Your report, "Labour fails to show at all-party meeting" (TES, November 15), might give an erroneous impression of the Labour party. First, it was the Government that determined the Second Reading date of the current Education Bill. As shadow minister for schools, I was bound to attend all of the debate, and to wind up that debate. Robin Squire was not involved in this particular Bill, and so was able to keep his commitment to the chief education officers' conference.

It is true that there was no suitable replacement for me at the conference. Other Labour MPs fix their diaries months in advance, as I do. We had, under parliamentary procedures, four days' confirmation of the Second Reading. On this occasion, it simply was not possible at such a late stage for colleagues to rejig their diaries.

This was not a slight to education officers, but an unavoidable clash of commitments. I know that they will understand that our priority has to be the Education Bill. I am also sure that those same education officers will welcome constructive action from an incoming Labour government, rather than warm but weasel words from an outgoing Conservative one.

PETER KILFOYLE MP Shadow minister for schools House of Commons London SW1

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