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