Balls accused of breaching Speaker's ruling on statements

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Schools Secretary Ed Balls was accused today of breaching new Speaker John Bercow's ruling that ministers should make policy statements first to the Commons.

Tory former minister Christopher Chope (Christchurch) called for Mr Balls to apologise to MPs for announcing the scrapping of the Government's National Strategies for education in the media.

In a point of order, Mr Chope said: "On Wednesday Mr Speaker said when ministers have key policy statements to make the House must be the first to hear them.

"In clear breach of that ruling, today the Schools Secretary has announced through the Guardian and the BBC that the Government has abandoned its literacy and numeracy strategy.

"Either Mr Balls is himself illiterate or contemptuous of the Speaker's ruling - or both."

He asked Deputy Speaker Sylvia Heal what powers she had to press Mr Balls to come to the House and apologise.

Mrs Heal said she would bring Mr Chope's remarks to the attention of Mr Bercow.

Ministers' move will end centralised prescription of teaching methods and oversight of literacy and numeracy hours in primary schools and save the Government up to £100 a million a year currently spent on private consultants.