HC Deb 08 July 1965 vol 715 cc1798-9
9. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what criteria are laid down for local authorities to use when judging whether the emigration of a child in their care would be in his or her best long-term interest.

Sir F. Soskice

Local authorities act under Section 17 of the Children Act, 1948, which lays down no criteria. They must consider what is in the child's best interests in the circumstances of each case.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

While accepting that they must consider what is in the child's best interests and also the paramountcy of parental and family rights and responsibilities, may I ask whether there are not very many children in care today at high public cost who would find a happier and healthier life in Commonwealth countries overseas? Will the Home Office try to persuade local authorities to study the advantages of the Fairbridge Farm Schools and other similar organisations of high reputation?

Sir F. Soskice

I have every reason to think that local authorities are very fully aware of what the hon. Member indicated in his Question. Over the last few years about 60 children a year have emigrated under the provisions of the Section.

Sir D. Renton

Is not the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the Fairbridge Farm Schools have enabled thousands of children in the past to start new lives in Australia or Canada, but that the number of children going to these schools has been so much reduced in recent years that there are now vacancies in the Fairbridge Schools in Australia? Would he not give some advice to the local authorities which would enable the fullest advantage to be taken of the great opportunities which exist?

Sir F. Soskice

I have no doubt that the question will have been read and will be read throughout the country. I have to give approval in each case under Section 17 of the Act, and I do not think that it would be appropriate in these cases for me to give advice.

Mr. Mapp

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind, in considering this matter, that economic considerations in respect of such children are quite unimportant in relation to the overall need for people to take over the duties of parents to them? Is he aware that many hon. Members on this side of the House would resent it if economic considerations had the effect of causing the emigration of these unfortunate children?

Sir F. Soskice

Of course I will have that in mind, and I have been fully conscious of it.