HC Deb 28 October 1975 vol 898 cc1320-3

'(1) This section applies to a child—

  1. (a) who is in the care of a local authority under section 1 of the Children Act 1948; and
  2. (b) with respect to whom there is in force a resolution under section 2 of that Act; and
  3. (c) who—
    1. (i) has run away from accommodation provided for him by the local authority under Part II of the said Act; or
    2. (ii) has been taken away from such accommodation contrary to section 3(8) of the said Act; or
    3. (iii) has not been returned to the local authority as required by a notice served under section 49 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1963 on a person under whose charge and control the child was, in accordance with section 13(2) of the said Act of 1948, allowed to be.

(2) If a justice of the peace is satisfied by information on oath that there are reasonable grounds for believing that a person specified in the information can produce the child to whom this section applies, he may issue a summons directed to the person so specified and requiring him to attend and produce the child before a magistrates' court acting for the same petty sessions area as the justice.

(3) Without prejudice to the powers under subsection (2) above, if a justice of the peace is satisfied by information on oath that there are reasonable grounds for believing that a child to whom this section applies is in premises specified in the information, he may issue a search warrant authorising a person named in the warrant, being an officer of the local authority in whose care the child is, to search the premises for the child; and if the child is found, he shall be placed in such accommodation as the local authority may provide for him under Part II of the Children Act 1948.

(4) A person who, without reasonable excuse, fails to comply with a summons under subsection (2) shall, without prejudice to any liability apart from this subsection, be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £100.'—[Dr. Owen.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Dr. Owen

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With that new clause we may take Government new Clause 13.

We may also take new Clause 21—Recovery of child—and new Clause 22—Powers of local authority following assumption of parental rights. We may also take the following amendments:

No. 227, in Clause 90, page 65, line 17, after '83', insert 'section (Recovery of child)'.

No. 228, in page 65, line 17, after '83', insert: 'section (Powers of local authorities following assumption of parental rights)'. Government Amendments Nos. 157, 158 and 178, and Amendment No. 229, in Schedule 4, page 93, line 11, column 3, leave out 'section 54' and insert 'sections 49 and 54'.

Dr. Owen

The clause introduces two new powers which a local authority will be able to use to effect the recovery of children in the voluntary care of a local authority under Section 1 of the Children Act 1948 who are subject to a parental rights and duties resolution; and who have either run away, been taken away from premises in which they are required by the local authority to live, or have not been returned to the care of the local authority after having been allowed by the authority to be in the charge and control of a parent, relative, guardian or friend in exercise of the authority's powers under Section 13(2) of the Children Act 1948.

The clause gives effect to an undertaking I gave in Committee, when we considered new Clauses 21 and 22, about ways of strengthening the hand of local authorities to secure the return of children who are subject to parental rights and duties.

The clause meets points raised by the Association of Directors of Social Services in their comments on the Children Bill. I commend it to the House.

Dr. Vaughan

We discussed the problems of the recovery of the child a great deal in Committee. A number of outside bodies, in particular the Association of Directors of Social Services, told us quite strongly of a situation where someone may be concealing a child, where there had been insufficient rights of entry and where the person could be taken to court and perhaps fined but where the authorities would still have difficulties over obtaining the child in person. Although one might have strong grounds for believing that a child was being concealed in someone's home, there was no provision for getting that child out of the home.

That is why we tabled new Clause 21 and new Clause 22. New Clause 11 meets our anxieties on this matter. It should prove satisfactory and remove the anomaly. Therefore, we shall not seek to press new Clauses 21 and 22.

Mr. Robertson

This is a hybrid Bill and I am not sure of the extent of the application of the new clauses to Scotland. Do they extend to Scotland? If so, is the terminology correct? Will it be applicable?

This Bill is two Bills in one. It is not always clear in relation to new clauses what is applicable to England and Wales, what is applicable to Scotland and what is applicable to the whole of the United Kingdom. Important issues can be raised in this way.

Mr. McElhone

I reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. Robertson) that we have paid special attention to the needs of Scotland. I have been concerned with the Bill only on Report and Third Reading, but my officials have paid attention to points raised in the clauses which affect Scotland. These clauses do not affect the Scottish position. If my hon. Friend remains for the whole of these proceedings, he will appreciate that most of the points about which he is concerned will be covered before we reach Third Reading.

Mr. Andrew Bowden (Brighton, Kemptown)

First, may I thank the Minister for the conscientious and effective way in which he has dealt with all the points which arose in Committee? Although I have been a Member of Parliament for only a limited time, on all the Committees on which I have served where we have been assured by a Minister that he will look into the matter, in no case have they been dealt with more completely and fully than by him. I speak for all members of the Standing Committee when I say that we did a useful job and that due to the work which the Minister did in following up the points raised, the Bill is infinitely better than it was originally. New Clause 12 is an example of this. I support it.

There is a massive amount of work before us. It is a pity that there is not more time to go into it. The Government's legislative programme is in a most appalling state. I am not blaming the Minister of State for that, because he has his own crosses to bear. I am sure that Conservative Members will wish the business to be dealt with with the maximum speed, although there will be a number of occasions when we shall refrain from speaking although we should have liked to speak. It is a pity that we could not have had two days for Report and Third Reading.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

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