HC Deb 14 April 1976 vol 909 cc1370-1
33. Mr. Teddy Taylor

asked the Lord Advocate if he will pay an official visit to a children's panel hearing.

The Lord Advocate (Mr. Ronald King Murray)

No, Sir. I have no ministerial responsibility for children's hearings. I would, however, welcome an opportunity to make an unofficial visit.

Mr. Taylor

May I encourage the Lord Advocate to pay such a visit, in the course of which he might gain some knowledge of the growing concern amongst panel members about the lack of facilities available to them and about the growing lack of confidence of the public about the effect of panels? Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman willing to organise a conference of those involved in panels to see whether improvements can be made?

The Lord Advocate

It would not be my ministerial function to organise such a conference, although a conference of this kind might in due course have certain advantages.

I should be happy to pay an early visit to a children's hearing. I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman's comment about the public view. Although there is some disquiet, there is a great deal of understanding that this is an arrangement which must be given a chance to prove itself, and that must be over a period of years.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

Although I accept that the Lord Advocate does not have a narrow departmental control over the children's panel system, I think that he would discover that procedures at the panel are very useful but that panel members lack the necessary support facilities and intermediate powers for which many of them have pressed as being necessary. Will he undertake through his Department to engage with his fraternal Department in the Scottish Office in discussions about the need for a thorough review of the Social Work (Scotland) Act as it affects the panel system?

The Lord Advocate

I am happy to tell the hon. Gentleman that these matters are under consideration.

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