HC Deb 10 June 1981 vol 6 cc467-78
Mr. Hannam

I beg to move amendment No. 22, in page 6, line 21, at end insert 'shall, at the request of the parent, provide all the relevant information on which the proposed statement was made'.

Mr. Depuity Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take amendment No. 25, in page 6, line 21, at end insert 'and at the parents' request supply the evidence on which this statement is made, including the names of any tests or other assessment tools used.'.

Mr. Hannam

We come now to the thorny question of the disclosure of information, which provoked one of the most interesting and fascinating debates in Committee. Everyone finally agreed that we needed to find a formula that would allow almost all the information to be disclosed to parents, but in a way that would not harm the parent or the professionals engaged in formulating the reports. The wording has caused me concern and given rise to a few sleepless nights. I have tried to resolve satisfactorily the complex issue of a parent's right of access to the report on which his or her child is assessed and the statement made.

The view was strongly put in both written and oral evidence to the Committee from voluntary organisations that parents should have the right of access to information. At present, information essential to the informed choice of a school and other vital issues about a child's future are being unnecessarily withheld.

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Such information is considered to be essential when a parent is considering an appeal. A point also made in Committee was that reports often contain factual errors or unsubstantiated subjective judgments and that parents have no right of redress. The Government's argument against including right of access, made in discussion with a number of professionals in education, seems to rest on two main points. First, in principle, they accept the right of parents' access to information and do not condone the unnecessary withholding of information, but in a small number of cases, probably per cent., the information is sensitive or disturbing and it is considered that access to that information would cause harm to the parents and/or the child.

Secondly, the opposition to full right of access rested on the argument that if parents had access to reports there would be that reluctance on the part of the professionals to commit their opinions to paper. The third argument is that the Bill says nothing on the disclosure of reports, which may be a strength rather than a weakness. It is expected that as parents will be involved in all Stages of assessment, they will have access to reports. So there are two major arguments against full disclosure, and the third is that if the Bill says nothing it will come out all right in the end.

I appreciate the concern that has been expressed, but in Committee we came to the conclusion that they were giving the wrong emphasis. First, we know that we are dealing with a few cases involving disturbing or sensitive information. We must be very careful not to be too paternalistic about that. As Members of Parliament with constituency problems we recounted in Committee cases in which we found ourselves acting as a kind of disclosure information channel—a sort of "named person".

We have to interpret a professional report with "confidential" marked on it, yet we know that that constituent, parent or social services case can never be solved unless we can transmit that professional information kindly and considerately to our constituent. We decided that the "named person" might be the way to deal with that. Since then, consideration by all the voluntary organisations and individuals concerned has concluded that the named person that we have integrated into the procedure would not be the right person to do it. We must determine this more carefully to see whether we can overcome it.

I maintain that we should establish a right to access of information and that we should allow a reasonable amount of professional discretion on how to handle a small number of difficult cases. That is what my amendment seeks to do. I also maintain that, if handled appropriately, it is always better for parents to have full information, even in the case of a terminal illness. I think that most parents would want to know if their child was critically ill or dying.

The confidentiality problem in such cases as critical illness, incest or marital instability is a matter for better practice earlier rather than secrecy later about a suspicion of problems in the family. That is why my amendment is carefully worded, so that the duty on the local education authority is that it shall, at the request of the parent, provide all the relevant information on which the proposed statement was made.

In practice that would mean that the parents were not necessarily presented with a stark written report, but it would allow the education authority the proviso of making the information or reports available in conjunction with discussions with professionals. In other words, I have tried to avoid the complete presentation of written evidence and reports and to allow for information leading up to the statement; but full information could be presented both orally, in discussion, and in the presentation of written evidence.

In Committee, when we discussed this matter, it was thought that the named person might be a solution where the information is sensitive. It is now considered that that would place the named person in an invidious and impossible position. It would be setting up a barrier between the named person and the parents. That would jeopardise the purpose of the "named person" as a confidant and adviser to the parents.

I realise that professionals may feel that that places a weighty responsibility on them, but that surely is part of their professional training and practice, or it should be. They should be able, clearly, frankly and sensitively, to discuss issues with parents—as we have to do in dealing with our constituency cases.

Professional reluctance was the second concern expressed by the Government and was also discussed in Committee. If parents had access to reports, professionals would be reluctant to commit their opinions to paper. That is an important matter to which we must give full consideration. The danger seen by one or two colleagues and members of the Committee was that we could have two tiers of report—one for use between professionals and one to be shown to parents.

My first point is that there is no thought that private notes or aides-memoire—which are kept solely for the purposes of the individual professional—should be made available to parents.

My second point is that one of the main objections from parents and the voluntary organisations is that at present reports are often factually inaccurate and highly judgmental.

The American experience tends to suggest that access to reports produces better reports, that professionals must justify to themselves, as well as to parents, their statements in a report. My amendment should allay the fears of professionals if they know that they have the opportunity to discuss the report with parents rather than handing over a series of written background memoirs.

Informal access to reports was one matter that we wanted to clear up. The involvement of parents in all stages of discussion on a child's educational needs will include access to reports and discussions about the reports. That is not happening at the moment; that is why there is such strong support for the amendment from the voluntary organisations.

Legislation is not needed where good practice exists. For example, in some areas there is already close co-operation and good practice on referral of handicapped children from area health authorities to the education authorities, but there is a need to protect parents where such good practice does not exist. That we have done with the new clause. I repeat: we need to establish in the Bill the principle of access to information, while giving leeway to the local authority to decide the appropriate way in which to convey that information.

Access to information at the stage of the draft statement is likely to mean fewer appeals; otherwise parents may appeal out of ignorance about the evidence on which a statement was made. That, in turn, will result in considerable resource saving. I hope that my hon. Friend has taken that last phrase on board, because resources play an important part in the Bill and in the arguments that we have been outlining.

In Committee we were concerned to find a way to overcome the problem of the professionals and their internal reports and to overcome also the problem of sensitivity of certain types of information for parents. Allowing for the transmission of information building up to a statement in the form of written reports and/or oral discussion—as hon. Members have to do—is the means of solving the problem.

My other amendment is consequential. Obviously, if parents are to have access to information they will need a longer period, but we have accepted what was said on earlier amendments and will stick with 15 days at this stage, although we shall probably want that extended if we agree that more information should be provided.

I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to give the matter deep consideration. It is a thorny question which caused us a great deal of heart-searching and discussion in Committee. We are considering possibly ½per cent. of the wecases. If we can find the recipe that will allow transmission of this important information in that small number of cases, by written or oral evidence, I believe that we shall solve this thorny problem.

Mr. Whitehead

I follow that commendable and exhaustive speech by the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam) by saying that I think he has entered into a difficult part of the Bill—one that was seen by us all in Committeee to be one of acute difficulty. I should have preferred—I say this with no disrespect to the hon. Member for Exeter—the Under-Secretary to move an amendment today.

In Committe we reached what I thought was a consensus. Reservations were expressed, by myself among others, about the small minority of cases that were a limitation on the statement of the general right of access. I entirely endorse that right, and I think that the hon. Gentleman was right to move the amendment in the spirit that he did. I agree with my hon. Friends who have argued that the right of access is of paramount importance to the way in which parents and their children will regard the legislation and how their relationship with the professionals will be carried through the lifetime process of the preparation within our education system of children with special needs.

That said, I had hoped that the Under-Secretary would be able today to recognise that we reached a near consensus in Committee, that we saw that in the minority of cases there was a need for a special intermediary who would be able sensitively to handle information which—this is the one flaw in the amendment—must now be put over sometimes face to face, verbally, by the professionals who have compiled the report. I see no other way of interpreting the amendment. The reason why, in Committee, we considered the "named person" as the possible intermediary was that he would be in a position to handle the transmission of extremely delicate and sometimes embarrassing information in the most sensitive way.

It is not right to say that the voluntary agencies have all dismissed the notion of the named person. Some have, and I have had representations to that effect. However, others, such as the National Society for Mentally Handicapped Children and Adults, have written to us since the Committee stage saying that access to all professional reports might well be provided in this minority of circumstances through the named person. They hope that the Government will accept the proposal.

When we pressed the Under-Secretary in Committtee he said that he was aware of the Committee's concern. He did not spell out any possible amendment, but he said that he would reconsider the matter and see whether he could veer it towards more provision of information, and the clue and the link in this matter could be the named person. He added that he could not go further than that now.

That is still the position. The hon. Gentleman has not gone further. He has written to my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) and the rest of the Committee to say that there are extreme difficulties in legislating on the issue. The hon. Gentleman said: We cannot assume that all 'named persons' will necessarily be the best judges of what information should be communicated verbally, or that the relationships they have developed with parents will fit them to convey certain hard or disturbing facts or judgments. That is also true, in certain circumstances, of the professionals who compile the report.

Let us look at the difficulty of the professional who draws up a report. We must find ways in which it can be made less subjective and less tendentious than is sometimes the case if reports are to remain in the closed circle of professional opinion and advice. We must also see how the professional can be helped in the provision of information that we believe the parents should have, knowing that sometimes an intermediary may be necessary, in a minority of cases. I accept the figure plucked out of the air by the hon. Member for Exeter, who said that we were talking about a small percentage—perhaps ½per cent.—of the cases concerned.

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I do not accept the view of the Under-Secretary in his letter to us that perhaps benign neglect is the answer to this question", and that, having gone over it over and over again, we shall find that our best course is for the Bill to be silent on the question of exposure of professional reports. I say that because I believe that if the Bill is silent on this matter there will grow up, whether we like it or not, a corpus of secrecy about some aspects of the statements and the way in which they have been derived. That is inevitable. It is inevitable in the process of professional assessment. Those of us in the Opposition who assert the general right of exposure consider that the benign neglect approach is likely to mean that over time parents will receive less information than they should otherwise have. They will probably receive the statement and some relevant information about it, but not all the facts upon which their judgment and their opinion should be canvassed.

What right of access is left if the Bill is silent on the matter? A general right of access is not stated. The professional is left not being made to submit to those most affected by a case the full range of opinion that he has brought to bear on it. My hon. Friends and I do not regard that as a satisfactory outcome to our discussion in Committee. It is the one example that I can think of in all our proceedings in Committee when a real attempt to talk our way through to a consensus—indeed, approaching that point of consensus by the conclusion of the debate on clause 7—has been frustrated by the Government's inability to come up with any legislative proposals. Therefore, I am inclined to support as the better of the two alternatives the amendment of the hon. Member for Exeter.

I should like to say a word about the amendment in my name and the names of some of my hon. Friends—amendment No. 25. The point of that amendment is that there may not be fair and adequate testing of the minority of children that we discussed earlier, children whose first language is not English, who are brought up in a multi-racial school and are tested and assessed according to the traditional methods employed in that school, which predate the onset of the multi-racial society. The best way of determining that that has not happened is for the parents concerned and those who advise them—if they are to go to the process of appeal, and so on, in the small amount of additional time that we now have—to know how the assessment was made.

I have discussed the matter with some of those teaching in multi-racial schools. Their reservation about the assessments used now is that almost all assessments for special educational need were devised by, and largely standardised in, white groups. They predate the multi-racial school of today and the number of children with learning difficulties that derive from not having English as a first language.

That means that the ethnic minority children whose mother tongue is not English are inevitably at a disadvantage, not only against those brought up on what I might call the "Janet and John" category of Ladybird books, but against all children who have grown up from birth in the English-speaking society, who are automatically better placed to answer the kind of simple questions that are rooted in that community and its collective experience, which form the basis of the test.

I understand that the main intelligence test used is one devised by Wechsler in the United States many years ago—the WISC test, containing a number of questions about family behaviour, personal behaviour and the society in which the child lives, which has little relevance to children from a multi-cultural non-English background. This might involve localised knowledge. For example, the child might be asked the distance from London to Edinburgh. Hon. Members might think that a simple question, but it is a bewildering one, unlikely to provide a fair assessment, for a child from a different culture with little or no experience of the relatives involved in the matter.

I commend to the House amendment No 25, which would give the parents concerned the right to know about the tools of analysis used in the assessment of their children, in particular the names of the tests, so that they would be able to check back and get the advice that they need about whether the form of assessment had been fair.

Mr. Greenway

The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point. He asks that parents should have access to an area of considerable expertise. One cannot be certain that they would have the background to understand that to which access is sought for them. I wonder whether it is wise.

Mr. Whitehead

That is the voice of a professional guarding his precious store of professional knowledge. I defer to the hon. Gentleman's concern and wide experience. The essence of the case that I put is that in some circumstances it can be shown that the genesis of the tests predate the coming into our schools of large numbers of children from varied ethnic and linguistic backgrounds. If that is the case—it is the contention of many parents and those in the NAME organisation—we should be able to prove to the parents concerned that tests have been used which make a fair assessment of their child, taking account of the child's special background and problems. I commend to the House amendment No. 25 and also, on balance, amendment No. 22 moved by the hon. Member for Exeter, since we have had a deafening silence from the Government.

Mr. Mark Carlisle

The hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) is correct in saying that hon. Members debating this matter in Committee came very near to a consensus. I have read the proceedings of the debate. I have paid special attention to the manner in which the debate ended. It is clear that hon. Members who began with somewhat disparate views drew together in trying to achieve a solution.

It is, however, unfair for the hon. Gentleman to say that the attempt to achieve a consensus has necessarily been disregarded or thrown away by what he describes as the Government's silence on the matter. We have examined the matter again. We have come to the judgment, rightly or wrongly—it is a matter of judgment—that this is not an area in which we could put forward any legislative change that would help the situation.

I shall not speak at length, because the matter was discussed thoroughly in Committee. Anyone reading that debate will agree that the real difficulty is that one is faced with two conflicting principles. On the one side there is the principle of the right of parents to know as much as possible about their child, and on the other there is the right to ensure that we do not inhibit those who have to make the reports from being frank and honest in those reports, in a way that might damage a child's interests. It is a difficult balance.

Everyone wants parents to have as much access as possible to information. In Committee hon. Members realised, as my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter made clear today, that there are two difficulties. Sometimes there is information that the specialist may not be willing to include in the report if he knows that the report will be made public. Secondly, even if there is evidence of a sensitive nature that it is right parents should know, it is important to consider the circumstances in which the parent is given the information.

It is in an attempt to try to achieve what the Government believe is the right balance that the Bill is silent on the matter. Clause 7(3) requires that the parent should be given a copy of the statement. That statement will have to describe the need that has been identified and the educational provision that is to be made. It does not go on to say that the parent should, in all circumstances, have a right to all reports that have been made on the child.

The hon. Gentleman said that it appeared that the Special Standing Committee had come to a consensus. The consensus, or near consensus, was that if the information was to be given, the right person to give it was the named person. That was my impression. My hon. Friend the Member for Exeter said today that he now accepts that, for reasons that have emerged in further discussions, the named person is probably not the right person.

The hon. Member for Derby, North said that it would have to be some special intermediary. The difficulty lies in deciding the special intermediary, to be written into legislative terms. It is not the case that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State and the Minister of State, Baroness Young, have not given considerable thought to the matter. They have, but in the end we have found that it is difficult to come to a solution that we could recommend to the House.

If it is known by the professionals that information will be made available in all circumstances, will they be full and frank in what they say in the report? I do not see that that concern is diminished or removed by saying that information will be disclosed only to an intermediary, who will then decide whether to hand it on to the parents. If it is to be disclosed to an intermediary who then decides whether to tell the parent? The argument that that may inhibit what is originally put in the report applies just as strongly as if the information were made available direct to the parent.

Secondly, as my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter said, it is not necessarily the case that the named person is the right and most appropriate person to make the judgment about what information should be handed on, or that he has the type of relationship with the parent that means that he is the most sensible person to hand on sensitive information.

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Mr. Hannam

There appears to be some confusion here. We have passed the stage of arguing about whether certain information should be held back. We have accepted that all the information relating to something of importance to the future of a handicapped child, namely, the statement of his special educational needs, should be made available, and we are discussing how that could be done. We have accepted that professional reports find their way to intermediaries in all situations—either through a district health secretary or a Member of Parliament—and they have to decide how to transmit that information.

The question is not whether information should be withheld—we agree that at some stage the information must be given—but whether the cold, professional report written at an earlier stage should not be seen by the parent. Someone—not necessarily the named person, as we do not wish to legislate for that—should tell the parent that he has a right to have the matter explained.

Mr. Carlisle

I do not dispute what my hon. Friend says. The parent should have the opportunity to have all the matters explained. The best person to do that is probably the professional who made the assessment. I apologise if I have got it wrong. I thought that the hon. Member for Derby, North had said that he had carefully worded his amendment to meet the danger that if the report had to be disclosed certain things might be kept back. I thought that he said that he would not expect all aide memoires provided by the doctor to be disclosed to the parents. Is that aide memoir not part of the "relevant information" referred to in his amendment and on which the statement is made?

I do not wish to be thought critical. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has made a valiant attempt to reconcile those two principles. It is difficult to do so. In the end, having considered the matter in the light of the debate, we reached the view that benign silence was the best answer. Of course disclosures should be as full and as frank as possible. We should not in any way condone the unnecessary withholding of information that a parent requires for a better understanding of his child's special educational needs. If parents have to be informed of matters of a delicate, painful or highly technical nature, the most appropriate way to do so is by a face-to-face interview.

We agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter that the named person is not necessarily the right person to do that. We remain concerned that if the professionals—I think that my hon. Friend accepted this, although I might have misunderstood him—felt that there was to he direct access to all their written reports it might inhibit—

Mr. Hannam

The reason why I did not use the words "all evidence" in my amendment was to avoid the point being made by my right hon. and learned Friend. "All evidence" indicates to me all the documents, whereas "information" indicates a presentation of the evidence, but in some different form.

Mr. Carlisle

I had intended to conclude my remarks by suggesting further consideration of my hon. Friend's points. I do not think that there is a great difference between us. He has attempted to provide words that accept that not necessarily all evidence would have to be made available in all circumstances, but that there would be a degree of discretion in the information made available.

I give the undertaking that in the guidance notes local education authorities will be encouraged to be as frank as possible with parents. We are anxious to find a way to provide as much information as possible for parents, as required by the Bill, provided that it does not go so far as to be potentially damaging to the interests of the children.

I am prepared to say to my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter that before the Bill goes to another place we shall consider whether there is a form of words that will help to meet his case. I do not believe that the words contained in his amendment are acceptable. One possible approach would be to include a statutory right for a parent, on request, to have a face-to-face interview with the person who made the report. We shall give further consideration to these matters in the light of my hon. Friend's speech.

Mr. Wigley

The right hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned the important possibility of incorporating the face-to-face element. If it is not possible to incorporate a legislative provision for a personal interview, as opposed to a cold piece of paper, will the face-to-face element be part of any guidelnes that are given to local authorities?

Mr. Carlisle

I can give that assurance. We shall try to cover this issue in any guidance that we give. I cannot say whether we shall be able to meet my hon. Friend's argument in statutory form, but, having listened to his speech, I am prepared to ascertain whether there is any way of accommodating him.

Mr. Whitehead

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman take on board also the arguments that I raised when speaking to amendment No. 25 and confirm that guidance will include the right of the parent to receive information about the methods of assessment and testing that have been used in respect of his child?

Mr. Carlisle

I should like to have the opportunity to give that further thought. We are dealing with a difficult area involving sensitive information. I do not want to answer the hon. Gentleman immediately, as I might not be able to justify the answer subsequently. We shall consider what he has said, as well as the speech of my hon. Friend.

I hope that my hon. Friend will feel that this has been a valuable debate and will not press the amendment in view of the nature of my reply.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

I had hoped that we would have a more helpful reply from the Secretary of State. That was one of the reasons why I kept quiet. I realise that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was trying to be helpful, but his answer was disappointing.

If we are to make any reality of the appeals procedure, it is fundamental that the appellant has all the information on which to base his appeal. How can someone be expected to conduct an appeal if all the information on which the case will be decided is not available to him? I am sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman's experience in the courts will enable him to realise that he would find it impossible to argue a case in the courts if he knew that at the end of the day, after he had argued the case, a piece of information would be slipped to the judge that he would be unable to challenge.

The Minister has said that he will go as far as he can by way of administrative guidance. It is essential that on the face of the Bill we set out the clear duty to supply all the information. It is important that the professionals who make the assessment give as much information as possible, if not all the information, to the parents as they proceed. If they do so, few problems will arise. It must be the professional attitude from the start that the information will be disclosed and that those involved will take the trouble to offer an explanation so that the parent has the information and has it in a form that he can understand, taking into account any disabilities that he may have.

If that happens all the way through the assessment process, there will be few problems of disclosure of information when the actual statement is issued. The need for that sort of approach must be put into the Bill. Unfortunately, in my experience some of the professionals who are involved in assessments do not believe in that frankness as they go along. That may be because of pressure of time, or perhaps there are other reasons. However, they do not convey all the information. It is important to include that requirement in the Bill, because it changes attitudes and ensures that all the information is made available all along.

I plead with the Secretary of State to make sure that in another place an amendment is made to make it clear to all the professionals involved that the information must be conveyed if the appeals procedure is to mean anything at all. It may take the professionals a little longer to give the information, but I suspect that if they give it and it is understood there will be very few appeals, because the professionals will have been able to take the parents along with them. If they do that, they will save themselves a great deal of work and save the parents a great deal of heartache. That will certainly be the best thing for the child.

Mr. Field

I shall be brief, but I do not want the debate to end without stressing one matter. I am grateful for the undertaking that the Secretary of State has given. However, he seemed to misunderstand the position that we reached in Committee. That position is clear from what I said in Committee on 24 March, when I summarised the debate to the Under-Secretary: I hope that we have reached the stage where the Minister will take the idea away and come back at a later stage to give a right of access except in a few instances where the groups of professionals drawing up the report feel that it would be harmful for the family, including the children concerned. In Committee we established a right of access for the vast majority of families to the reports that make up the statement. Part of the Secretary of State's misunderstanding is that we were arguing that all the information should be channelled through the named person. The point was put to the Under-Secretary: I hope that we have not reached a situation in which the named person will be the funnel through which all information is passed", to which the Under-Secretary replied No". At one stage in our proceedings, the Under-Secretary drew on his considerable experience of the Old Testament and said: the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life". The letter killeth that idea on 26 May, when he replied to my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock).

I hope that the Government will go away and look carefully at the views of the whole Committee concerning the right of access to the information, except in a few instances. In Committee we were concerned with what the trigger mechanism should be for that tiny minority of cases. At no point did any member of the Committee dispute that parents should have that right of access.

Mr. Mark Carlisle

With great respect, I do not know why the hon. Gentleman thinks that there is much difference between what he said and what I said. I apologise for misunderstanding about the named person. The hon. Gentleman said: I hope that we have reached the stage where the Minister will take the idea away and come back at a later stage to give a right of access except in a few instances where the groups of professionals drawing up the report feel that it would be harmful for the family"—[Official Report, Special Standing Committee, 24 March 1981; c. 388.] I thought that that is what I was saying. We welcome the widest possible provision of information, but we must accept the fact that there may be occasions when the professionals do not feel that they are in a position to give that information.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman not accept that although he may make statements in the House and send out guidance, some professionals will look at what is written in the Bill? It is therefore important to put this statement of opinion into the legislation. I appreciate that it may be difficult to draft, but the presumption about giving information means that such a provision should be in the Bill rather than in guidance or in Hansard.

8.45 pm
Mr. Whitehead

With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should like to sum up. The hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam) may withdraw the amendment, but I should point out that we shall be watching carefully to see what happens in another place as a result of what the Secretary of State has said. We are disappointed by the failure to make progress following our discussions in Committee.

We know that when we consider Lords amendments in the last week of the Session, when everyone will be rushing off to the Royal wedding or to whatever anti-Royal wedding demonstrations he may be attending, the pressure on Government time will be great. However, as a result of amendments in another place, we hope that the Government will bring back a proposal containing a statement of the general right of access. That does not exist in the Bill at present and it could lead to a demand from certain people to know why they should comply with something that is simply exhortation and which does not lay a specific duty on any individual.

There are plenty of examples, such as the Children Act 1975, of particular individuals being given responsibilities in relation to a child and his treatment and assessment. I hope that the Government will look at this matter again in another place and come back with something better than we have seen today.

Mr. Hannam

Each time we have debated this subject we have moved a little further towards the ultimate objective, which is to achieve full access of information for parents. I very much welcome my right hon. and learned Friend's assurance that he will look at this matter further. I hope that the Government will produce an amendment in the other place. We have provided enough information and reading material to keep the Minister of State, Baroness Young, active for at least a week. I welcome the assurances given by my right hon. and learned Friend, and in view of them I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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