HC Deb 06 April 1984 vol 57 cc1311-22

Amendment made: No. 10, in page 4, line 36, leave out subsection (3) and insert— '(3) Part I of this Act extends to England and Wales only, Part II extends to Scotland only and in Part III section 5(1) and (5)(a) and section 6 do not extend to Scotland and section 5(1), (2) and (5)(a) and (c) does not extend to Northern Ireland.'.—[Mr. Wood.]

1.35 pm
Mr. Wood

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

I am most grateful to hon. Members for their patience in the scrutiny of the somewhat complicated amendments that we have looked at today. At one stage I felt like the man on the Waterloo train, surrounded as I was by so many learned hon. Gentlemen. I am grateful that I have some Scottish antecedents and can associate myself with the concern expressed about Scotland. In this Third Reading debate I am glad to draw the objectives and effects of the Bill together into what I hope is a sensible and effective package of measures to fight the evils of the abduction of children.

I shall first place on record my gratitude to the extremely valuable and detailed work of the Criminal Law Revision Committee which, in its 14th report, drew attention to the inadequacies and antiquity of the present law on child stealing, and recommended improvements, on which the Bill is based. In the preparation of this Bill, we have been in close contact with the chairman of the CLRC, Lord Justice Lawton, who has continued to give us the benefit of his wise advice on the proper framing of this legislation, and I extend my particular thanks to him. I should also like to thank my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for their assistance in the preparation of the Bill. I express my deep appreciation to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for the time that he has taken with me in consultation, and for being here on a number of Fridays to ensure that the Bill achieves a satisfactory passage.

I am extremely grateful to all hon. Members who are here today, and to those who contributed to the most helpful and interesting debate that we held on this Bill in Committee. I am sure that all those parents who have suffered extreme distress as a result of the abduction of their children will be somewhat heartened by the approach in the House to this Bill, which has been one of integrity and sincerity that has cut across party lines in an effort to make sure that the legislation works properly and justly.

I mentioned that the amendments that we have been considering appear complex, but I think it is helpful to clarify exactly what we now have before us. This is a Bill which at Committee stage was warmly welcomed, but in which we felt that there might be three improvements to be made. The amendments that have been moved today effect those improvements. We have plugged the loophole that was acknowledged to exist in relation to a child abducted abroad via Scotland, ensured that children in care are protected from abduction in an appropriate way, and altered the burden of proof for an offence under clause 1 so that the onus of proof lies with the prosecution.

I fully understand and appreciate the concerns that have been expressed, but nevertheless I feel that, broadly speaking, we have, in terms of the burden of proof, got the matter right. There may be matters of significant detail which, as has been said, can be looked at in another place. I am most grateful to the House for its acceptance of the amendments. I think that we can now be confident that the Bill is a suitable and effective measure that will be warmly welcomed by the general public, particularly by those distressed parents to whom I have already referred.

Among the wealth of new legislation that faces us partly as a result of technological advances and partly because of changing values and mores, the Bill has the distinct merit of addressing a continuing and specific evil that no healthy society should tolerate. In fact, I shall go as far as to say that the Bill addresses two distinct evils. They are of course related, in that both a clause 1 and clause 2 offence relate to the taking away of a child, but the circumstances are usually quite distinct and it is important to recognise the need for both types of action to be properly covered by the criminal law.

It is important to recognise that the present law on child stealing contained in section 56 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 is defective, if I may use such a strong term, in two ways. Not only does it make it impossible for a parent to be convicted because it does not apply to a person who claims any right to the child, but it cannot be used for the particularly nasty kind of enticement of a child by a stranger where no violence or deception has been employed.

The third evil, which was not apparent before the Regina v Daley case as remaining unaddressed satisfactorily by the criminal law, is the crime of kidnapping a child. The Regina v Daley case dealt with the abduction of a child by a parent in particularly brutal circumstances, but it is important to recognise that the judgment in the case—which is subject to appeal to the House of Lords — relates also to the kidnapping of children by strangers.

In 1978 a child was taken by her father to New Zealand in circumstances that involved forced entry, the carrying of a rope, knife and alleged gas bomb, and the assistance of two violent men. The same child who had come back to England with her mother in 1979 under a custody order granted by the New Zealand courts was again snatched from her home, struggling and screaming, by her father in 1981. It was judged that there is no criminal offence of a father kidnapping his own infant known to the law and also — here I quote from The Times Law Report of 1 November 1983— lest it should be thought that their Lordships came to their conclusions with the problems arising out of matrimonial discord only in mind, they made it clear that their decision was of general application. Accordingly it would affect a person who was not a parent and who took away a child. So until the Bill is on the statute book we have a position in law relating to children in this country that I find unacceptable, and I think that that view is shared by the Criminal Law Revision Committee and by others who have studied the problem. If a child is removed by force against its will, it cannot be protected by the common law offence of kidnapping, which does not seem to bite on the taking of children under 16; if a child is taken without force or fraud it cannot be protected by the 1861 Act; and if a child is taken away by a parent even in the most distressing and brutal circumstances, there is no protection under the current law.

There can be no doubt that the Bill is necessary and desirable. More than that, it is vital and correctly reflects society's abhorrence of the evils that it seeks to address. I hope that when the Bill becomes law parents who live in fear that their child might be abducted will draw some comfort from the measure and that individuals who have ever contemplated taking or keeping a child away from those who have responsibility for its care will be in no doubt that the full force of the criminal law protects the most vulnerable members of our society from such activity.

In Committee and on Report we heard about instances of horrific dimensions, when children have been taken. I have stated how weak the present law is. Furthermore, there is no doubt that the number of such instances, with appalling effects, is increasing year by year. It is high time that we instituted this piece of legislation, and I commend it warmly to the House.

1.45 pm
Mr. Bermingham

I congratulate the hon. Member for Stevenage (Mr. Wood) on an excellent and admirable Bill which undoubtedly closes a loophole in our law and sets us on the path towards trying to solve a very sad, difficult and international problem, for many cases of child abduction have an international dimension.

From the day when the Bill becomes law, children who live in the United Kingdom, who are ordinarily resident here, and who are being educated and brought up in a home in this land, will at least be safe to the extent that, if anyone seeks to abduct them and take them abroad, the person committing that horrendous offence will be subject to our criminal law and, where extradition treaties exist, can be brought back. It will be a weapon in the armoury of those who, on several occasions, have had to seek to recover children from foreign countries.

My interest in the subject began many years ago when a client of mine came to see me. Her two small children had been abducted by force and taken, with the aid of two girls, to the West Indies. Nothing could be done about the children, the husband being in the West Indies. To my knowledge, those two children are still in the West Indies today. They will by now be adults. Unfortunately, their mother did not have the means to employ detectives or lawyers in the West Indies and did not even have the means to travel out there to search for her children. She has not seen them for many years.

The ironical aspect of the case is that the two girls who assisted in the abduction were prosecuted under English law and were rightly sent to prison, because they had participated in the destruction of a family unit in Britain and in the destruction of the way of life of the children — because it is the children who are of primary importance here.

It is sad that the Bill cannot go far enough. As I mentioned earlier this morning, I have a case at present concerning a constituent. She has no hesitation in letting me speak openly and publicly of the case. Indeed, it has had the beginning of a happy solution; I can only hope that eventually it will have one. It is a classic example of what can happen.

The parents separated and the case concerns a little girl called Leila Moore. She is 12 years of age. She was brought up here all her life and attended school in St. Helens all her life until last August. For years she had gone on holiday to Turkey to see her grandmother. Her father also lived in Turkey, or so it was believed. Over four to five years consistently the child had flown to Turkey and had consistently returned at the end of the holiday. There was, therefore, no way in which my constituent could anticipate what was to happen in the summer of last year.

In July 1983, Leila went off to see her grandmother. She landed at Istanbul and went to the grandmother's place outside Istanbul. A telephone call on that occasion from the child to the mother is the last real contact that her mother has had with her. At the end of that holiday her father took her to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, a country with which, regrettably, we have no extradition treaty at present, as far as I am aware. Despite all the efforts of our Government, and representations to the Saudi Arabian Government through our ambassador — I make no criticisms of the efforts of the Foreign Office, or of the Prime Minister, who became involved at one stage—little progress has been made and the child is still there.

The happy part of the story is that since Wednesday of this week— I am not known on all occasions for my love of the media—through the intervention of TV-am, which transmitted the story, the Saudi Government have said that they will do all that they can to help. Nevertheless, the matter had to go to such lengths for there to be any hope of recovering a child in such circumstances. I wish the Saudi Government every success in the facilities that they have offered, first, in tracing the child and, secondly, and more important, in making arrangements for the mother to go there and see her daughter.

Hopefully, she will bring the child back to her home in this country, where she was part of a family unit. The mother has remarried and there is another child of the second marriage. It is a happy family unit and all concerned are anxious that Leila should come home. As I say, I welcome the efforts of the Saudi Government to bring about a happy resolution of this tragic case, a classic example of what is happening internationally.

It has been suggested that there are 50 to 100 cases a year. The figures are much higher than that. The reality is that many more children go missing, and the problem is not confined to cases in the middle east and the far east. They are to he found in north and south America, France and Germany.

Too often, children become pawns in the battle between parents, battles that sometimes turn on property and money. Such a child becomes a pawn in forcing a solution of the problem by one parent on the other. The Bill will stop children being snatched away from this country because we shall be able to follow them to their destinations, as it were with the sanction of the criminal law, and those children will return home.

I am grateful to the Minister for taking on board my suggestion of having a direction from the Home Office to the police authorities, but the Bill must not of itself be allowed to become a weapon in the battle between warring parents. That is my only reservation about the Bill, which can be resolved by administrative direction, and for that I am thankful.

While we may have helped to solve the problem of children who are ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom and subject to English court orders when taken out of the United Kingdom, I hope that, by way of a private Member's Bill or direct legislation, the Government will consider the problem of the child on holiday. Leaving the United Kingdom in the summer of every year are thousands of children journeying abroad to visit separated or divorced parents in other lands. Those children also need protection. I hope that the example that I have given of my constituent's daughter will serve both as a lesson and as an invitation to the House to consider protecting those other children. I welcome the Bill

Mr. Rhodes James

This debate marks the end of a chapter and represents a further stage in a story which is greatly to the credit of Parliament and democracy. The story began when a couple, whose son had been abducted, came to my surgery in Cambridge in 1978. It was a long and complicated story which eventually—thanks to the intervention of the then British ambassador to the United States, Mr. Peter Jay, and the then American ambassador to London, Dr. Kingman Brewster, and others—resulted in the return of that boy to his mother. It was followed by other cases which made me realise that I was dealing not with a few isolated incidents in my constituency but with a national problem.

Thanks to a considerable number of people—Mr. Robert Cryer, the former Member for Keighley, my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Pym), my right hon. Friend the Member for Whitney (Mr. Hurd) and the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Harrison) — we devised a Bill, presented in the last Parliament, to deal with this major problem.

I had all my army organised. All the ammunition was available. The one event that I did not anticipate was the general election in June. As a result of that the Bill, which we had worked for and which had the strong support of the present Solicitor-General, then a Minister of State at the Home Office for whom no credit can be too great, the measure fell.

I was delighted that my hon. Friend the Member for Stevenage (Mr. Wood) was able to gain a place in the ballot and to take up this very important Bill. It is a remarkable achievement for a newly elected Member to carry through the House of Commons and, I am sure, through another place a piece of legislation which is wholly beneficial, is long overdue and with which his name will always be associated.

What we have always been about is simply the protection of children. My only concern this morning arose when we discussed a new clause in the course of which we seemed to be talking too much about the rights and the protection of defendants and too little about the protection of children. However, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, who has given such care and attention to the Bill, emphasised that this aspect would be borne very much in mind before the Bill went on to the statute book.

It is a story starting with one case, and then developing into others, which has involved members of all parties coming together to endeavour to remedy an evil and to protect a minority. At a time when Parliament and Back Benchers tend to be underestimated or criticised, here is an occasion when we have come together, regardless of party, to support and defend the most defenceless of our citizens.

1.53 pm
Mr. Lawrence

It is an honour to have been invited to be one of the Bill's sponsors. There is also an honour which must be accorded to its promoter, my hon. Friend the Member for Stevenage (Mr. Wood), who with great dedication and skill has, with the assistance of a number of organisations and individuals, piloted it through the House. I ought to mention in that connection the Children Abroad Self-Help Group which has conducted a strong and influential campaign.

I also take the opportunity of congratulating the Criminal Law Revision Committee. After four years, its recommendations are more or less implemented. Too few of the recommendations of the Law Commission, the Criminal Law Revision Committee and other organisations are considered and put into legislation by the House, some for good reasons, but most for no reason other than that the House seems to be apathetic to some of the important recommendations made by those bodies for the improvement of the law. If we go on ignoring the recommendations of those bodies, it will not be long before people of high calibre will not want to serve on them. I am delighted that these recommendations have more or less got into the Bill.

The Bill is very necessary. The increase in the divorce rate, the greater freedom of international movement, the growing number of international marriages, the increasing number of separations and the greater number of cases involving the snatching of children are important reasons demonstrating the urgent need for such a measure.

I wish to give particular importance to one. If the snatching of children in breach of custody orders and taking them outside the jurisdiction were to go on having no legal redress, the law would continue to seem to be an ass. It is important for the reputation of the law in the country that steps should be taken to make sure that those orders are obeyed. Unfortunately, foreign courts do not always recognise, let alone enforce, our court orders. That is a substantial problem, and one that has been addressed on the international scene pretty extensively, but, alas, without too much action.

There have been two international conventions. First is the Council of Europe convention on recognition and enforcement of decisions relating to custody of children, which was signed on 20 May 1980 by 15 countries, including the United Kingdom, and which applies whether there has been a kidnapping of the child or not. Second is the Hague convention on the civil aspects of international child abduction, finalised in October 1980 by the Hague conference on private international law. That has so far been signed by Switzerland, Greece, France, Canada and the United States. However, the question of Britain's signature is still under consideration, although my noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor has made a paper available generally for consideration by all interested parties. The ratification of those conventions by the United Kingdom is a long way off. Until they are ratified, and effect is given in other countries to decisions by the British courts, this Bill in particular is only a very partial solution of the problem.

Although it is an important Bill, not too much should be expected of it. Problems arise even out of this Bill itself. There is the problem of extradition. It is unsatisfactory that the Bill will have no practical effect outside this country in any country that does not extradite our criminals. There is also the problem of abduction outside the jurisdiction, and the particular problem of abduction in Scotland which, as the Minister said, is only partly repaired by the Bill.

One other important outstanding matter is that the judicial decisions of the English courts are not automatically enforceable by the jurisdictions of Scotland and Northern Ireland. Some work must be done on that matter. In answer to a question that I asked of the Government in 1982, I was told that a joint working paper was published in 1976, and that the final report and the draft Bill were being prepared. That was in 1982. When I asked again on 12 May 1983, I received this reply in a letter from the then Minister of State: The Commission's work on these issues is in its final stages. Their proposals will be embodied in a final Report accompanied by a draft Bill, which should be submitted to the Lord Chancellor in the near future. That was nearly a year ago, and still nothing has happened. I do not know whether it is unparliamentary language to suggest that someone somewhere should remove a digit, but it is time that something was done to speed the repair of that particular breach in the enforcement of the orders.

I wish to delay the Bill not one moment longer. I think there is great merit in a Bill which provides the police with a little more encouragement to enforce the law, because they react more actively to criminal law than they do to civil law. It may therefore stop some children from being taken out of the jurisdiction in the first place. There is also great merit in having a criminal law which can be used as a shot to be fired across the bows of an excited parent who is thinking of taking a child out of the jurisdiction in breach of court orders and thus is about to cause great distress all round.

I congratulate everyone concerned with the Bill, and I hope that it has a speedy passage through the other place, but I also trust that proper consideration will be given to the burden of proof point which I raised on amendment No. 11.

2.4 pm

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

I, too, wish to detain the House as little as possible. However, I have three brief points to make. I join my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) in warmly congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Stevenage (Mr. Wood) and, in particular, my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James), on all the work that has gone into preparing the Bill and on remedying at last a clear and appalling oversight in the defences under the English criminal law. It has been described as bizarre that neither the crime of kidnapping nor the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 in any way protect children in certain circumstances against being taken away from those who have their legitimate custody.

I have three reservations about the Bill, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will consider them carefully. My first reservation concerns new clause 11. I apologise for the fact that I was not here for the whole of the discussion on that new clause, but I was abducted by my children so that I could give them baked beans in the canteen downstairs. Thus, I am not sure how far this point has already been dealt with. Nevertheless, I am not entirely happy with the width of defence made available under that clause or with the way in which it has been worded so that any "belief' affords a defence to someone who has taken away a child. As that is an entirely subjective test, as my hon. Friend the Minister said, it is something entirely within the defendant's mind. I would rather see the provision made more widely criticisable by the court, and would rather have the word "reasonable" inserted. People would then be entitled to consider not only whether the person had that belief, but whether he or she reasonably had it. Therefore, I hope that the Government will consider that further.

Secondly, the Bill only provides a criminal sanction against one or other parent who wrongly takes a child abroad, and does not do anything to prevent abduction by one or other parent within the bounds of this country. I appreciate that, within that jurisdiction, the civil courts have a remedy, and can issue a warrant for contempt and bring the person concerned to justice, but it is a much more laborious process than that involving an arrest. Therefore, I hope that the Government will consider that further, and see whether some criminal sanction should be included at that level.

Thirdly, I notice the distinction between clauses 1 and 2 in relation to the detention of children. In clause 2, the offence is committed if somebody, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, … takes or detains a child under the age of sixteen". However, under clause 1, which relates to parents taking children out of the United Kingdom, the phrase is anyone who takes or sends the child out of the United Kingdom". That point was raised earlier by the hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham), and I agree that it may well be that the abduction, in so far as it occurs, could occur outside the United Kingdom in the first place. If I read the legislation correctly, if that should occur, no offence is committed. I should not have thought that it would be very difficult to add the words, "or detains" to clause 1 so as to embrace that offence, or to make that act an offence.

This has been an immensely complicated Bill and I cannot congratulate those involved too warmly. I recommend the way in which it has been put together, and I have no doubt that the House will warmly endorse it.

2.10 pm
Mr. Gary Waller (Keighley)

I shall detain the House for only a moment. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stevenage (Mr. Wood) and also endorse what was said by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) about the work of the Children Abroad Self-Help Group.

That organisation was started in Keighley. As an illustration of the support for the Bill, I must tell the House that my predecessor, Mr. Bob Cryer, was also involved in this matter. The founder of the group is a Mrs. Jean Burt, and the value of the Bill can be shown by her case. Her child was snatched and it cost her and her second husband £10,000 to retrieve the child. Until the Bill takes effect three months after it becomes law, there will remain the risk that that child could be snatched again. Thanks to the efforts of my hon. Friend, other hon. Members and the many people to whom reference has already been made, that risk will diminish.

The work of the Children Abroad Self-Help Group will continue. Unfortunately, for many children and parents the Bill has come too late. There is still a great deal of work to do. It is a tribute to my hon. Friend and many others that future instances of abduction will be fewer than in the past.

2.11 pm
Mr. Alfred Dubs (Battersea)

I, too, wish to congratulate the hon. Member for Stevenage (Mr. Wood) on having successfully piloted the Bill to its present stage. I wish him all success in its future stages in another place.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman and to the Minister for taking note of various points made in Committee. Judging by the complicated amendments, they went to a great deal of trouble to meet those points, especially the point about children in care. Of course, there are bound to be a number of loose ends. The question of extradition has already been mentioned, and I can only add my voice to the plea that we should consider again our extradition arrangements, especially for children, to try to make the Bill bite more in those countries with which we currently do not have extradition agreements.

It is astonishing to realise that the Bill fills such an obvious gap in the law. I suspect that many people who have never had direct experience of what can happen when a child is abducted must be astonished that in 1984 the House is having to pass a law that they probably thought existed from time immemorial. Until I experienced a constituency case three or four years ago, to which I referred in Committee, I had no idea that there was such a gap in the law.

Although the Bill is not and cannot be watertight, and children will be taken out of the country despite the law, the Bill states clearly the views of the House and the overwhelming majority of people in Britain, it clearly states the law and it ensures that there is a better chance of children not being taken out of the country. Therefore, it must be welcomed. It would be foolish of us to spend time delaying the Bill in an attempt to tighten up the one or two possible loopholes. That must be for another day.

I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Stevenage will appreciate that I was concerned that the Juries (Disqualification) Bill that we discussed earlier might in some way delay this worthy measure. I had no wish in any way to jeopardise the passage of the Bill. I see that the hon. Gentleman is nodding, and I am glad that he understands my point.

Taking away children against their wishes and the wishes of the parent who has custody is one of the vilest deeds imaginable. I have seen letters written by children abroad who had been taken away from their mother. Those letters had an air of desperation, helplessness and hopelessness, the like of which I have not seen in any other letters that I have received while a Member of Parliament. It is for the sake of such children that it is important that the Bill goes through. I wish it every success in getting on to the statute book.

2.14 pm
Mr. Mellor

It is a real pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Dubs) and I agree with everything that he has said. A pleasant feature of the Bill's passage has been the all-party support for it. It is also impressive to note that it has not been unquestioning support. Everyone has wanted to get this right and there have been useful discussions of detail. My hon. Friend the Member for Stevenage (Mr. Wood) showed himself to be extremely obliging in responding to the points raised both in Committee and in the Chamber.

My hon. Friend has rightly been praised for picking up the torch unexpectedly knocked out of the hand of my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) by the general election last June. I echo the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge in saying that the Bill has been a formidable achievement for my hon. Friend the Member for Stevenage. In the first Session of his first Parliament he has piloted through the House not just a small, technical Bill but a full-scale reform of part of the criminal law. It must be a very long time since an hon. Member has piloted through the House, at such an early stage in his parliamentary career, a measure of such magnitude which, I am confident, will remain on the statute book for many years to come. My hon. Friend will be able to look back on it with pride. The aplomb and panache with which he has handled the debates belie his lack of seniority in the House and he and his constituents can be very proud of what has happened today.

The confused tangle of common and statute law was more than ready to be swept away. As the hon. Member for Battersea has said, it is astonishing that that had not already been done. I hope that between us we have got this right. My hon. Friend and I will certainly reflect on the points that have been made today so that if there is substance in them appropriate amendments can be made in another place. We certainly take the criticisms in the helpful spirit in which they were intended.

The crucial issue is that for the first time a child, whether it be at home with a parent or guardian, in a local authority home pursuant to a care order, in a home run by a voluntary society, or in a foster home, will be protected from having its rights violated and its future potentially ruined by the selfish act of an adult who, instead of putting the child's interests first, puts his own selfish interests first. If something is done to prevent some of the heartbreak cases of which we have heard, it will be a step in the right direction. The Bill will certainly help. The fact that seven years' imprisonment is now the maximum sentence for such offences will be a deterrent. The Bill will also enable the police to act more quickly. It will not, of course, eradicate the problem completely. I am sure that people will still act foolishly in some circumstances. As has been said, more will need to be done.

It should be noted that the Bill rightly goes wider than dealing with parents who abduct children whose custody they have lost. It also embraces the mercenaries—the unpleasant people who are prepared to be a party to such things in return for money. It also covers those who, for a variety of reasons, seek to take children away for purposes which may or may not be sexually based but who, although they have plainly committed an act that most of us would regard as criminal, can now escape scot-free.

To illustrate the comprehensive nature of the protection given to children by my hon. Friend's Bill, I remind the House briefly of the case of Jones, in which a 40-year-old man met two 10-year-old girls at the local swimming baths, travelled with them on the bus, paying their fares, and suggested that they should go for a walk with him. He told the girls to go home and change and meet him later, when he would give them more sweets. Fortunately, the parents were suspicious and the police went to the spot where the man was waiting. He readily admitted that he had intended to take the girls for a walk in order to assault them sexually. Unfortunately, the act was not sufficiently proximate to be an attempted indecent assault so the prosecution had to rely on section 20 of the 1956 Act, which prohibits an adult taking a child out of the possession and against the will of the parent. But the court heard that that conduct was not a sufficiently substantial interference with the possessory relationship between parent and child. As a result, there is a gap in the law.

Clause 2 deals with that and means that the nuisances who can sometimes take an unhealthy interest in small children will also be brought to book under the Bill as was recommended by the Criminal Law Revision Committee and as is right. The Bill is a comprehensive measure that has been rightly applauded and I am sure that I speak for the House when I wish it a speedy passage to the other place.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.

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