HC Deb 02 May 1986 vol 96 cc1249-51

Amendments made: No. 30, in page 5, line 29, leave out subsections (1) and (2).

No. 31, in page 5, line 33, at end insert— '(2A) Section [Regulations as to accommodation at home of children in care] above shall come into force on such date as the Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument appoint.'.

No. 32, in page 5, line 34, leave out '3' and insert '[Appeals]'.[Mr. Whitney.]

Mr. Whitney

I beg to move amendment No. 33, in page 5, line 34, leave out '4 and 5', and insert 'and 4 above shall'

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take Government amendment No. 34.

Mr. Whitney

These are both technical amendments, which provide for the means by which the clause on appeal should come into force. It is intended that the measure will come in as soon as possible.

Question put and agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 34, in page 5, line 35, after `order', insert 'made by statutory instrument'.—[Mr. Whitney.]

Mr. Whitney

I beg to move amendment No. 35, in page 5, line 37, leave out subsection (4).

This amendment removes the provision that all sections of the Bill shall come into force within one year of the Bill being passed. I assure the House that there is no lack of intent on the part of the Government. We wish to bring in the provisions of the Bill as soon as possible, but it would be wrong to insist that the Government should do all that is necessary within the inflexible provisions of the clause. We shall continue our best endeavours.

Mr. Walters

I am grateful for that assurance because I regret the presence of the amendment, which is designed to remove a long-stop provision for the implementation of the Bill. I introduced the long-stop period of one year in Committee after due discussion with officials in the Department as to a reasonable period for implementing these proposals.

I have referred, as have several other hon. Members, to the deplorable fact that parts of the Children Act 1975 were not implemented until 1985. As I have agreed to accept major compromises, I very much regret that the Government do not accept that what is now enacted should be brought into force as soon as it reasonably can be.

The proposed amendment can only raise fears about the Government's intentions. I am a little reassured by what the Minister says but I should be grateful to him if he repeated his assurance as clearly as possible. I hope that he can assure us that the Government genuinely intend to implement the relatively modest package, which they have now accepted, as soon as possible.

Mr. Mikardo

I should have thought that the Minister could have given us something better. I understand that he cannot fix a firm date and that this is only a long stop. The Minister says that the legislation will be implemented as soon as possible. He should be able to give us some idea of when he expects the measure to come into force. Saying that it will be as soon as practicable is like asking, "How long is a piece of string?" The Minister owes it to the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters) to be a little more specific.

Ms. Richardson

I understand that the Law Society is a little bothered by the 12-month proposal because it foresees difficulties in putting all the procedures in place. It is not against the proposals, but it envisages problems. It will not be easy to set an absolute time. That is why I tabled a similar amendment. To set a 12-month limit is perhaps too rigid, although we hope that the Bill will be implemented as soon as possible.

Mr. Whitney

I am glad of the opportunity to enlarge upon my earlier remarks. I was seeking to truncate the debate for other reasons. I take note of the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters) and by the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar (Mr. Mikardo).

The Government certainly intend to bring the measure into effect as soon as practicable, but it would be wrong and would mislead the House if I said that we could accept an inflexible date. To do that would be rare, if not unprecedented. No Administration would accept such a provision. We must make allowance for unforeseen difficulties and changes in circumstances. I note the awful warning from my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury. We have no intention of following that pattern.

The hon. Member for Barking (Ms. Richardson) referred to the Law Society. Adequate time must be allowed not only for regulations and rules to be drafted, but for consultation in the usual way before the instruments are laid and for local authority and court staff to undertake training, where appropriate. The professions concerned will also need time to assimilate the effects of the reforms and changes in procedure before they come into effect. I assure the House, and in particular my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury, that we shall make every effort to deal with the rules and advice for local authorities as quickly as possible.

Amendment agreed to.

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