§ Amendments made: No. 75, in page 50, line 34, after '61(7)' insert 'or section 63(2)'.
No. 174, in page 50, line 46, leave out 'a new condition'.
No. 175, in page 50, line 46, after 'requirement' insert
'any requirement which could have been imposed by them under section 61(3) of this Act'.
No. 76, in page 50, line 48, at end insert—
'(8A) Where a children's hearing vary or impose a requirement or condition under subsection (8) above which requires the child to reside in any specified place or places, they may order that such place or places shall not be disclosed to any person or class of persons specified in the requirement.'.
No. 77, in page 51, line 3, leave out
'(whether with or without variation)'.—[Lord James Douglas-Hamilton.]
§ Mr. Wallace
I beg to move amendment No. 100, in page 51, line 7, at end insert—
The amendment relates to circumstances, which we rehearsed in Committee, when there is an impasse between the children's hearing and the local authority with regard to future arrangements for the child, and specifically when the local authority believes that adoption should be considered and the children's hearing has come to a somewhat different view. At present, children's hearings are not allowed openly to discuss adoption plans, as the purpose of the hearings is more to 133 deal with short-term issues in the child's life and are not part of the adoption process. That makes it difficult at hearings for permanent plans for the children to be discussed.
- '(9A) Where a children's hearing has taken place by virtue of subsection (4)(c) above and a decision has been reached in terms of subsection (7) above, the relevant local authority—
- (a) may, within a period of 3 weeks beginning with the date of the decision of the said children's hearing appeal to the sheriff against that decision; and
- (b) where such an appeal is made, shall be heard by the sheriff as to the reasons for the appeal.
- (9B) Where the relevant local authority appeals under subsection (1) above, subsections (2), (3), (4), and (5) of section 44 of this Act, shall apply to that appeal as they apply to an appeal under that section.'.
When the matter was debated in Committee, the Minister said that he thought that there was some merit in what was being put forward. He said that the amendment that I movedwould allow the local authority, in any case where it did not receive the agreement of the children's hearing to the proposal submitted … to appeal direct to the sheriff. The reason for that seems to have some merit, and we are willing to give it consideration if the hon. Member can provide details of the circumstances in which he thinks it would be appropriate."—[Official Report, Special Standing Committee, 7 March 1995; c. 547.]Regrettably, the detail that I sought to pass on to the Minister came into my hands only at the beginning of last week, and I have not had a proper opportunity to look at it in detail. However, it refers to circumstances relating to, for example, a child of any age who had been subject to a supervision requirement under the 1968 Act, and there had been access by the parents but that had been reduced because the parents had not been keeping up access on a regular basis. At that point, the local authority thought that it might be appropriate to plan for adoption. At a subsequent hearing, the parents reassured the hearing that their life style had changed and access was therefore increased. At that stage there is a possible impasse between the local authority and the children's hearing.
I appreciate that what is suggested is a novel approach. It brings the local authority into a direct relationship with the children's hearing, which is unusual. I can understand that there might be some resistance to that, but, in the interests of the child, there must be some way in which the issues can be looked at by an independent body, in this case by the sheriff.
I hope that the Minister will continue to sympathise with that approach. If he shows that he still has an open mind on the issue, I will certainly furnish him with many more examples of circumstances which could give rise to such a dispute between the local authority and the hearing and when appeal to the sheriff using current procedures, but just adding a bit on to them to deal with such cases, might be an appropriate way of trying to take matters forward at all times in the best interests of the child.
§ Lord James Douglas-Hamilton
I am content to consider the matter further and, on that basis, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not press his amendment to a vote.