HC Deb 01 May 1995 vol 259 cc143-7

Amendments made: No. 94, in page 96, line 40, at end insert—

'1972 c.24. Social Work (Scotland) Act 1972. The whole Act.'.
No. 215, in page 96, line 46, column 3, at beginning insert—
'Section 14. In section 168(a), the word "female". In section 177, the words "provided by a local authority under Part IV of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968".
Section 323. In section 364(a), the word "female". In section 378, the words "provided by a local authority under Part IV of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968".
In section 413, in subsection (3), the definitions of "care" and of "the 1968 Act"; in subsection (4), the words "within the meaning of the 1968 Act"; in subsection (5), the words "(within the meaning of the 1968 Act)"; and in subsection (6A),the words "within the meaning of the 1968 Act".'.
No. 95, in page 96, line 52, column 3, for 'Section 103(3).' substitute 'Section 103.'.

No. 216, in page 96, line 52, column 3, at end insert 'Section 105.'.

No. 217, in page 97, line 29, column 3, leave out from 'section' to end of line 33 and insert '51, subsections (6)(a) and (7) to (11).'.

No. 218, in page 97, line 33, column 3, at end insert 'In section 60(3), the words "or 51(9)".'.

No. 96, in page 98, line 2, column 3, leave out 'In section 2(5),' and insert—

'In section 2, in subsection (3), the words "within the meaning of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968"; and in subsection (5),'.
—(Lord James Douglas-Hamilton.] Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.—[Lord James Douglas-Hamilton.]

10.32 pm
Mrs. Fyfe

I shall be brief. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear.] My hon. Friends are pleased to hear that.

In all the confusion of dealing with 43 pages of amendments and new clauses at short notice, it seems that some issues which arose in Committee have not yet been dealt with. In Committee the Government agreed in principle but have not yet activated a number of points that I hope the Minister will note. One in particular on clause 19 was promised on 28 February, and it related to children in need of services in regard to their religious persuasion. Another issue, which arose in Committee on clause 35, was whether the court or children's hearing should have to specify why a safeguarder should not be appointed.

On clause 44, the question arose of young people or parents appealing on disposal of the children's hearing. In clause 50, the question arose of the police obtaining a wider right of entry with regard to compulsory protection orders. A number of aspects arise under children's rights, and we still have no clarification on the safeguarder's role. Crucially, clause 44(5)(c)(iii) has still not been changed, which means that the sheriff can still make his own disposal when a young person is picked to appeal at a children's hearing.

Little change has been made to exclusion orders. I realise that the Minister undertook tonight to deal with emergency exclusion orders in another place, but he said little about the whole issue of exclusion orders as such. We still need to know his intentions on how an exclusion order would fit in with a compulsory protection order, particularly if an exclusion order were refused, and on powers of arrest.

I could raise a number of other items, but I do not wish to detain the House. Many issues were not brought forward on Report and I trust that the Minister will raise them in another place. They are clearly important issues that were raised in Committee and it is disappointing that tonight's debate was rushed through. Had a little more time been taken, all those matters could have been dealt with, and my hon. Friends who wanted to be off with their families could have had that opportunity.

Despite those criticisms, may I say once again that hon. Friends and I welcome the Bill? As the Minister knows, we sought it for a long time before it came to Floor of the House. We are keen for it to go through and, despite the faults that we have noted, we support it and do not intend to vote against its Third Reading.

10.36 pm
Mr. Wallace

I know that one is not meant to refer to what is missing from a Bill on Third Reading, but the Minister will have noted the number of points that are missing, which—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is quite right.

Mr. Wallace

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall therefore not detain the House by referring to those omissions. I am sure that the Minister will want to refer to them in another place.

May I add to what was said by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mrs. Fyfe)? The Bill commands support on both sides of the House. It is an important piece of legislation to improve the care, protection and welfare of children in Scotland. We hope that it will be improved still further in another place.

Before concluding, it would be appropriate to pay credit to the consortium on the Children (Scotland) Bill and agencies such as British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering, the reporters' association and the Association of Directors of Social Work—

Dr. Godman

And others.

Mr. Wallace

Indeed. They have all made an important contribution and, through their lobbying and representations, the Bill leaves this place better than when it was introduced. We only hope that it can be improved still further, as it has an important and worthwhile contribution to make to all children in Scotland.

10.38 pm
Mrs. Ewing

Those of us who have been involved in this subject are aware that it was a long and hard-fought campaign to introduce legislation on the protection and welfare of children in Scotland. As the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) said, a great deal of credit must go to organisations, both voluntary and statutory, which worked hard in this sphere and have been of great assistance to the House of Commons all-party group for children in Scotland. I thank them very much for their briefings and assistance and even for producing amendments, which were occasionally accepted by the Government as being technically correct. The Government could therefore not reject them.

The Bill is not yet perfect and we must further explore many spheres of the basic principles that have been laid down in the legislative process. One of the sad aspects of the Bill's proceedings is the fact that, when we have divided, either in Committee or in the House this evening, there has tended to be an Opposition versus Government line. I hoped that we would see much more cross-party co-operation. The children of Scotland are not attached to any particular political party. They are our future generations and they will take their own political decisions. The lack of cross-party co-operation has been one of the sad aspects of the Bill.

I am disappointed by the letter that the Minister sent on Thursday on safeguarders, a subject on which we explored a variety of issues. The very short response, which was sent to us at a late stage, did not enable us to explore the matter further on Report and Third Reading.

That said, I hope that many of the other issues will be addressed in another place. I give the Minister the assurance that whatever eventually appears on the statute book, the children of Scotland will be a subject to which many of us will return at every possible opportunity to try to ensure that the legislation is the best possible framework for them.

10.40 pm
Dr. Godman

I am please that at long last, I am taking part in the Third Reading debate on a Children (Scotland) Bill. For all of its shortcomings, the Bill will give much greater protection to children, especially those caught up in the terrible circumstances of violence, separation and abuse.

Will the Bill, when it becomes an Act, in tandem with the Prisoners and Criminal Proceedings (Scotland) Act 1993, lead to more installations of television network systems in sheriff courts throughout Scotland? Can the Minister confirm that as a result of these two pieces of legislation and one or two minor interventions by me, the television installation in the Greenock sheriff court will be permanent and not temporary?

10.41 pm
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I can tell the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mrs. Fyfe) that many matters are still under consideration. The House will have the opportunity to consider them again at a later stage. I shall take a careful note of the hon. Lady's points.

The hon. Members for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) and for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) paid tribute to the consortium and the other organisations. It is only fair to place on record the point that the evidence-taking sittings—the first held by a Scottish Standing Committee—turned out to be a complete success. They were a product of the "taking stock" exercise and of the White Paper, "Scotland in the Union: a partnership for good".

Having made that political point, I shall move on to the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman), who mentioned the television network system. I will ensure that I ask the Law Officers about the up-to-date position and I will correspond with the hon. Gentleman in due course.

The Bill is important; it is a major reform of the law in Scotland in relation to children. It is drawn from a whole range of reports produced in recent years and it brings private and public law on children into a coherent framework. It reflects the principles of the United Nations convention on the rights of the child. It is based on the firm view that care of children is essentially for parents, but it recognises that pressures can arise which call for support and, on occasion, intervention by public authorities. Partnership with parents is extremely important.

The Bill provides a sound framework for change and improvement in the interests of children. It sets a challenging agenda of implementation for the future and it provides a framework for protecting Scotland's children. It is good for Scotland's children and what is good for Scotland's children is good for Scotland's future.

Question put and agreed to. Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.