HL Deb 17 April 1975 vol 359 cc562-81

Dispositions depending on date of birth

14.—(1) Where a disposition depends on the date of birth of a child who was born illegitimate and who—

  1. (a) is adopted by the natural parents, or by one of them as sole adoptive parent, or
  2. (b) is legitimated,

(2) Where a disposition depends on the date of birth of an adopted child who is legitimated paragraph 11(4) does not affect entitlement by virtue of paragraph 5(3).

(3) This paragraph applies for example where—

  1. (a) a testator dies in 1976 bequeathing a legacy to his eldest grandchild living at a specified time,
  2. (b) his daughter has an illegitimate child in 1977 who is the first grandchild,
  3. (c) his married son has a child in 1978,
  4. (d) subsequently the illegitimate child is adopted by the mother as sole adoptive parent, or by both natural parents, or is legitimated,

Protection of trustees and personal representatives

15.—(1) A trustee or personal representative is not under a duty, by virtue of the law relating to trusts or the administration of estates, to enquire, before conveying or distributing any property, whether—

  1. (a) any adoption has been effected or revoked, or
  2. (b) any person is illegitimate, or is adopted by one of his natural parents, and could be legitimated (or if deceased be treated as legitimated),

(2) A trustee or persona! representative shall not be liable to any person by reason of a conveyance or distribution of the property made without regard to any such fact if he has not received notice of the fact before the conveyance or distribution.

(3) This paragraph does not prejudice the right of a person to follow the property, or any property representing it, into the hands of another person, other than a purchaser, who has received it.

Property devolving with peerages, etc.

16.—(1) Neither an adoption nor a legitimation shall affect the devolution of any property limited (expressly or not) to devolve (as nearly as the law permits) along with any peerage or dignity or title of honour.

(2) This paragraph applies only if and so far as a contrary intention is not expressed in the instrument, and shall have effect subject to the terms of the instrument.


17. It is hereby declared that references in this Schedule to dispositions of property including references to a disposition by the creation of an entailed interest.


18. This Part does not apply to Scotland.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 78, which is consequential on Amendment No. II. I do not think it is necessary for me to say anything on this Amendment. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor went carefully through this matter.


My Lords, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has been obliged to leave the House in a position where some clarification may be needed, and perhaps could be given from the Box. I would draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that this is a very unfortunate and uncertain way of concluding deliberations in this vital area. The first thing that I should like to draw to your attention is a misprint which occurs at the head of page 14. Your Lordships will observe that the first paragraph at the top of that page reads. "6—(1)", and that should read. "7." You will also observe that we had "7." on the previous page. Of course for the rest of Part II each one of those paragraphs is incorrectly numbered and should be corrected in the Bill before we pass it to another place.

The whole of this Schedule I have referred to previously is a beneficial Amendment—I must be careful not to speak with a forked tongue! Nevertheless, I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to one particular area where we believe it to be wholly beneficial in that, so far as we can observe, it carries out Recommendation 83 of the Houghton Report which said: An adopted child should have exactly the same rights under wills and other instruments as a natural child of the adoptive family". That is paragraphs 326 and 327 of the Houghton Report. As this Schedule specifically relates to four entirely separate items referred to by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, as the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell has suggested, I do not feel we should go into this in specific detail. However, there are one or two small matters to which I should like to draw your Lordships' attention.

What the Houghton Committee desired to achieve was made clear. The replacement of the whole of Schedule 1 has been achieved in this Amendment; but I would stress to your Lordships that this Amendment has been in our hands for only 48 hours, and it has therefore been particularly difficult to devote the degree of scrutiny to it which it deserves. I have not, unfortunately, had time to communicate with the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, upon this matter privately, and I should like to put the point to him that under "Interpretation" there is reference to "legitimation", and head (c) says: legitimation (whether or not by virtue of subsequent marriage of the parents) recognised by the law of England and Wales and effected under the law of any other country. This, we assume, refers to Convention countries. However, if the words are to be interpreted as stated, it appears that "any other country" could be any other country in the world. It is a matter of concern currently whether "any other country" is taken to mean, for instance, South Vietnam. I am unaware at the present moment whether South Vietnam is one of the Convention countries.

Turning to the transitional provisions, we believe these to be entirely satisfactory. I have referred earlier to the misprint that occurs on page 14, and there is a matter to which reference was made by my noble friend Lord Wardington regarding the descent of Peerages. This is, as printed, paragraph 9, but in fact is paragraph 10. It states: An adoption does not affect the descent of any Peerage or dignity or title of honour. My noble friend referred to this matter at an earlier stage in the passage of the Bill, and I think that the situation as stated at the present moment, although apparently clear, is not sufficiently clear for my noble friend. Therefore if it is not possible for the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, to elucidate on this at the present time for my noble friend Lord Wardington, I should be grateful if he could do so at a later date.

Part III, "Legitimation, Instruments concerning property", we referred to much earlier in our deliberations, at Committee and Report stage. There are matters here of considerable complexity. They are matters concerning the current Finance Bill and the previous Finance Act which reached the Statute Book only in March. It would appear there is a very good opportunity for another place to examine Part III of the Schedule, and I feel that if ever there was a case for the reinforcement of the argument for a bicameral Parliament for the full inves tigation of legislation before it reaches the Statute Book, this provides a golden example.


My Lords, before the noble Lord answers, I wonder whether I might query what the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, said at the beginning of his speech. He said that there was a misprint at the top of page 14. I do not think there is, because if he looks back at page 13 he will see paragraphs 4 and 5 without brackets; in other words, clauses so to speak, with their various sub-paragraphs, and then paragraph 6 is over the page.


My Lords, if I may intervene, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, must be referring to an Unmarshalled List, where there was an error. In that respect he is perfectly right. But the noble Lord, Lord Somers, is also perfectly right, because in the Marshalled List the error has been corrected. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, will not mind if I say that I should like to read Hansard, both at leisure and with some care, in order to consider what he has said tonight. There will be one or two things about which I shall want to communicate with him. The noble Lord will know only too well he has time between now and the appearance of the Bill in another place to advise his friends accordingly.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

6.25 p.m.

Schedule 3 [Minor and consequential amendments]:


My Lords, I do not know how your Lordships will react to this suggestion. I can give the assurance that every Amendment from now on is minor, consequential or drafting. I am sure that those of your Lord-ships who have read through the Amendments will agree with me. Therefore, I should like, subject to your Lordships' consent, to move Amendments Nos. 79 to 107 en bloc. But I cannot do that if any noble Lord wants to raise a point at some stage between Amendments Nos. 79 and 107. I beg to move.

Amendments moved—

Page 54, line 24, leave out (" Secretary of State") and insert (" Registrar General ")

Page 54, line 27, leave out (" Secretary of State") and insert (" Registrar General for Scotland ")

Page 54, line 28, at end insert—

("16A. In section 26(2) after the words "adoption order" there are inserted the words "other than a Convention adoption order".")

Page 55, leave out lines 3 and 4.

Page 55, line 6, at end insert—

("21A. In section 36 for the words "subsection (2) of section 3 of this Act" there are substituted the words "section 17(1) of the Children Act 1975" and for the words "care and possession", in each place where they occur, there are substituted the words "actual custody".")

Page 55, line 6, at end insert—

("21B. In section 37(1), for the words "subsection (2) of section 3 of this Act" there are substituted the words "section 17(1) of the Children Act 1975".")

Page 55, line 16, at end insert—

("23A. For section 56 there is substituted the following section— Rules and regulations

56.—(1) Any power to make rules or regulations conferred by this Act on the Lord Chancellor, the Secretary of State, the Registrar General or the Registrar General for Scotland shall be exercisable by statutory instrument which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

(2) The Registrar General shall not make regulations under section 21 of this Act except with the approval of the Secretary of State.

(3) The Registrar General for Scotland shall not make regulations under section 23 of this Act except with the approval of the Secretary of State.

(4) The Statutory Instruments Act 1946 shall apply to a statutory instrument containing regulations made for the purposes of this Act by the Registrar General for Scotland as if the regulations had been made by a Minister of the Crown.")

Page 55, line 21, leave out ("is") and insert ("are")

Page 55, line 23, at end insert—

("(bb) after the definition of "compulsory school age" there are inserted the words ""Convention adoption order" has the same meaning as in the Children Act 1975;".")

Page 55, line 25, after ("guardian") insert ("means—

  1. (a) a person appointed by deed or will in accordance with the provisions of the Guardianship of Infants Acts 1886 and 1925 or the Guardianship of Minors Act 1971 or by a court of competent jurisdiction to be the guardian of the child, and
  2. 568
  3. (b)")

Page 55, line 29, at end insert—

(" (d) after the definition of "relative" there is inserted the following definition—

" "voluntary organisation" means a body other than a public or local authority the activities of which are not carried on for profit." ")

Page 55, line 29, at end insert—

(" 24A. After section 57(1) there is inserted—

"(1A) In this Act, in relation to Scotland, unless the context otherwise requires— actual custody" means care and possession; and legal custody "means custody.".")

Page 55, line 40, leave out (" section 7(4) of")

Page 55, line 41, leave out from (" order ")") to end of line 43 and insert ("for the words from "order" to "Northern Ireland" there shall be substituted the words "(whether made before or after the commencement of this Act),

  1. (a) under the Children Act 1975;
  2. (b) under the adoption Act 1958;
  3. (c) under the Adoption Act 1950 or any enactment repealed by that Act;
  4. (d) which is an adoption order made in Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man or any of the Channel Islands; or
  5. (e) which is an overseas adoption as defined by section 4(3) of the Adoption Act 1968;".")

Page 56, line 3, leave out ("section 7(4) of")

Page 57, line 44, at end insert— (" (d) the performance of the functions transferred to local authorities by section l(4)(a) of this Act.")

Page 58, line 6, at end insert ("paragraph (a) of section 1(4) and")

Page 58, line 22, at end insert—

("37A. In section 4(2) for the words" 15(1) to (4) "there are substituted the words" 15(2) and (3)"and the words from" and section 23(5)"to" Part IV of that Act) "are repealed.")

Page 58, line 27, leave out ("Secretary of State") and insert ("Registrar General")

Page 59, line 3, at end insert—

("40A. In section 9(5), for the words "a specified order or an overseas adoption" there are substituted the words "or a specified order".

40B. In section 11(1)—

  1. (a) for the definition of "adoption order" there is substituted the following definition—
  2. 569
  3. (b) in the definition of "specified order" for the words "section 1 of this Act" there are substituted the words "sections 7(1) and 25 of the Children Act 1975".

40C. In section 12(2), for the words from "made by virtue of" to "any of those provisions)" there are substituted the words "containing rules made by the Lord Chancellor under subsection (1) of this section".")

Page 60, line 25, at end insert—

("Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 (c. 18)

45A. In section 44(1) for the words "custody of any person" there are substituted the words "care of any person".")

Page 60, line 25, at end insert—

(" 45B. In section 50(1) at the end of paragraph (d) there are inserted the following words— or (e) proceedings to which section 71(6)(c) of the Children Act 1975 applies (certain applications for revocation and variation of custodianship etc. orders);" ")

Page 60, line 31, after ("1971") insert ("or section")

Page 60, line 32, after ("1971") insert ("or section 1(3) or")

Schedule 4, page 61, line 3, at beginning insert—

"16 & 17 The Legitimacy Act 1926. Section 1(3).
Geo. 5. Sections 3 to 5.
c. 60. In section 8(2) the words from "and to the taking" to "of a legitimated person".
In section 11 the definitions of "disposition", "intestate" and "entailed interest ".")

Page 62, line 8, column 3, leave out (" Section 1(1) ") and insert ("Section 1(1) and (4)")

Page 62, Line 13, column 3, at end insert—

(" In section 18(4) the words "but where on such an application the courts appoints a guardian the resolution shall cease to have effect,".")

Page 62, Line 16, in column 3, at end insert (" and distribution of property, citizenship".

In section 9(5) the words "or adoption ".")

Page 62, Line 26, column 3, leave out ("Section 15(6)") and insert ("Section 14(8).

Section 15(4) and (6).").—(Lord Wells-Pestell.)

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

Amendment (Privilege) made.

6.30 p.m.


My Lords, before moving the final stage of this Bill, I wonder whether your Lordships will allow me to say with real sincerity how grateful we are to a number of Members on all sides of your Lordships' House who have given so much time and thought to improving this Bill. It is perhaps a little unwise to single out certain people but, if I may speak personally. I am very grateful, and so are the Government, for the help given by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, by the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot, and also by the noble Lords, Lord Sandys, Lord Elton, Lord Wigoder, and also the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, to whom we always listen with the greatest attention because, as the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, pointed out, he has special experience in this field. I hope your Lordships will not feel it amiss if I also include in this list my personal thanks—and it is a very real debt of gratitude, as your Lordships will know—to my advisers for all that they have done and for the amount of work they have done, often into the early hours. I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.— (Lord Wells-Pest ell.)


My Lords, I am at this moment deputising for my noble friend Lady Young. It is perhaps easier in her absence to say how deeply I feel that we on this side of the House are indebted to her for her very able and immensely industrious leadership. I must apologise for her unavoidable absence, which she has already personally explained in advance to the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell. We on this side would like to thank the Government for the introduction of this immensely important Bill and to thank also those on all sides who have helped it through the House during all its stages. From our side of the House, I should like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot, who has provided such staunch support from over the left shoulder, as it were.

I should not like the House to feel that the task is complete. I will not weary your Lordships by listing the improvements that have been made during the passage of the Bill, but I think it is worth mentioning that there is still a need for legislation in respect of private fostering and of the children of low-income and unsupported mothers, and also for the protection of mentally handicapped children in hospitals, and a need for Parliament to address itself to the difficult question of the accommodation of homeless children, which actually came under notice at the Report stage when we were discussing an Amendment to enable courts to prevent children from returning to homes from which they had been withdrawn, only to find there was nowhere else for them to be sent.

Your Lordships may also recall that at the same stage, on a Division, we accepted an Amendment which has produced the new Clause 56, which is intended to assist in preventing a repetition of terrible cases like that of Maria Colwell through a breakdown in communications. Some of us, including myself, were alarmed recently by newspaper reports of a similar case for similar reasons in the same area —reports which arose between Report stage and the Third Reading. I have corrsponded with the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor about this and am grateful for the reply received from him through the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell. That, and my further inquiries, have led me to suppose that the cases were not similar and that this is not the place to pursue the matter. However, I cannot leave that passage without reminding your Lordships that there was a twin Amendment, which was withdrawn as a gesture of goodwill to the Government and confidence in their sharing of our aims, which they hoped to achieve by administrative rather than legislative means for which an opportunity was left, legislatively, either here at this stage (which has not been taken up) or in another place. At the moment we have information about care and supervision Orders to be passed to the relevant bodies in the local authorities but not for Orders varying such Orders. This therefore is out of balance, and I hope it will be given close and sympathetic attention in another place.

Some, but not by any means all, of the areas in which children still have to be protected are outside the scope of the Bill. Some are within it and I hope they will be attended to in another place, because this is probably the last opportunity for five years to do anything for children such as those I have mentioned and also those children who are suspended from school, many of whom at the moment are outside any form of educative control. This list underlines the need for a coherent, compassionate and effective family policy at a time when the family is existing in a corrosive and disuniting atmosphere. I would say that no part of this policy, and particularly this Bill, can function without adequate funds behind it. This is a plea we made at the outset. I make it again at the conclusion of our deliberations so that it shall not, like the 1969 Act, suffer from the debilitation of poverty in its administration.

In wishing this Bill well in its passage through another place, may we ask the other place to attend to our list of omissions, to cherish the aim of avoiding private tragedy on a small but infinitely important scale to children when they are young, to provide adequate funds and, please, to make the task of those who follow us easier by some eventual consolidation, so that we escape from the great tangle in which many of us who are not trained lawyers find ourselves striving every time we try to amend Acts, with whose aims we profoundly sympathise, and for the introduction of which we sincerely thank the Government.

6.38 p.m.


My Lords. I believe that we bid a fond farewell to this Bill in the confident knowledge that it has been greatly strengthened during its passage through your Lordships' House, as is only proper. That is due to a number of factors, and perhaps I may be allowed to mention two. One is that those who at an early stage expressed an interest in this Bill have been given the greatest assistance by a number of outside organisations and individuals who have spent their lives working for the protection and welfare of children. They have provided a great deal of information, argument and statistics, all of which has been of the utmost help.

The second factor is that none of that information would have been of the slightest assistance had it not been for the fact that on the Government Benches there were noble Lords willing to listen to argument, to treat every intervention with the utmost courtesy. and to pay every proper regard to constructive criticism. Whether or not it would be invidious to name the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, in this connection, I do not know. If it is, he must forgive me for doing so, but he has borne the brunt of the work in this matter. He has at all times—indeed as late as this evening—shown an entirely open mind in listening to argument and dealing with suggestions entirely on their merits. Much of the progress on this Bill has been due to his unremitting efforts, and I know that noble Lords in all parts of the House will want to thank him for the very great help he has rendered in this matter.

I am only sorry, if I may say so, that on occasions when there have been differences of opinion there have sometimes been Divisions and one view or another has prevailed. On occasions such as these they have been reported in the Press under such headlines as "Government defeated". I am sure that every noble Lord who has been present at any stage of our deliberations will accept that no thought either of sustaining the Government or of defeating them has been present in anyone's mind at any stage during the passage of this Bill. Our sole consideration has been at all times to see to what extent we could strengthen the Bill and preserve and protect the welfare of a substantial number of unhappy and unfortunate children.

My Lords, as the Bill now goes to another place, perhaps I may be forgiven for referring to just one of the clauses where further consideration might in due course be paid. That is Clause 57 which deals with the representation of minors in court proceedings. There are two observations I would make about this clause. One is in a sense technical. The original clause dealt entirely with the representation of minors in care proceedings, and that clause was therefore properly included in Part III of this Bill which deals with care. The amended clause, which was substituted after a Division in your Lordships' House, deals much more generally with the whole issue of representation of minors in proceedings in adoption, custodianship and care, and ought more logically to be transposed from Part III to some convenient point in Part V of the Bill. That would ensure that any court dealing with custodianship or adoption matters did not overlook this particular clause.

There is a more substantial matter that I would wish to raise about the clause in its present form. It arose as a result of an Amendment which, as your Lordships will remember, was duly carried. I was one of those who spoke for the Amendment and voted for it. I suspect that there are other noble Lords in the same position as I am who did that because we regarded the Amendment as vastly superior to the original clause without being entirely happy in our minds about some of its consequences. Among those consequences are two in particular. One is that the new clause perhaps gives an unwise priority to representation in contested proceedings, when I think it has been the experience of many that it is the uncontested proceedings which need to be watched with particular care.

The other consideration is that undoubtedly when Clause 57 is implemented it will cause a great strain upon resources. It may be that the Government will consider in another place some Amendment that might make the administration of Clause 57 a little more practicable at this moment. I would only say that if and when they come to do that, I trust they will do so in the spirit of the Amendment your Lordships carried rather than in the spirit of the original clause, which I certainly found and believe many of your Lordships also found to be somewhat unsatisfactory in regard to the importance of the child being represented at various stages of proceedings under this Bill. It is clear that the Bill as a whole will constitute a great strain upon resources, not merely financial resources but resources of manpower particularly in the social services. It may be that the Bill will have to be introduced gradually and in stages. If that be so it would, I am sure, be acceptable to your Lordships. It is far better that the Bill should be introduced by stages and be able to be implemented thoroughly than that it should be introduced too hastily with the result that, as we saw with the Children and Young Persons Act, its administration becomes entirely unsatisfactory.

The only other observation I would make, my Lords, is that this is a Bill which breaks much new ground. The Department of Health and Social Security will no doubt want to monitor its progress with the greatest possible care particularly over the first year or two of its life. I hope with some confidence that if it is thought necessary at a later stage that any Amendments should be introduced in order still further to protect the children who are the subject of this Bill, the Government will not hesitate to return to your Lordships' House to introduce them.

6.45 p.m.


My Lords, I hope it will not be thought an impertinence on the part of a lawyer speaking from the Cross-Benches if I say how impressive it has been to see the extraordinary width and range of expertise that has been brought to bear from all parts of your Lordships' House to improve a most important measure of deep social import. It would clearly be an impertinence and invidious to mention any individual other than the noble Lord in Waiting, Lord Wells-Pestell, who has had responsibility for the conduct of this Bill; but as I have myself been a recipient of his kindness and courtesy and extraordinary mastery of this measure I hope I may be allowed to add my tribute to what has been said about him. Even when he has obviously disapproved deeply of what your Lordships have been doing to the Bill he has never failed to remain unruffled, courteous and patient.

I want to say only one word about a matter which has been recurrent during the course of discussion of this Bill. That is that it is a particularly blatant example of legislation by reference, and in a sphere where that is particularly objectionable; namely, where a measure must be used not only by lawyers but by laymen over a wide range in society. The noble Lord in Waiting on a number of occasions has turned away wrath by saying that it is proposed to follow up this Bill with a consolidation measure. I desire to add only this word of warning. When at the beginning of this Session I saw the programme of consolidation it seemed to me quite impossible that the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills could cope with it. In fact we have managed to keep up with the work, but that is only because the Law Commission have suffered printing difficulties and difficulties in finding draftsmen. But it would be unreal to imagine that there is no limit to the work of consolidation that can be handled by the Joint Committee.

To be frank, the reason why we have the Bill in this form is that it suits the Government business managers. I do not want to say anything harsh about Government business managers; they are very necessary for the progress of legislation and in any event they are apt to be starved of affection. But of course it suits them very well to have a measure of this kind which can be subject to only limited amendment and then to have a consolidation measure which is not amended at all but sent at once to the Joint Committee. I suggest that in a matter of this kind, particularly when there may be some delay in consolidation, there ought to be brought in a compendious Bill to amend and consolidate. It would then be immediately subject to easy handling by all persons concerned, lay and lawyers. I suggest with all the force at my command that the kind of course that has been followed with this Bill, although we are extremely grateful for it and more than grateful for the way in which the noble Lord has handled it, should not be repeated.


My Lords, may I add my thanks to the noble Lord for the extraordinarily skilful and knowledgeable manner in which he has dealt with this Bill. I have spent approaching 30 years of my life upon either children's work or social work and I do not think I have ever heard anybody who has showed such understanding and knowledge of the subject as the noble Lord. Therefore, I should like to thank him very much. I should also like to thank those who have so kindly agreed to the changes which will make all the difference to the Scottish adoption societies. Speaking now as a representative of Scotland in this House, we are most grateful for what has been done. I hope very much that the Bill will have as good a reception in another place as it has had in your Lordships' House, because it is a great step forward in the legislation on this subject.

Viscount ST. DAVIDS

My Lords, may I make three small points. First of all, with everybody else I wish to thank the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, for all that he has done, and with our thanks to him I should like to join our thanks to all those voluntary societies, groups and individuals who have done so much to put each one of us, and myself in particular, thoroughly in the picture about what the Government are doing in this very new field of legislation, where otherwise we might have been thoroughly lost.

My second point is that in trying to find my way through the Bill, very often I found myself immersed in deep fog, for the simple reason that I plunged into the situation which has been so well described by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale; I just could not find my way through the other legislation which has to be referred to if one wishes to know what is going on. If I found myself lost, the unfortunate persons who are to follow us and who have no experience at all of legislation will be lost indeed when they plunge into this field. Let us, please, have legislation in the Bill itself rather than legislation by reference.

The third matter relates to one fear that I have. I voted strongly for the Children Bill of 1969 because I thought it was an excellent Bill. And so it was. However, it fell completely into confusion through lack of money. Money is a word at which we all quiver at this moment. Money is a very sad subject. Nevertheless, money will be needed for this Bill— and in quite large amounts. It must come from somewhere. It must come either from the Government, who are desperately short of it, or from local authorities, who possibly are even more desperately short of it, or from private individuals, who now have very little of it. I am afraid that it will have to come from the Government. I am quite aware of the level of their sympathy in this matter, but, my Lords, sympathy is not enough.

I have very much in mind something that I saw on a newsreel a number of years ago. A very small country—I will not give its name—was in very considerable difficulties and a very large country, which also I will not name, said how much it sympathised with the small country. The newsreel showed the ambassador of the small country to the large country giving his opinion of this. He said how pleased he was that this vast country, with its enormous resources of men, money and materials, was sending its sympathy. This is very much the position of this Bill and, indeed, of other legislation which has gone through this House and which has not been provided with adequate funds. If I may put this last point thoroughly solidly, men, money and materials we do need. Sympathy is very nice, but please provide the other things as well.

6.55 p.m.


My Lords, by leave of the House, as a result of the correlation of my notes with those of my noble friend Baroness Young, I have made an omission which may seem churlish, and at this late stage I should like to mention my personal gratitude and the gratitude of those on this side of the House to the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, in person, as opposed to the Government as a whole, to whom we have already expressed our gratitude. He has worked incredibly hard. He has never quite lost patience with us when there was every ground for doing so, and I am, and we are, most grateful to him.


My Lords, before this Bill passes to another place, I hope that noble Lords will not think it wrong for there to be comment from one of the Buck-Benchers who has not participated in the debates. I should like to endorse what has been said in regard to the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell. He has had a very difficult job on his hands. What I am saying now I have said to him personally on other occasions, that he certainly gives a considerable amount of devoted and dedicated attention to whatever he has on hand. On this occasion, he has certainly shown the same ability to tackle a very difficult job and to tackle it with a considerable amount of goodwill. I think that everybody who has listened to the manner in which he has conducted the debates on this subject, as on others, will be grateful to him, and I should like to endorse what he has said about other Members on all sides of your Lordships' House who have spoken and who have assisted in this matter.

If I may make two comments, as I have sat here and listened to the debates which have taken place on this subject, the interesting fact which I have noted is that in the turmoil that is taking place throughout the world, when people are fighting each other and indulging in violence and ignoble acts, this House has spent a considerable amount of time and energy on and has shown deep concern about a subject which affects children. When one reads the newspapers of today or hears of the events in which children are being slaughtered and maimed with unconcern by those who arc participating in these acts, I think it would be good for the rest of the world to realise that the concern in regard to children which has been shown in our Parliament and among our people is a very deep one and should be an indication to others to follow suit. One of the many aspects of our life in this country about which we have cause to feel contented, whatever our views may be on the size of the issue, is that we have this deep concern for a matter of tremendous importance to those who are concerned with working for the new generation.

As a practising lawyer, may I also say one or two words to endorse what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, has brought to our attention. I have had the privilege of working in the Consolidation Committee for about 30 years, and I should like to pay tribute to him for the manner in which he has taken the chair. He has done so much better than some, and certainly equal to anybody, in the manner in which he has conducted the proceedings. That is why he has managed in the Committee to get through the work that he anticipated would take much longer. He did not realise that his ability to carry on the chairmanship in the way he did was mainly the reason for our having been able to get through the amount of work that was placed in his hands.

It is a fact, which people not only in your Lordships' House but in Parliament generally should take into consideration, that legislation has to be based in such a way that lawyers, at least, will not have to spend a considerable amount of time interpreting what is meant. In regard to the legal work of solicitors, the public do not understand that if a payment is made a considerable proportion of it is in respect of research work that has to be done in regard to the various matters which are brought to their solicitors' attention.

What is the biggest bugbear? The biggest bugbear for the average solicitor is legislation by reference. It is very difficult, particularly in a branch of the profession which is general and in which the individuals concerned have to deal with different matters from hour to hour, when a solicitor has to wade through Acts which refer to other Acts. It is practically impossible for a layman ever to understand what it is all about and, if I may say so with the greatest respect to my colleagues—and speaking on behalf of myself, at times—it is extremely difficult for us to wade through all that work. It is bad enough to have to deal with case law and to examine cases, but to be burdened with first having to go through an Act which refers to other Acts is something which should be avoided, for the practical reason that clients might be saved an expense which otherwise they would have to meet.

If I may say so with respect. what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, has suggested is something which might be taken into full consideration by those who draft the Bills, and possibly a Bill could be introduced which would include the material of the proposals without having to refer to many other Acts. I hope your Lordships will agree with me that it was not quite an intrusion at the last stage of the proceedings on this Bill to express those viewpoints. In my view, the Government have done an extremely good job. I do not agree with every portion of the Bill, but certainly to have dealt with this matter in the way in which it has been dealt with on both sides of the House is something about which we should all be grateful to those who have participated in the debate.

Baroness MASHAM of ILTON

My Lords, I should like to thank and support the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, for what he has said about Clause 57. Whatever is decided in another place, I hope it will come to the conclusion that the time has come for children who need it to be represented as people in their own right.


My Lords, as one who will have the difficult task of implementing this Bill, but who has also had the privilege of sitting and listening to the wise counsel and advice on both sides of the House during the passage of the Bill, I should like to make just one point. Perhaps I should speak personally in this regard. When I try in my court to read this Bill and to implement it, it would be of enormous help to me, and no doubt to the social services people and to the clerks of our courts and other magistrates who are not legally qualified, to have a layman's guide to the Bill. I imagine that in time such a guide will be provided. I certainly welcome the whole of the Bill as it is now amended, and I am sure it will be of enormous benefit to all the children of our country.

On Question, Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.

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