HL Deb 08 November 1989 vol 512 cc849-51

254 Clause 75, page 65, line 7, leave out from 'and' to 'a' in line 9 and insert 'also includes any order which by or under any enactment has the effect of or is deemed to be'.

255 Page 65, line 12, after 'means' insert 'subject to paragraph 16 of Schedule 1,'.

256 Page 65, line 12, at end insert— ' "child assessment order" has the meaning given by section (Child assessment orders) (2); child minder" has the meaning given by section (Registration);'.

257 Page 65, line 17, after 'parties', insert 'as foster parents'.

The Lord Chancellor

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 254 to 257. I should like at the same time to speak also to Amendments Nos. 259, 260, 261, 262, 263, 264, 265, 266, 267 and 268.

Amendments Nos. 270 and 271 deal with commencement. Certain provisions will come into force on Royal Assent and another will do so after two months. Commencement is also made the responsibility of either the Lord Chancellor or the Secretary of State, or both of them acting jointly. This provision mirrors the responsibilities for the various matters in the Bill.

While the Government wish to implement the Bill as soon as possible it is of course a major piece of reforming legislation which will require statutory instruments, rules of court, guidance, planning and training upon a grand scale, as the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, has already hinted. It is not possible, therefore, to specify on the face of the Bill the dates by which such provisions will come into force. However, the Government's aim is that all the provisions in the Bill should be in force by October 1991.

Amendment No. 383 makes minor amendments to existing enactments to reflect the substantive conceptual changes brought about by the Bill. The Acts concerned are: the Matrimonial Causes Act; the National Health Service Act; the Child Care Act; the Education Act; the Child Abduction Act and the Foster Children (Scotland) Act.

While the Government wish to implement the Bill as soon as possible, as I say, a number of regulations are required to be made and many other matters need to be carried out. Nevertheless, the Government are anxious to introduce certain provisions —that is, those to which Amendment No. 270 relate —on or shortly after the passing of the Act. Indeed, some noble Lords have already expressed the desire for certain provisions to be brought in earlier than that date.

We believe that the new provisions on paternity testing should come into force on the passing of the Act because of the urgent need for a mechanism to enable a choice to be made between testers and individual cases. We also believe that the power given to the Lord Chancellor to override the rules of evidence relating to hearsay should come into force on the passing of the Act so that the power may be exercised as soon as possible.

We further believe it right that the amendment to the Child Care Act brought about by paragraph 22C of Schedule 8 should come into effect immediately. This will mean that for certain purposes, especially as regards the access provisions in Part IA of the Child Care Act 1980, the word "parent" will include both of the child's parents whether or not they were married to each other at the time of his birth.

Finally, we have decided that the clarification of a local education authority's powers concerning contributions to the cost of special education provision abroad, which is contained in paragraph 22D of Schedule 8, should come into force at the expiration of two months from the passing of the Act.

Amendment No. 271 is a minor technical amendment which alters the commencement provisions so as to provide for the Act to be brought into force, as I said, by the Lord Chancellor or the Secretary of State acting either separately or jointly.

Amendment No. 383 updates the definition in the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 which presently refers to a child who has been boarded out with those parties by a local authority.

The amendment also alters, as I said, certain parts of other statutes, and I do not know that I need to mention them all in detail.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in the said amendments. —(The Lord Chancellor.)

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, I have one small question. I observe that very little of Clause 77 applies to Scotland. Do the Government have plans to update the children's legislation for Scotland concurrently with this legislation?

The Lord Chancellor

My Lords, only a few of the provisions of the Bill will extend to Scotland. We are altering legislation where it applies across the United Kingdom. Some would claim that the provisions for children in Scotland are considerably more advanced than those that have applied here hitherto. The Secretary of State for Scotland has set up a working party in his department to review child care law in Scotland. That working party is presently working. I have no doubt that the Secretary of State will want to consider its report which he will have in fairly early course. No doubt even the law in Scotland in relation to children can be still further improved.

I have moved a little too quickly. I want formally to put Amendments Nos. 254 to 257.

On Question, Motion agreed to.