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(a) he exceeds the usual fostering limit; or

(b) where he is exempted under paragraph 4,--

(i) he fosters any child not named in the exemption; and (

(ii) in so doing, he exceeds the usual fostering limit. (2) Sub-paragraph (1) does not apply if the children concerned are all siblings in respect of each other.

Complaints etc.

6.--(1) Every local authority shall establish a procedure for considering any representations (including any complaint) made to them about the discharge of their functions under paragraph 4 by a person exempted or seeking to be exempted under that paragraph. (2) In carrying out any consideration of representations under sub-paragraph (1), a local authority shall comply with any regulations made by the Secretary of State for the purposes of this paragraph.'.-- [Mr. Mellor.]

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill .

Clause 57

Welfare of children in children's homes

Mr. Mellor : I beg to move amendment No. 382, in page 53, line 41, leave out registered'.

Mr. Speaker : With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments Nos. 383 to 385, 326 and 467.

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Mr. Mellor : The purpose of these amendments is to ensure that the provisions of clauses 57 and 58 will apply where appropriate, whether or not a private children's home is currently registered--for example during the period that an application for registration as a children's home is being considered by the local authority or where a home should be registered, but is not and where the welfare of the children in the home is in issue. I hope that that is a helpful clarification to the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made : No. 129, in page 54, line 22, at end insert and linguistic'.

No. 383 in page 54, line 25, leave out registered'.-- [Mr. Mellor.]

Clause 58

Persons disqualified from carrying on, or being employed in, registered homes

Amendments made : Nos. 384, in page 54, line 29, leave out registered'.

No. 385, in page 54, line 35, leave out registered'.-- [Mr. Mellor.]

Schedule 7

Privately Fostered Children

Mr. Mellor : I beg to move amendment No. 325, in page 118, line 10, leave out from any' to is', in line 11, and insert--

(i) parent of his ;

(ii) person who is not a parent of his but who has parental responsibility for him ; or

(iii) person who is a relative of his and who has assumed responsibility for his care,'.

Mr. Speaker : With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments Nos. 207 to 209, 412, 210, 211, 327, 212, 219, 386 and 387.

Mr. Mellor : The effect of these amendments is to tidy up and improve the powers of local authorities to safeguard the welfare of children who are privately placed with foster parents, that is where the decision to place and choice of foster parents have been made by a child's natural parents.

A number of the amendments provide typographical corrections and bring terminology into line with the rest of the Bill and introduce other technical amendments.

The amendments of substance reflect our further consideration of those measures in the light of representations from hon. Members, local authorities and other bodies, such as the Save the Children Fund, concerned with the welfare of those children. Local authorities' powers are extended by giving them the power to prohibit any private fostering placement where the foster parent or the accommodation is unsuitable, or where the placement is prejudicial to the child's welfare. I stress that, because some right hon. and hon. Members will have heard, as I did in the early hours of this morning while I was wallowing in my bath, an interview in which the regulations governing these placements were discussed.

4.30 pm

I am glad to make it clear that local authorities' powers are to be extended to give them the power to prohibit any private fostering placement where the parent or the

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accommodation is unsuitable or the placement is prejudicial to the child's welfare. Previously, that power applied only where the local authority had not been properly notified of the placement. On reflection, that appeared to be too restrictive. Even where a placement has at first been deemed suitable by an authority, circumstances may change and the authority should be able to act to safeguard the child. There are important changes in the regulation-making power in respect of notification of fostering arrangements.

It is now clearly stated, for the avoidance of doubt, that parents and those with parental responsibility can be required to give the appropriate authority prior notice of a proposed fostering arrangement, subject only to the proviso that they are aware the child is to be fostered. That will be an important element of the regulations that we intend to make in accordance with those powers. Prior notice of a proposed placement is vital to enable authorities to investigate in advance the suitability of the proposed foster parents and placement.

It is essential that the authorities should be able to contact the child's parents. There are sad examples of parents who have behaved in an irresponsible manner by failing to keep in touch with their children or with foster parents. We shall also now be able to require foster parents to give notice when a person leaves or joins their household. That will be an additional safeguard against a privately fostered child being exposed to risks in a replacement.

There are particular anxieties about the welfare of west African children placed by their parents with white foster parents with insufficient regard to the children's race and culture.

We expect authorities, as part of their pre-placement inquiries and duty, to give advice to foster parents on the children's needs arising from their racial origin and cultural background. That issue rightly arouses anxiety in hon. Members on both sides of the House. I am particularly grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) for putting forward the points that I have mentioned most eloquently in Committee. I hope that my comments this afternoon will be of some comfort to him.

Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent) : I thank my hon. and learned Friend for taking such care to say that the number of west African children coming to this country and being placed with foster parents while their parents return to west Africa is still a cause for anxiety. Do I understand that one of the elements that will be considered when a placement is regarded as prejudicial to the child's welfare is the cultural background of that child? I am sure that that is what he meant.

Mr. Mellor : That is certainly what I meant.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made : No. 326, in page 118, line 13, leave out registered'.

No. 466, in page 118, line 19, leave out from but' to end of line 20 and insert

provided, equipped and maintained by the Secretary of State.' No. 207, in page 118, line 21, after (1)' insert (b) to (g)'. No. 208, in page 118, line 41, leave out

local authority for the area concerned'

and insert appropriate local authority'.

No. 209, in page 118, line 43, after be' insert privately'.

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No. 412, in page 119, line 14, at end insert --

(4A) A local authority may at any time vary any requirement, impose any additional requirement or remove any requirement.'. No. 210, in page 119, line 15, leave out paragraph' and insert Schedule--

(a) "the appropriate local authority" means--

(i) the local authority within whose area the child is being fostered ; or

(ii) in the case of a proposal to foster a child, the local authority within whose area it is proposed that he will be fostered ;


(b) '.

No. 211, in page 119, line 27, leave out paragraph (b) and insert-- (b) require any person who is--

(i) a parent of a child ; or

(ii) a person who is not a parent of his but who has parental responsibility for a child,

and who knows that it is proposed that the child should be fostered privately, to notify the appropriate authority.'.

No. 327, in page 119, line 40, at end insert--

(ff) require any person who is fostering a child privately to notify the appropriate authority in writing of any person who begins, or ceases, to be part of his household ;'.

No. 212, in page 119, leave out lines 44 to 48.

No. 213, in page 120, line 5, leave out or'.

No. 214, in page 120, line 6, at end insert--

(e) a refusal to make an exemption under paragraph 4 of Schedule 6A ;

(f) a condition imposed in such an exemption ; or

(g) a variation or cancellation of such an exemption,'.

No. 215, in page 120, line 9, leave out or prohibition' and insert , prohibition, condition, variation or cancellation'. No. 216, in page 120, line 10, leave out a requirement, the requirement' and insert

(a) a requirement imposed under paragraph 6 ;

(b) a condition of an exemption imposed under paragraph 4 of Schedule 6A ; or

(c) a variation or cancellation of such an exemption,

the requirement, condition, variation or cancellation.'. No. 217, in page 120, line 22, at end insert--

(5A) Where it allows an appeal against a refusal to make an exemption, a condition imposed in such an exemption or a variation or cancellation of such an exemption, the court may--

(a) make an exemption ;

(b) impose a condition ; or

(c) vary the exemption.

(5B) Any exemption made or varied under sub-paragraph (5A), or any condition imposed under that sub-paragraph, shall be deemed for the purposes of Schedule 6A (but not for the purposes of this paragraph) to have been made, varied or imposed under that Schedule.'. No. 413, in page 120, line 23, leave out sub-paragraph (6). No. 218, in page 120, line 24, at end insert--

(6A) Nothing in sub-paragraph (1)(e) to (g) confers any right of appeal on- -

(a) a person who is, or would be if exempted under Schedule 6A, a local authority foster parent ; or

(b) a person who is, or would be if so exempted, a person with whom a child is placed by a voluntary organisation.'.

No. 219, in page 120, line 31, leave out as if'.-- [Mr. Mellor.]

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Clause 61

Persons disqualified from being private foster parents

Mr. Mellor : I beg to move amendment No. 461, in page 56, line 38, leave out the child' and insert

any child who has been in his care'.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd) : With this, it will be convenient to take Government amendments Nos. 462, 258, 259, 463, 464, 260, 261, 264 to 267.

Mr. Mellor : This group of amendments deals with the

disqualification of persons from providing day care to children under eight years of age and similar provisions to disqualify persons from acting as foster parents or from running voluntary or private children's homes. Broadly, they are people who have, among other things, committed offences, failed to register with the local authority, or failed to notify the presence of a disqualified person in their household. In other words, the amendments are directly relevant to the issues that were raised in the media this morning. Again, I hope that the existence of these amendments and what I have said about them will be of further comfort to hon. Members who are concerned about this issue. Effective action is being taken in this Bill to apply proper regulations, particularly on sensitive matters, about disqualified persons. Obviously, who should have an influence over a child is a matter of intense concern to all of us. Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made : No. 462, in page 56, line 40, leave out the' and insert any such'.-- [Mr. Mellor.]

Clause 62

Power to prohibit private fostering

Amendments made : No. 386, in page 57, line 20, leave out from privately' to end of line 21.

No. 387, in page 57, line 22, after (2)' insert Where'.-- [Mr. Mellor.]

Schedule 9

Amendments of Adoption Legislation

Mr. Mellor : I beg to move amendment No. 335, in page 124, line 11, leave out and'.

Madam Deputy Speaker : With this we will take Government amendments Nos. 336, 222, 415 to 417 and 223.

Mr. Mellor : These are consequential and technical changes to terminology used in the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made : No. 336, in page 124, line 12, after children', insert

and children accommodated by health authorities and local education authorities or in residential care, nursing or mental nursing homes or in independent schools.'.

No. 222, in page 125, line 25, leave out subsection (7)' and insert subsections (7) and (8)'.

No. 415, in page 126, leave out lines 35 and 36 and insert

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after subsection (1) there shall be inserted the following subsections--

(1A) An application for such an adoption order shall not be made unless the person wishing to make the application has, within the period of two years preceding the making of the application, given notice as mentioned in subsection (1).

(1B) In subsections (1) and (1A) the references to the area in which the applicant or person has his home are references to the area in which he has his home at the time of giving the notice".'. No. 416, in page 126, line 38, leave out from and' to end of line 40 and insert

for the words "in the care of" there shall be substituted "looked after by".'

No. 417, in page 127, line 16, at end insert--

(3) In subsection (5) of that section--

(a) for the word "receives" there shall be substituted "receive" ; and

No. 469, in page 128, line 29, leave out from but' to end of line 30 and insert

provided, equipped and maintained by the Secretary of State ;'.-- [Mr. Mellor.]

Mr. Mellor : I beg to move amendment No. 418, in page 129, line 9, leave out from children)' to end of line 30 and insert

in subsection (1) for the words "subsections (4) and (6)" there shall be substituted "what follows".

(2) For subsections (3) to (7) of that section there shall be substituted--

"(3) Before supplying any information to an applicant under subsection (1), the Registrar General shall inform the applicant that counselling services are available to him--

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