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Mr. Mellor : I listened with great care to what the hon. Gentleman said. It may be more advantageous if I set out the heart of the matter and if the hon. Gentleman then wants me to give way I will. There comes a time at which one has to concentrate on line-by-line issues that translate our good will into effective action. I am anxious that the hon. Gentleman should not under-estimate how much has been done.

The present law is unsatisfactory. In the Children and Young Persons (Amendment) Act 1986, grandparents are made parties in care proceedings where they can demonstrate a sufficient interest in the child. However, they cannot under the Act obtain anything like the range of orders that we would like to see. For example, they cannot participate in access proceedings by asking for an access order. They cannot participate in parental rights proceedings or obtain custody on the discharge of a care order. In future care proceedings, the court of its own motion will be able to give the care of the child to a grandparent rather than to the local authority--that is, it will be able to make a residence order. That is a major step forward. The court can also make a contact order under the Bill, even if no application has been made. That links up with the requirements laid on the court to consider specifically the contact arrangements planned by the authority and to invite the parties to the proceedings--who could include grandparents--to comment on those arrangements. In other words, in future there will be plenty of scope for grandparents who can demonstrate a reasonable

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connection with or interest in the child to make a case for a contact order, which is the new terminology for an access order. Where the child is not in care, part II of the Bill very much widens the circumstances in which grandparents may apply for contact. The hon. Member for Ogmore described cases where grandparents were standing outside a playground watching a child play because that was their only contact with him. I too consider that unacceptable, if the grandparents were people that a court would want to have contact with a child. Part II of the Bill widens the circumstances in which grandparents may apply for contact.

In allowing them to do so, we recognise the close bonds of affection that ususally exist between children and their grandparents. For the first time, we have recognised in an overt way that it can be in the best interests of a child to maintain contact with grandparents, even if there is parental opposition--for example, on the break-up of a marriage. For the first time, a court will be able to deal with those issues and maintain a contact even against parental opposition. It is a great step forward. In so far as I have any troubles or concerns about the debate this morning, I feel that the hon. Member for Ogmore has not realised how far he has pushed open the door. The door has been pushed wide open due to the impact of the hon. Gentleman and others on those of us who have been working on the detail of the Bill.

At present, a grandparent's right to apply for access is arbitrary and restrictive. The Bill provides that grandparents may apply for a contact order at any time. The only proviso to screen out undesirable circumstances is that they must first get the court's permission by showing that they have a good reason. Some may ask why that is necessary. The reason is that there may be some instances where parents are justified in preventing or limiting contact between children and their grandparents. Some grandparents may attempt to interfere in the relationship between their children and grandchildren. Given that we are dealing with vulnerable children--this is, rightly, a child-centred Bill--the court should have the ability to satisfy itself that there is a good reason for doing so.

I should like to make one thing absolutely clear. I and my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General, who has had to go out for a moment but has been following the debate with great interest, are in no doubt whatsoever that in cases where grandparents have maintained a close relationship with the child, permission is unlikely to be much more than a formality. That is how we would wish it. That is a major advance, in which the hon. Gentleman can take pride. He should take pride in that achievement, rather than feel dissatisfied. I really do not see how we could go very much further without running the risk of giving grandparents rights that we do not give to parents or other close relatives. Just as there are circumstances in which grandparents have to look after a child whose parents are tragically killed, so there are circumstances in which an elder brother or sister has had to do so. Other close family links should also be encouraged. In grouping grandparents with a range of other close relatives, one is not demeaning

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the position of grandparents. One would be in danger of demeaning other close relationships if one gave grandparents more rights than certain other key people.

Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South) : Will my hon. and learned Friend give way?

Mr. Mellor : Perhaps in a moment.

The Bill cannot be criticised for referring to close relatives rather than singling out grandparents. Although it greatly widens the rights of grandparents, the hon. Gentleman may have missed some of its impact on those rights. My only criticism of the hon. Member for Ogmore is that he many not be aware of the good provisions in the Bill, which he provoked us into making.

12.45 pm

Mr. Powell : When grandparents apply to put their case to a local authority hearing, the people conducting the hearing say, "You are not entitled to be legally represented." If they take the matter to court, they are told, "The court will not recognise your rights as grandparents." From the cases with which I have dealt, I understand that that is the problem with the law. New clause 10 suggests that they should be offered automatic rights of representation. I am not trying to convince the hon. and learned Gentleman that the law should be changed to give grandparents more protection than parents. I am pleading for grandparents' rights to be represented and for the court to be able to make a decision.

I am saying that the law should be clear, so that grandparents can interpret it without consulting barristers or solicitors. The law must be plain, so that people can understand it without continually having to consult the legal profession. I am pleading that new clause 10 should be accepted. The Minister's argument as to why it should not be accepted falls when we consider the requests that have been made by grandparents and the difficulties that they have experienced.

I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe), who mentioned social care cases, will confirm what I am saying. Unless the new clause is accepted, that will continue to happen.

Mr. Mellor : I cannot help feeling--

Mr. Ray Powell : I am sorry that my intervention was so long.

Mr. Mellor : I do not mind long interventions. Happily, after a few problems on Tuesday night, we are discussing the Bill properly, with hon. Members giving their views with sincerity and vigour. I am concerned that the hon. Member for Ogmore should not under-estimate the extent to which his case has been met by the Bill. He was primarily concerned about care proceedings, but he made some wider points, which is why I described the extent to which grandparents will benefit from the open-door policy of the Bill, which will allow them to apply for all relevant orders in most proceedings relating to their grandchildren.

Mr. Devlin : Will my hon. and learned Friend give way?

Mr. Mellor : No. My hon. Friend should allow me to answer the intervention, and I am halfway through doing so. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. I shall allow my hon. Friend to be helpful in a moment, but first

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I shall try to be helpful. In so far as it is necessary for someone to sweep up after that, I shall allow my hon. Friend to do so. Care proceedings are the subject of the new clause. Under the Bill, for the first time, grandparents will be able to apply to appear before the court. The court's permission will be necessary to screen out undesirables. There may be grandparents with criminal convictions whom none of us would say should be given locus standi.

The grandparents about whom the hon. Member for Ogmore is concerned will be able to apply for a residence order--what used to be called care, custody and control of a child. That will discharge any care order. Grandparents can also apply for a contact order, with the court's permission. Even if the child went into care, they could have right of access determined by the court, and therefore one could not interfere with it. That is so much better than the position under the Children and Young Persons (Amendment) Act 1986 and a sign of how far forward we have moved.

In future care proceedings, a court of its own motion will be able to give the care of a child to a grandparent rather than a local authority. The court will be able to say, "Something needs to be done about this child. It is better that he goes to the grandparents than into local authority care." That is a major step forward. The problem with the new clause is that it has an unintended effect, in that it does not sit well with the Bill. That is why I could not accept it, even if I thought that the principles were right. It is much better that rights of access are sorted out by a court. It will be able to look at the grandparents' influence as an alternative to the care order which is being sought.

I have regarded the new clause--I hope rightly--as a way of bringing these issues sharply into focus. Sadly, it is not possible to include it in the Bill because it does not dovetail in. The new clause has given me the opportunity to say that the position on care proceedings, like any other involving grandparents' rights, has been so transformed that the hon. Member for Ogmore should be able to walk happily out of this court--I should have said House. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has never had to walk into a court. I am getting back into my bad old ways. The hon. Members for Ogmore and for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes) can leave the House feeling that they have participated in a great step forward for grandparents' rights. I am sorry if I bang on about it, but I should hate it if the hon. Member for Ogmore should fail at the moment of his triumph to realise how considerable that triumph is.

Lest I have left anything out, I give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin).

Mr. Devlin : My hon. and learned Friend has dealt in his usual comprehensive way with almost every point. I wanted to draw attention to a clause providing for rules of court to be made. One provision is that rules should be made about a court's ability to say who is and who is not a party to the proceedings and to give them legal representation. That would extend to grandparents. The precise objection of the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell)--about grandparents turning up at court and being told that they have nothing to do with the proceedings--has been met entirely.

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Mr. Mellor : I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He points to another excellent reason why the hon. Member for Ogmore should feel well pleased.

There is other work for us to do, so I shall conclude. I think that the Opposition Front Bench support my view that in the Bill we have substantially advanced the cause of grandparents and other close relatives in terms of their ability to participate in hearings about the future of a child whom they love, and to be entrusted with heavy responsibility if that is right in the circumstances. That is a major step forward. If, after the Bill becomes law, and after taking such a great step forward, it appears that there are still deficiencies, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not find many people who would object to further refinements.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will give us the benefit of the doubt on this occasion. I could continue speaking about this matter for a great deal longer, but there would be no advantage to doing so. I hope that he recognises that there have been considerable advances--indeed, a transformation of the rights of grandparents--and the hon. Gentleman has played his part in achieving them. The Bill takes a substantial leap forward, but if, with the benefit of hindsight, it becomes clear that further steps need to be taken, that should more readily be possible because of the great tide of sympathy on this issue. We have gone a great way forward, and I cannot think of any hiatuses. Almost all the examples give by the hon. Gentleman are met by the Bill.

I have no objection to the thrust of the hon. Gentleman's case, but I believe that his points have been incorporated in the Bill. I hope that he will not feel it necessary to press the new clause, but should he do so, and for reasons that I am sure he will understand, I cannot advise my hon. Friends to accept his new clause.

Mr. Ray Powell rose --

Mr. Speaker : Does the hon. Gentleman have the leave of the House to speak again?

Hon. Members : Yes.

Mr. Powell : I regret that you were not in the Chair earlier, Mr. Speaker, so that you could listen to all the debate, but I assume that you were listening elsewhere. I have been fortunate in that you have often been in the Chair when I have spoken about grandparents' rights. You have been most sympathetic in granting a great deal of time to me to elaborate on the issues involved.

In my opening remarks I referred to an early-day motion that was supported by 333 hon. Members--the 11th highest total of signatories since 1926. If the Minister is a democrat and believes in democracy, which I am sure he does, surely he should accept a new clause that embraces the wording of an early-day motion that has been signed by more than 50 per cent. of hon. Members. I would have expected the Minister to be sympathetic towards the incorporation of that early-day motion into the Bill. I cannot understand how he can claim that the Bill embraces the principles of my new clause. That is not the case ; the Bill does not give us what we want.

I am grateful for the Minister's explanation. I am extremely grateful to the Committee for its work on extending certain rights, such as naming grandparents. Nevertheless, I am still perturbed. Although grandparents will benefit by substantial advanced rights and naming

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under the clauses that provide for them to be consulted--which is a great step forward--I remind the Minister that we have been campaigning for that for 10 years.

New Acts have been introduced, but as I mentioned them on Second Reading I do not need to do so again today. Although they embraced children's rights and the rights of child care, they were introduced piecemeal. So we pleaded on Second Reading that this Bill should be all-embracing to ensure that we will not have to come to the House year after year, trying to amend legislation to put right a wrong. The Minister's final comments were directed to me. He urged me to accept what is already on in the Bill and to wait to see how the legislation works. He said that, if it proved necessary to alter the legislation, we could come back and do so, but that we should see how it worked first. However, if these provisions were enacted now, there would be no need for us to come back in a couple of years

1 pm

Mr. Mellor : That is precisely what I am saying. I am sugaring the pill for the hon. Gentleman in case he is doubtful. That is the main burden of my case. Let it be clearly understood that what the hon. Gentleman is asking for today is already, in effect, provided for in the Bill. I put that point to him as plainly as I can.

Mr. Powell : That may be so, but if in 12 months or two years when the Bill is on the statute book, we find that we have to come back on behalf of grandparents to try to change the law because it is not direct enough, it will be on the Minister of State's head. It will be on the Government's head.

If it is the wish of my hon. Friends, I am quite prepared not to force a vote. However, I warn the Minister of State that in all probability--God willing--I will still be around in two or three years' time. If grandparents have the same problems and difficulties as now, and if they still have to call upon the legal profession to help them out of their difficulties, it will be because the Minister of State has not incorporated into the Bill the new clause that I and my hon. Friends are requesting. It will be on the hon. and learned Gentleman's head. It will not matter to me whether he is in the other place by then : he may be the Lord Chancellor, but I will still condemn him for today's performance and for not ensuring that a straightforward new clause was accepted and put on the statute book so that grandparents' rights were protected.

Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West) : This has been an excellent debate. The introductory remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) and the subsequent comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes) were compelling, moving and realistic. If ever we have heard an argument about agism, that was it. They put their points most effectively.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe) mentioned my hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney). It reminded me that only a week or so ago the father of my hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield-- Hugh McCartney, a former Member of the House--came to Twechar in my constituency. It is a mining community with which my hon. Friend the

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Member for Ashfield will have much in common. We were delighted to see him. Incidentally, he is a great- grandparent. The folks at Twechar presented him with a little bronze miner, showing the unity of purpose among my hon. Friends.

In many ways, this has been the year of the grandparent. It was the year when the Prime Minister stood outside No. 10 Downing street, between reshuffles, and announced, "We are a grandmother." Then a few days later, my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Miss Lestor), whose contributions to our discussions on this Bill have been outstanding, announced in the House, "We too are a grandmother." That may well have had an influence on events.

I want to be fair to the Minister of State and to confirm what he has said. It is true that substantial progress has been made towards realising many of the objectives that my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore outlined this morning and for which he has campaigned so nobly for many years.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore was absolutely right when he said that we shall watch carefully how the Bill is implemented. The Minister acknowledged the improved access to court proceedings and improved circumstances of care which were achieved as the Bill progressed.

In the spirit of the concluding remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore, which we seriously heed, I believe that it would reflect the wishes of the House if we did not press this matter and, therefore, I seek leave to withdraw the motion.

Mr. Ray Powell : I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion. Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New clause 34

Removal of Adults

(1) Where the Court has made

(a) an emergency protection order ; or

(b) an interim care order ;

and it is satisfied that the child's welfare would be satisfactorily safeguarded or promoted if a person who is resident in the child's household were removed from that household the court may in addition :--

(i) make an order (exclusion order) requiring that person to vacate the household ; or

(ii) accept an undertaking from that person that he shall vacate the household.

(2) For the purpose of the section the term exclusion order shall include the term undertaking.

(3) Where an exclusion order is made under this section the child shall not be removed from the household.

(4) Where the court makes an exclusion order under subsection (1)(a) it shall have effect for such period, not exceeding eight days, as may be specified in the Order.

(5) s. 39(2)--(6) shall apply to subsection (1)(a) as if it referred to exclusion orders.

(6) Where the court makes an exclusion order under subsection (1)(b) shall have effect for such periods as are specified in section 35(4)--(5) as if they referred to exclusion orders.

(7) A person who is subject to an exclusion order may apply to the court for the order to be discharged.

(8) Where the court makes an exclusion order the applicant may pay any reasonable expenses incurred by the person subject to the order in connection with this accommodation throughout the period the order is in office.

(9) Where the exclusion order is in force the applicant may make arrangements for the person who is the subject of the order to return to live in the same household as the child

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provided that the applicant is satisfied that the child's welfare can be satisfactorily safeguarded or promoted as a consequence. (10) A power of arrest shall attach to all exclusion orders made under this section.

(11) A constable may arrest without warrant a person whom he has reasonable cause for suspecting of being in breach of an exclusion order by reason of that person's entry into the child's household. (12) Where a person is arrested under subsection (11) above-- (a) he shall be brought before the court within the period of 24 hours beginning at the time of his arrest, and

(b) the court before whom he is brought may remand him. In reckoning for the purpose of this subsection any period of 24 hours, no account shall be taken of Christmas Day, Good Friday or any Sunday.

(13) Where the court does not exercise its power to remand under subsection (13)(b) nor its powers under any other enactment, it shall authorise the removal of the child from the household unless it is satisfied that the child's welfare can be satisfactorily safeguarded or promoted without its doing so.

(14) For the avoidance of doubt, section 63 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 shall apply to any orders made under this section.'.-- [Mr. Tom Clarke.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Tom Clarke : I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean) : With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment (a), in line 4, leave out satisfactorily safeguarded or" amendment (b), in line 6, after household', insert

and the welfare of any other child resident in that household would not be harmed.'

and Government amendment No. 171.

Mr. Clarke : Given the restricted timetable--I do not wish to reopen the debate on that issue--it was my intention to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to speak to this new clause, but apart from minor contributions later on I hope that we might have a short Third Reading debate. That would allow us to make some important points in the limited time available to us.

The issues raised in new clause 34 were not debated at any great length in Committee. It is therefore important to discuss them now, and, in particular, to discuss the report by the Law Commission that appeared after the committee had concluded its deliberations. The new clause is important. It is widely recognised that the sudden removal of children from the home is usually a traumatic and distressing experience for them. The purpose of the new clause is to provide an alternative to such removal in child protection cases arising out of an emergency or during the course of care proceedings. It provides that the court may order the removal of an alleged abuser either through a compulsory order or by receipt of an undertaking. The new clause is drafted to reflect the ideas contained in the working paper published in August by the Law Commission on domestic violence and the occupation of the family home.

Throughout the passage of the Bill the Government have expressed sympathy for amendments tabled on the issue of the removal of alleged abusers. In both Houses the Government promised to consider tabling their own amendment, but no such amendment appeared. Subsequently, Government officials have said that no amendment could be considered until receipt of the report

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of the Law Commission containing its recommendations.

Several meetings have been held with the Minister about this matter and they have been extremely helpful. On 26 September a consortium of local government and voluntary organisations met him to discuss a number of issues relating to the Bill. The Minister said that he was not opposed in principle to compulsory ouster or exclusion orders. I recollect that he agreed to discuss with the Lord Chancellor how the proposals contained in the Law Commission's working paper could be incorporated in the Bill. This morning perhaps we shall hear whether those discussions were productive and about the Government's stance on those matters.

It is true that we are all looking for new remedies for a problem that was a great worry for the Committee. Hon. Members gave examples of the difficulties and heartache for children, for their parents, for their families and, in some cases, for their community when particular circumstances lead to the lengthy removal of children from their home.

The new clause has been drafted so that exclusion orders can be obtained as an addition to an emergency placement order or interim care order. The Law Commission did not think that that was necessary or fair for families and children unless there was a specific provision against the removal of children in such circumstances. However, in Committee on 25 May the Minister strongly expressed the view that removal of abusers should take place only within the context of an EPO. Given the express provision against removal of the child when an exclusion order has been made we can see arguments for exclusion orders to run concurrently with EPOs and ICOs so that provisions for medical direction and contact may also apply. When this Bill is enacted and this matter is dealt with there may still be a case for even more research. It might not solve the problem to know that an alleged perpetrator has been abused, although it might help, but until we find out precisely what motivates adults to indulge in this sort of child abuse--alas, it is all too common--we shall not have resolved the problem. In addition to responding to the new clause, therefore, I hope that the Minister and his colleagues will feel it possible in due course to embark on even more public debate so that we can consider why such dreadful events take place, based on research that is available to us all.

Mr. Ronnie Fearn (Southport) : I agree in general with the objective that lies behind the new clause whose aim is to avoid removing a child from the family home, so as to reduce the trauma that it suffers. The trauma suffered as a result of being taken away from home often has long-term effects on a child and adds to the guilt already felt.

At the same time, it is important to remember the balance that we are attempting to achieve. The forcible removal of an adult who has not yet been charged with an offence may have detrimental effects on a family. The child at the centre of the inquiry may suffer similar guilt feelings and feel just as traumatised if an adult leaves home as if he had been removed himself--the more so if the child feels responsible for any detrimental consequences to other members of the family.

It is important to remember that we are talking about mothers as well as fathers of children. We should also recall that often only one child is at risk--not the others in the family. It is possible with the right support to resolve

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some of these cases without removing the child or the suspected perpetrator. That should always be our aim, as I am sure the Minister agrees.

Much depends on the circumstances of the case. I am worried that the new clause may lead to an abuse of this power. The removal of an adult in some circumstances may be seen as a very easy option. I accept that the removal of an adult from the family home is often desirable and may well be the only solution, but there are also circumstances in which that will still have detrimental effects. So I suggest that an adult be removed only if that will promote the welfare of the child.

I hope that when the court assesses the effect on the child's welfare it will consider the context of the family setting. The phrase "satisfactorily safeguarded" is open to too many interpretations. The welfare of the child is paramount but it is sometimes inextricably linked with the welfare of others and it does no good to resolve one problem by creating another. When considering the return of the adult to the household the test does not need to be so stringent because one assumes that the welfare of the child has improved since the removal and that it will be that status which is to be safeguarded.

I hope that I have made it clear that in tabling this small amendment my objective is not to prevent the removal of an adult but to ensure that the court deliberates on the matter of care and to ensure that the power to be given to the courts is not capable of too much abuse even though the decision may be well intended. Those are my reasons for tabling amendment (a).

1.15 pm

Mr. Hinchliffe : New clause 34 is plain common sense. We spent much time on the issue in Committee and in view of the pressure of time in this debate I shall not delay the House for long. My main point is that under the present system of law the alleged victims of abuse are made to feel guilty. That is wrong. The trauma experienced by children and young persons has sometimes to be seen to be believed. All hon. Members present in the Chamber were present in Committee when I spoke about the case of the girl whom I had to remove following allegations of sexual assault on her sister by the mother's boyfriend. That was a terrible situation and I never want to see anyone go through it again. I recognise that in that case I was removing the wrong person. However, the law as it stands and as, unfortunately, it will continue to stand under the Bill, means that the current situation will continue.

I take seriously the civil liberties question touched on by the hon. Member for Southport (Mr. Fearn). I have given a great deal of thought to that matter and I am worried about it, but I come down firmly on the side of the child or young person who is the alleged victim. I say that because such children are often not in a position to understand why they have been removed. They do not understand why they are made to feel so guilty about an apparent break-up of the family and it appears to them that they are being punished for something that they have not done.

When talking about an exclusion order or, as it is sometimes called, an ouster order, we are talking about the removal of an adult who is in a much better position, guilty

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or not guilty, to understand precisely the reason for the exercise of the power. I come down firmly on the side of defending the child in the home and not removing him to a foster home, a children's home or an assessment centre. I am in favour of leaving children in the home environment and removing the alleged perpetrator of the offence rather than the victim.

I know that there is a wide-ranging support for the new clause. One source of support of which perhaps the Minister is not aware is the Law Society. It has said that it is aware of the fact that exclusion or ouster orders are currently being considered by the Law Commission. The Law Society will be responding to the commission's working paper, but it realises that it may be several years before the deliberations are acted upon. The Law Society says :

"We therefore take the view that some provision needs to be made in the Bill if only as a temporary measure."

I urge the Minister to take the new clause on board. It is sound common sense and will make a great deal of difference to the treatment of many children who are victims of circumstances beyond their control.

Mr. Mellor : I do not think that there is much difference between us on this matter. It comes down to an important technical issue. As I said in Committee and in the various meetings that we have had since, the making of an emergency protection order does not mean that the local authority has to remove the child from the home. It is open to the authority, provided it does so using extreme care and proper professional judgment, to arrange to accept an agreement by the alleged abuser to go so that the child will not be further disrupted by having the link with the abuser broken. Even if that is the right thing to do it sometimes causes trauma to a child. A child should not also lose the link with brothers and sisters who may remain. I think I said earlier that I am aware of cases in which adults have been abused and have said that being taken away from home seemed like a form of punishment for having been the victims of abuse. That is common ground and we have sought to make it a little easier for the alleged abuser to go by putting into the Bill a provision that local authorities could help with the expenses of that happening in the best interests of the child.

A narrow but difficult point arises out of new clause 34. The Law Commission has published a consultative document on domestic violence and the occupation of family homes. If people have the right of occupation it is not a trivial matter to terminate that right, as the hon. Member for Southport (Mr. Fearn) rightly said. I should feel more comfortable about proceeding on this once we have received the Law Commission's study and it has had a chance to take on board the points made during consultation. Our resolve to deal thoroughly with the matter is not weakened and we do not preclude considering it when the Law Commission has put forward its final thoughts.

Even without the new clause, the law is now stronger. As a professional who has been involved in this work, the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe) knows that a child does not have to be removed simply because a protection order has been made. The abuser can go instead. We cannot add an ouster provision now, without first considering carefully the serious issues raised in the Law Commission's report, and I hope that the House will

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understand my reasons for not accepting the new clause. I shall be happy to arrange further discussions on the matter as progress is made.

Government amendment No. 171 is important. It picks up a point made by Lord Justice Butler-Sloss in the Cleveland inquiry report. She encouraged social services departments to consider the

appropriateness of using their existing powers under section 1 of the Child Care Act 1980, which are designed to prevent the reception of a child into care. Under these powers and for a limited period, they may be able to defray the additional costs incurred by the suspected abuser leaving home on a temporary basis while initial assessment of the child is completed. The power is intended to help with alternative accommodation whether the suspected abuser leaves under voluntary arrangements agreed with the authority under an emergency protection order or an interim care order. Alternatively, it could be used in support of any action taken under existing legislation or a new statutory scheme introduced as a result of the Law Commission's work. The provision oils the machinery satisfactorily, as we await the outcome of the Law Commission's deliberations. I hope that the House will agree to amendment No. 171 and that the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) will not press his new clause to a Division.

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