Adoption and Children Bill

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Mr. Walter: I am conscious of the time, Mr. Stevenson. I simply say that the Opposition welcome the new clause.

The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Ms Rosie Winterton): The Government are grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, South and the other members of the Committee who tabled the new clause. I am grateful also to those organisations that represent children and victims of violence for participating in open and constructive discussions with the Government. I pay tribute to the president of the Family Division for the work that she has done with other senior judges in trying to bring domestic violence and child abuse to the attention of judges and magistrates.

I say at the outset that the Government accept the spirit of the new clause. Although we cannot accept it, we are seriously considering what we could do on Report to reflect its provisions. The Minister of State, Department of Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Redditch (Jacqui Smith), has been very supportive.

I shall briefly set out our thinking on the subject. We need to consider whether it is right to make an amendment relating only to orders for contact and residence under section 8 of the Children Act. That Act contains one definition of harm and it applies in all proceedings including applications for contact when a child is in care. We may be able to do something that would affect private law proceedings and could be extended to other proceedings. We might consider changing family proceeding rules as a way of offering children further protection. That would give us greater flexibility than changing primary legislation.

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We also have difficulty with the supplementary provisions in proposed new section 8B(1). The problem could be tackled in a number of ways. We are considering changing some of the court forms to deal with previous offences. We might amend the family proceedings rules to ensure greater consistency—for example, to ensure that findings of fact are made about the impact of violence or abuse on a child—in the making of further orders. Perhaps conditions could be imposed on orders, if they are needed for the protection of children and their parents.

Suggestions have been made for a domestic violence register. We might consider creating one, as it would cover some of the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, South. I assure her that we want to make further proposals on Report, and we shall continue our discussions with her, the all-party domestic violence group and the children's charities. I hope that, with those assurances, my hon. Friend will consider withdrawing the motion, and allow us to work together to make progress.

Margaret Moran: With those assurances, and stressing that we believe that there is a need for a change in the Children Act, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

The Chairman: I thank all hon. Members and everyone involved in the work of the Committee.

It being twenty-five past Eleven o'clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned till this day at half-past Two o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Stevenson, Mr. George (Chairman)
Bellingham, Mr.
Blackman, Liz
Brazier, Mr.
Brennan, Kevin
Dawson, Mr.
Djanogly, Mr.
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Loughton, Tim
Moran, Margaret
Munn, Ms
Shaw, Mr.
Smith, Jacqui
Walter, Mr.
Winterton, Ms Rosie

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Prepared 17 January 2002