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(i)   advice and advocacy services;



(ii)   complaints procedures; and



(iii)   inspection and whistle-blowing arrangements,



   so far as relating to children;



(d)   review and report on any other matter relating to the rights, views and interests of children.

 
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(3)   The Children's Commissioner must take reasonable steps to involve children in the discharge of his functions under this section, and in particular to—



(a)   ensure that children are made aware of his function and how they may communicate with him;



(b)   consult children, and organisations working with children, on the matters he proposes to review and report on under subsection (2)(c) or (d);



(c)   ensure that the content of any material issued by the Commissioner or his staff, whether printed or in electronic or other form, which is intended to be used by children, takes account, so far as practicable, of the means of communication, level of understanding and usual language of the intended recipients.



(4)   The Children's Commissioner must for the purposes of subsection (3) have particular regard to groups of children who do not have other adequate means by which they can made their views known.



(5)   The Children's Commissioner or a person authorised by him may for the purposes of his function under this section at any reasonable time—



(a)   enter any premises, other than a private dwelling, for the purposes of interviewing any child accommodated or cared for there; and



(b)   if the child consents, interview the child in private.



(6)   Any person exercising functions under any enactment must supply the Children's Commissioner with such information in that person's possession relating to those functions as the Children's Commissioner may reasonably request for the purposes of his function under this section (provided that the information is information which that person may, apart from this subsection, lawfully disclose to him).



(7)   In considering for the purpose of his function under this section what constitutes the rights and interests of children (generally or so far as relating to a particular matter) the Children's Commissioner must have regard to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.



(8)   In subsection (7) the reference to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is to the Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 20th November 1989, subject to any reservations, objections or interpretative declarations by the United Kingdom for the time being in force.'.

New clause 18—Exercise of functions in relation to children in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland—



'(1)   It shall be the sole responsibility of the Children's Commissioner for Wales to—



(a)   hold an inquiry on any matters as regards children in Wales; and



(b)   consider, and make appropriate representations about, any matter affecting children ordinarily resident in Wales.



(2)   It shall be the sole responsibility of the Commissioner for Children and Young People in Scotland to—



(a)   hold an inquiry on any matters as regards children in Scotland; and



(b)   consider, and make appropriate representations about, any matter affecting children ordinarily resident in Scotland.



(3)   It shall be the sole responsibility of the Commissioner for Children and Young People in Northern Ireland to—



(a)   hold an inquiry on any matters as regards children in Northern Ireland; and



(b)   consider, and make appropriate representations about, any matter affecting children ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland.'.

 
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Amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 6, leave out clause 2.

Amendment No. 11, in clause 2, page 2, line 18, leave out 'take reasonable steps to'.

Amendment No. 12, in clause 2, page 2, line 19, leave out 'section' and insert 'Part'.

Amendment No. 44, in clause 4, page 2, line 24, at end insert—



'(c)   ensure that direct services provided to children by the Commissioner or his staff in Wales whether formally or informally are provided in Welsh or English or both according to the wishes of the intended recipients.'.

Amendment No. 13, in clause 2, page 2, line 31, at end insert—



'(6A)   In carrying out his functions under this section the Commissioner must take steps to ascertain the views of parents and other persons caring for children in improving the well-being of children.'.

Amendment No. 4, in page 4, line 1, leave out clause 4.

Amendment No. 34, in page 4, line 24, leave out clause 5.

Amendment No. 45, in page 4, line 24, leave out clauses 5 to 7.

Amendment No. 24, in clause 5, page 4, line 29, leave out '(12) of section 2' and insert—



'(9) of section [Children's Commissioner: functions]'.

Amendment No. 25, in clause 6, page 5, line 6, leave out '(12) of section 2' and insert—



'(9) of section [Children's Commissioner: functions]'.

Government amendment No. 28.

Amendment No. 26, in clause 7, page 5, line 38, leave out '(12) of section 2' and insert—



'(9) of section [Children's Commissioner: functions]'.

Amendment No. 27, in clause 9, page 7, line 7, leave out '2(11) and (12)' and insert—



'[Children's Commissioner: functions](8) and (9)'.

Government amendment No. 30.

Amendment No. 9, in schedule 1, page 44, line 19, at end insert—



'(1A)   The Secretary of State must take reasonable steps to involve children and representatives of children's organisations in the process of appointment of the Commissioner.'.

Amendment No. 10, in schedule 1, page 45, line 31, leave out



'and on such conditions (if any).'.

Mrs. Brooke: I think that the consensus has come to an end. I rise to speak to new clause 1 and amendment No. 1, which would delete clause 2, as amended in Committee, to consequential amendments Nos. 24 to 27, and to amendment No. 4, which would leave out clause 4. My hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Mr. Williams) very much hopes to speak to new clause 2, and on other issues pertaining particularly to Wales. As we are short of time, it might help if I said at the outset that we want to press new clauses 1 and 2 to a vote.

The Minister will be aware that a wide range of organisations and individuals are enormously disappointed with the amendments to clause 2 that were recently passed in Committee. During the debate, it became apparent that the Government's views on the functions and role of the children's commissioner were
 
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fundamentally different from those who opposed the amendments, with little hope of convergence. Given the widespread welcome for a Children's Commissioner for England—I do indeed welcome the concept—it is surely right that we revisit the issues and reflect on the cross-party support given in the other place to a clause similar to new clause 1. Indeed, new clause 1 is also very similar to new clause 13, as proposed by the Conservatives.

As a consequence of the Government's amendments, the children's commissioner now has the function of

That contrasts with the much stronger statement resulting from cross-party amendments made in the other place, which would have given the commissioner the function of

of children. As the Children's Commissioner for Wales said:

We welcome the fact that the Government accepted at a very early stage an amendment in the other place whereby the commissioner "must"—rather than "may"—have regard to the United Nations convention on the rights of the child. But the Government also required that the commissioner be concerned "in particular" with the five "outcome goals". The Joint Committee on Human Rights concluded:

The Minister told the Committee that if the focus were simply on rights, it would limit the work that the commissioner could do on behalf of children. That is a point with which we have considerable difficulty.

2 pm

There is nothing narrow about the proposed focus on rights and interests. The convention on the rights of the child covers all aspects of childhood and we ratified that convention in 1991. It gives all babies and children a comprehensive set of economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights, 40 in all. Because of constraints on time, I shall not run through them all, but they cover education, health, sexual exploitation, adoption, children in trouble with the law and so forth. The convention provides a wide framework for the children's commissioner and it is not limiting in the way the Minister suggested. It is, indeed, a foundation on which everything else can be built.

We oppose clause 4 because it gives the Secretary of State the power to direct the commissioner to undertake an inquiry. The Government have given assurances that they foresee the power being used only in cases of extreme significance. However, the Secretary of State can already convene such an inquiry under existing powers.


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