Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Jonathan Shaw : What I hope we will gain from the Bill is a service that will look forward in assessing the difficulties and challenges involved in children's and parents' services. "Parents" is a word that is not mentioned often enough, and I would have preferred this to be called the Children and Parents Bill or the Children and Carers Bill.

The Bill looks forward to the shaping of children's and family services, rather than looking back. As the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) pointed out, all too often in the past inquiries have looked back on tragic events. Under the Bill there will be an annual report to Parliament, and those of us who are members of the Education and Skills Committee look forward to receiving it. There will be a robust exchange, and it will happen every year. In the past we have had to wait for inquiries on the cases of, for instance, Victoria Climbié, Maria Colwell and Jasmine Beckford.

Sterling work was clearly done in Committee. I congratulate members of the Standing Committee, and regret that I was not able to serve on it.

I am proud of the work that the Government have done on this and a range of other Bills. Since I entered the House in 1997, successive Bills relating to children have improved existing legislation and increased protection. Nevertheless, we need to focus our energies on helping parents with vulnerable children. It is the
2 Nov 2004 : Column 279
hard-to-reach parents whom we need to draw into the services that we want to provide. Often we start to engage such parents only in tragic circumstances, and sometimes they are forced to become involved through parenting orders. Research relating to such orders is positive, but we want parents to become engaged voluntarily rather than in a punitive context. Let us hope that the children's commissioner will concern himself not just with children but with the people with whom they spend most of their time—the people who shape their lives. Those people are, of course, their parents.

6.53 pm

Hywel Williams: I pay tribute to all who have contributed to our debates on the Bill. We have had an interesting, enjoyable, occasionally funny and very challenging experience, and I am sure that I am a better man for it.

Let me make a serious point. It is our highest duty to ensure that children are better protected, and to enhance their lives. I think that the Bill will achieve that, although not to the extent that I had hoped. I know that other members of the Welsh Affairs Committee will share my disappointment about the Children's Commissioner for Wales, and that my hon. Friends who concerned themselves with clause 56 will agree that we shall have to return to issues that are important and will not go away.

There is, however, much to welcome in the Bill. I particularly welcome the measures relating to CAFCASS—the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service—in Wales, which are long overdue and have been demanded in the past by many Members, including me. I also welcome the changes to fostering allowances. I became involved in child care many years ago, when it was very difficult to recruit foster parents. I hope that this change will lead to better recruitment and better foster services.

Therefore, I welcome what is positive in the Bill. I want to make it clear that I am committed to revisiting those issues that I, my hon. Friends and other hon. Members think are important. The Bill is an opportunity to make a real change to children's lives. That is something that we can all be proud of.

6.55 pm

Julie Morgan: I want briefly to say how pleased I was to serve on the Committee that considered the Bill and how pleased I am to support the Bill on Third Reading. I had my differences with the Minister, particularly over the issues of physical chastisement and the relationship between the Welsh and English children's commissioners, but those subjects have had a good airing and, overall, I support the Bill strongly.

I want in particular to say how pleased I am that CAFCASS is transferring to Wales. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Wales and the Minister for Children, Young People and Families have put a lot of work into bringing that about. That will be a great step forward and it is welcomed by the work force in Wales. We did not have much debate about that because it is universally accepted.
2 Nov 2004 : Column 280

Therefore, I am pleased to say that I support the Bill. I think that it will take the protection of children forward and I look forward to seeing its implementation in the years ahead.

6.56 pm

Mr. Roger Williams: I, too, congratulate the Minister on introducing a Bill that is accepted as a real improvement in terms of how children are looked after and welfare is promoted. Hon. Members from Wales have mentioned the devolution of CAFCASS to Wales. That issue has not had much coverage because the move has been universally welcomed. Although CAFCASS has had its difficulties in recent times, we all hope that, under the new leadership, it will be able to achieve the aspirations that many had when it was set up. The people who work for CAFCASS in Wales welcome the challenge of adapting it and ensuring that it is appropriate to the needs of children and families in Wales. Hugh Patrick, a constituent of mine with a long history of involvement in children's welfare issues, who is now a union representative for people working for CAFCASS, has assured me that staff are ready, willing and wanting to take up that challenge.

There have been disappointments. The Minister and I and other hon. Members have had our arguments over the role of the English and Welsh commissioners. The Select Committee on Welsh Affairs undertook considerable, lengthy pre-legislative scrutiny in good faith. It is disappointing that the Government could not accept the representations that we made, but I commend the Under-Secretary of State for Wales on the way in which he has made the present arrangements work. He has been instrumental in many cases, working with the commissioner in Wales, looking at his recommendations and taking them to other Ministers and Government Departments here. I assure him that we will want to make the arrangements, which we regard as inadequate, work well for children in Wales, too.

It is in that spirit that all hon. Members have taken part in the Standing Committee and in the debates on Report. We all commend the Bill and sincerely hope that there will be the great improvement in children's welfare that we all desire.

6.59 pm

Margaret Hodge: I want to thank everyone, if I may. I thank our Committee Chairmen for the estimable way in which they chaired our proceedings, and all the members on both sides of the Committee for the positive contribution that they made. Even where we disagreed and had some debate, it was all in good spirit. I particularly thank my fellow Ministers, who are incredibly busy people, for the time they gave to supporting me during the proceedings on the Bill, and the Whip, my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker), who played an estimable role in ensuring that we all kept to order. I also want to thank the many Back Benchers who served with us, some of whom spoke today. Others who were not called had,
2 Nov 2004 : Column 281
I know, prepared contributions to this important debate. I want to thank the parliamentary officials—

It being 7 o'clock, Madam Deputy Speaker proceeded to put forthwith the Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that hour, pursuant to Order [this day].

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed, with amendments.



2 Nov 2004 : Column 282

Health Services (Gosport)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Margaret Moran.]

7 pm

Next Section IndexHome Page