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Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: I have some sympathy with my noble friend's concerns. The Government—indeed your Lordships' House—will be well aware of the conflicting opinions that have been expressed in earlier statutes and earlier debates both for and against the disclosure of "identifying information" in the case of these children. It was indeed a subject of considerable debate during the passage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. My noble friend may recall that regulation-making powers are inserted into the Act to enable necessary regulations to be made to allow for the provision of information to such young people when they reach the age of 18. The UK health departments intend to launch a consultation exercise in due course to gauge

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public opinion on that matter.

However, I hope that my noble friend will not return to this at a later stage of the Bill, because I very much doubt whether it would be appropriate for the Children (Scotland) Bill to deal with the issue of disclosure of information about a child's genetic parents, given that such regulation-making powers exist on a United Kingdom basis in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990.

I also have a specific concern that the words "identifying information" which appear in her amendment could lead to doubt about what is meant. It could mean anything from blood group or genetic information, which I think she is most concerned with, to a name, contact information or address. That is a particular difficulty, but I note with interest that my noble friend intends to withdraw her amendment.

The Earl of Balfour: Before my noble and learned friend sits down, he did say "aged 18". As, unfortunately, sometimes people seem to get married as young as 16, if this matter to be considered at the next stage of the Bill, I wonder whether the age should not be slightly reduced?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: When I was referring to the age of 18, it was in the context of providing regulations which gave that information to young people, and I take it—but I had better check this and write to the noble Earl if I am wrong—that that is what is provided in the 1990 Act. I was not indicating what I would consider to be an appropriate age should such provisions be included in this Bill.

Baroness Faithfull: I hear what my noble and learned friend the Minister says, and I have great sympathy with him. I am grateful to other noble Lords who have spoken. I shall consider the matter further and at the moment beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Lord Henderson of Brompton moved Amendment No. 3:

After Clause 3 insert the following new clause:

Protection of children from violence.

(" .—(1) In any proceedings (whether criminal or civil) against a person for striking a child, it shall not be a defence for the person to establish that he struck the child in the purported exercise of any parental right if he struck the child—
(a) with a stick, belt or other object of whatever description; or
(b) in such a way as to cause, or to risk causing—
(i) injury; or
(ii) pain or discomfort lasting more than a very short time.
(2) Any person who has care and control of a child but who does not have parental responsibilities or rights in relation to the child shall have no greater right than has a parent to administer corporal punishment to the child.
(3) In section 12 of the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act 1937 the following are hereby repealed—
(a) in subsection (1) the words "assaults," and "assaulted";
(b) subsection (7).").

The noble Lord said: With the leave of the Committee, I shall speak from a sedentary position as I find it very difficult to stand for any length of time.

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This amendment has all-party support, as can be seen from the list of noble Lords who have put their names to the amendment. I apologise for the absence of the noble Baroness, Lady David, who spoke on this matter on Second Reading, but she is out of the country at the moment. I am quite sure that she is whole-heartedly behind the amendment to which she has put her name.

I very much hope that we shall reach a conclusion on the amendment at this stage. However, if it is necessary to table an amendment on this subject at Report, because this is an all-party issue I hope that it can be treated as a free vote—that is, a vote on which there are no Whips. That is an important matter. When this matter was raised in the other place, unfortunately the voting was on a Whipped basis. I think that it is very important that we should be able to register the opinions of this Committee without the usual "benefit", if that is the right word, of the Whips. There are precedents for this, I think, even in this particular instance of protecting a child from violence. Therefore I hope that all parties will agree this proposal, if and when we come to vote on the amendment.

The amendment is in exactly the same form as the amendment attached to the report of the Scottish Law Commissioners, and to that extent I feel greatly protected, because I have the expertise of their draftsmanship. I will come back to draftsmanship at a later stage. I merely wish to say that this is not my draft and I gratefully adopt the draft of the Scottish Law Commission.

What is the purpose of the amendment? Before coming to the purpose, I should say that the need for the amendment is illustrated by a report which I have not seen myself, although the conclusions have been sent to me. It is a report of a recent, and I think unique, study of physical violence to children in the United Kingdom. It is a study, which is fairly broadly based, of more than 400 families and it is funded by the Department of Health. The report found that one in six mothers reported using what is defined as "severe" physical punishment on their children, and that a quarter of seven-year-olds have been "severely" punished physically. The large majority—that is 88 per cent.—of all "severe" punishments involved hitting children. The guidelines defined punishment as "severe" if it involved,"

    "intention or potential to cause injury or psychological damage, use of implements, repeated actions over a long period of time."

The research is based on interviews with mothers and other parents, but mostly mothers, and shows beyond reasonable doubt that a substantial majority of children in the United Kingdom are still suffering abusive forms of physical punishment. They are the kind of abusive forms of physical punishment which this new clause seeks to discourage.

I would say incidentally that there is also good evidence that violence of this kind breeds violence and that children who were frequently aggressive with their siblings were four times as likely as those who were rarely aggressive to their siblings to have been severely punished themselves. I think that statement of the need

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for the amendment is absolutely clear and the onus against the amendment lies clearly with those who disagree with severe physical punishment of children.

I would say also that there is a clear change of opinion, not merely in this country but throughout the world, and indeed in the European Union, that severe punishment of children is no longer considered to be necessary in schools. We have a minor exception in this country. Private schools as opposed to state schools can administer corporal punishment with the consent of the parents of the children concerned, but that is a very minor exception. In the home as well as the school it is now considered, I think, not necessary and it can be extremely damaging for physical punishment to be used by parents or schoolmasters.

That is the main need for the amendment. I come to the purpose of the amendment, which is very positive. Here again I am indebted to the Scottish Law Commissioners, because I can read from their report what the purpose of their amendment which I have adopted is. The Scottish Law Commissioners' own explanatory notes state:

"Subsection 1. This subsection clarifies and limits the extent of the parental right of chastisement". I would say that "parental" is an important word.
"This is done by drawing a distinction between an ordinary safe smack on the one hand, and canings, belting or beatings with objects of various sorts, and any blows which cause or risk causing, injury or prolonged pain or discomfort, on the other. Many other forms of punishment not referred to in this clause are already covered by Section 12 of the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act 1937, which outlaws ill-treatment of children generally.
Subsection 2: This subsection makes it clear that those, without parental responsibilities or parental rights, having care or control of a child, have no greater right than a parent has to administer corporal punishment to a child.
Subsection 3: This subsection removes from the statute book a provision which is unnecessary and which appears to condone ill-treatment of children".

In this new climate of opinion, I am happy to say that Scotland has been at the forefront of reform in children's law for the last 30 years. Following the Kilbrandon Report, which is within the recollection of many, I am sure, the introduction and development of the children's hearing system has been an admired innovation. The 1990s have seen the United Nations convention and other international instruments as well as the kind of weighty research evidence I mentioned earlier, leading to a reappraisal of what is acceptable in the modern day and age of punishment for children.

As I said, Scotland has an opportunity in the Bill to be responsive to these trends and to continue to demonstrate an innovative approach. The clear welfare orientation of Scottish children's law, I gather, would minimise the risk of any such provision working against the interests of children. Scotland being in the lead in this sphere of action, I hope it continues to be so and takes the advice of the Scottish Law Commission, set out in the amendment.

In the other place, the Minister, Lord James Douglas-Hamilton, made a number of technical objections. I thought it right, in view of those objections, which have not so far been examined in public, to write to the secretary of the Scottish Law Commission to ask

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if the commissioners would kindly let me know the basis of their recommendations and also, of course, what their response was to the criticisms of their recommendations adduced by Lord James Douglas-Hamilton.

The Scottish Law Commission was extremely co-operative and did exactly what I wished. The commissioners wrote a letter which could be shown to anyone, and very sensibly sent it to the Minister, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie. As the noble and learned Lord has the letter and as Lord James Douglas-Hamilton also has it, it is unnecessary for me to go into any detail in Committee about the technicalities of the proposal. It concerns things like the concept of evil intent and the meaning of assault and reasonable punishment. These things can, of course, be examined later in Committee if necessary but I thought I would provide an opportunity for the noble and learned Lord to give his opinion on the letter if he so wishes.

The letter from the Scottish Law Commissioners is not wedded to this particular form of amendment. If there is another route by which the result can be achieved, they would be happy to consider it. In other words, instead of using the concept of defence they would use the concept of justification; though I believe that if you go down that route there are some difficulties. In any case, in their letter they have shown flexibility and I would hope that the letter of the Law Commission, of which the noble and learned Lord has a copy, will satisfy the Government that we can proceed on a constructive basis with this amendment which has been drafted by the Law Commissioners themselves. I beg to move.

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