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The Earl of Balfour moved Amendment No. 16:

Page 10, line 40, leave out ("person") and insert ("child").

The noble Earl said: In this amendment I am suggesting to your Lordships that on this occasion we should use the word "child" rather than "person", because the clause is definitely dealing with people who are not adults. I beg to move.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: After that short but powerful speech I rise to indicate that the noble Earl will have the first of his customary triumphs on the drafting of a Bill. However, before the noble Earl decides it is time to embark on a lap of honour, I fear I can only extend agreement to the first six of his proposals to leave out "person" and insert "child". I am prepared to accept Amendments Nos. 16 to 21, but I do not accept that in the context of his Amendment No. 22 it would indeed be appropriate to substitute for the word "person" the word "child".

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Balfour: With the leave of the Committee, I shall move Amendments Nos. 17 to 21:

Page 10, line 42, leave out ("person") and insert ("child").
Page 10, line 46, leave out ("person") and insert ("child").
Page 11, line 1, leave out ("person") and insert ("child").
Page 11, line 3, leave out ("person") and insert ("child").
Page 11, line 4, leave out ("person") and insert ("child").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 22 not moved.]

Clause 13, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 14 [Jurisdiction and choice of law in relation to certain matters]:

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie moved Amendment No. 23:

Page 11, line 16, leave out ("(5)") and insert ("(4)").

The noble and learned Lord said: This amendment corrects a printing error which was pointed out to us by the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, and the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay. I am grateful to both of them and would wish to express my gratitude and appreciation for the attention paid to the detail of the Bill.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar: In answer to the Minister's observations, neither myself nor the noble Earl have any intention of doing a lap of honour on this occasion:

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 14, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 15 agreed to.

Clause 16 [Welfare of child and consideration of his views]:

Lord Macaulay of Bragar moved Amendment No. 24:

Page 13, line 10, at end insert (", and they or it shall have regard to the general principle that any delay in determining matters relating to a child is likely to prejudice the welfare of the child").

The noble Lord said: This amendment is perhaps a bit

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semantic in its form, but it re-emphasises the philosophy behind the Bill by seeking to add at the end of Clause 16(1) that there shall always be regard paid to,

"the general principle that any delay in determining matters relating to a child is likely to prejudice the welfare of the child".
One would hope that that is always in the mind of people who are dealing with the welfare of children, but I do not think it does any harm to restate it in the statute. I beg to move.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: I can agree with the general sentiment of the proposed amendment, but I do not accept that we need to spell it out in primary legislation. The clause already makes it quite clear that the welfare of the child throughout his childhood should be the paramount consideration of the hearing or the court. I think we can safely assume that courts and hearings will realise the importance of their own behaviour in relation to the child's welfare and will conduct their business accordingly.

In my view this is another amendment which raises issues which would best be left for guidance or rules. I would approach the matter in this way. It could be argued that this single provision would not achieve much because it is very difficult to see how, in its broad terms, it would be enforceable. I believe that it would be very much more effective if we were to find in the rules of court that detailed timetables were set out providing that such matters had to be dealt with in so many days or in some circumstances perhaps even in so many hours. It could be argued equally that other matters of this type, relating, for example, to the conduct of business and the type of accommodation which should be used, might require specific mention in primary legislation. I should have thought that all those matters are best left to the courts or the hearings. With that brief explanation, I hope that the noble Lord is now satisfied.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar: I thank the Minister for that very full explanation. In light of what he has said, which no doubt others who are involved in these matters will also read with great care in the Official Report, I hope that the Government will bring forward some amendments at an early stage before Report stage so that they may be considered by those who deal with such matters on a day-to-day basis. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar had given notice of his intention to move AmendmentNo. 25:

Page 13, line 10, at end insert—
("() Where under or by virtue of this Part of this Act, a local authority decide any matter with respect to a child, the welfare of that child throughout his childhood shall be their paramount consideration.
() In making any such decision a local authority shall have regard so far as practicable to the views (if he wishes to express them) of the child concerned, taking account of his age and maturity: and without prejudice to the generality of this subsection a child of 12 years of age or more shall be presumed to be of sufficient age and maturity to form a view.").

The noble Lord said: I do not think that I need to say much about this amendment except that I may have

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scored an own goal. I believe that the Minister has already pointed out the slight contradictions. I should like to have another look at this particular amendment and, unless the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, wishes to speak to it, I shall seek leave to withdraw it and reconsider its form.

Baroness Faithfull: I should like to put a question on Amendment No. 25. It is laid down that, as far as possible and practicable, one should try to keep children with their families, and that one should do all that one can in terms of preventive work to maintain the family however difficult the child may be. That being the case, should we not apply the word "paramountcy" to the children—

The Deputy Chairman of Committees: May I ask the noble Baroness whether she wishes to move this amendment? It has not been moved.

Baroness Faithfull: I beg your pardon, I thought it had been moved.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar: With the leave of Committee, perhaps I could formally move the amendment. I do not know whether that is possible within the rules. Obviously this is a matter that should be debated by someone who has views on it, so that it can properly be taken up at Report stage. If it is incompetent, then it is incompetent. I beg to move.

Baroness Faithfull: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, for allowing me to speak on this amendment.

As I said earlier, one thing that social workers really seek to do is to keep children with their families as far as possible and as far as practicable. That means doing a great deal of preventative work with the families in the community.

That being the case, I believe that the word "paramountcy" should apply to the children in the community who need help from the social services departments in order to meet their needs, to help them to stay with their families, and to protect and to promote family life and the welfare of the child within the family and within the community.

Therefore, I hope it would be possible to apply paramountcy to those outside care, outside residential accommodation, as well as those with their families.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: As this debate has opened up briefly, might I respond to it and try to set in context both Clause 16 and Clause 17, to which the amendment relates.

Clause 16 sets out the basic ground rules for the way in which courts and hearings should deal with children who come before them. The importance of taking the children's views into account and regarding the welfare of the child throughout his or her childhood has paramount consideration and that is made abundantly clear. The clause deals with these formal sittings of the courts or the hearings in some detail, but what Clause 16 does not do is to consider the more general role that might be played by the local authorities and the social workers who are employed by them. That is not because the matter is unimportant, but because that issue is

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covered in respect of children looked after by local authorities within the terms of Clause 17. If the noble Lady cares to look, the beginning of Clause 17 says that,

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