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I found one of her comments quite extraordinary. She suggested that in order to ensure that something happens as the result of recommendations that he or she makes, the commissioner might use publicity and embarrassment. In other areas of child protection, we do not believe that publicity and embarrassment are sufficient deterrents. We rely on the full weight of statute in those areas. Therefore, I particularly welcomed the Minister's reassurance that her colleague in another place will bring forward a measure to ensure that people have to respond appropriately to the commissioner's recommendations.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I should not want the noble Baroness to think for one moment that I was trying to suggest that publicity and embarrassment are sufficient deterrents in the area of child protection. I referred to those factors in terms of making agencies respond. The noble Baroness is absolutely right on that point.
Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I am very grateful for those comments. It can be a part of getting people to respond, but it is certainly not enough. That is why I await with great interest the measure that the Minister in another place will bring forward. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
"(a) any matter falling within the remit of the Children's Commissioner for Wales under section 72B, 73 or 74 of the Care Standards Act 2000 (c. 14) in relation to children to whom Part 5 of that Act applies;
(b) any matter relating to children in Scotland which is not a reserved matter (within the meaning of the Scotland Act 1998 (c. 46)); or
(c) any matter relating to children in Northern Ireland which is a transferred or reserved matter (within the meaning of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (c. 47))."
The noble Lord said: My Lords, these amendments relate to the list of five objectives that originally appeared in both Clause 2 and Clause 7 but now remain only in Clause 7(2). Because of the importance of the issues, I have to take a few minutes of the House's time to set out the background.
In Committee, there was an extensive debate on amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and myself, which would have includedalas, the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, is no longer in his placethe family or family life as an additional objective in this list.
There was very strong support from both sides of the House for there being some reference to the importance of family life at this point in the Bill, as shown at cols. 108996 of the Official Report for 4 May. The noble Baroness rejected all that pressure on the grounds that the five objectives were cast in stone because they were derived from the wishes of children, as expressed during the consultations that the Government held before publicising the Bill.
I have carefully studied the reports of those consultations, and of the research project by the Children and Young People's Unit. In those consultations, children were not asked directly whether the quality of their family life was important to them or had a high priority in their lives. However, out of the nine questions that they were asked, twoquestions 4 and 7related to families. The children's replies show clearly what a high priority they place on families and family life and support. The research project carried out by the CYPU also strongly and repeatedly confirmed the high priority placed by child and adult consultees on the value of family life. The question is why those aspects of children's replies were ignored by the Government when they drafted the five objectives that we find in Clause 7(2).
In a recent letter to the noble Earl, Lord Howe, which was copied to me, the noble Baroness explained that after careful consideration the Government had decided to write the Bill in terms of objectives rather than processes. I entirely support that decision. However, it emphasises the importance of getting the objectives right. That is particularly the case because, no fewer than twice in her reply in Committee, she described the five objectives as the definition of well-being. We all know that, when a list is included in legislation, the courts assume that things left out are excluded. The list is therefore very important. It defines, for the purposes of the law, the well-being of
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children. It would be serious if stability, security and home life were excluded from the definition of children's well-being. It would be even more serious if emotional well-being were excluded.
In the noble Baroness's letter to the noble Earl, she tells us that the Government regard family life as part of the process, rather than as an objective or good in itself. The reality is that family life is both a process and an objective. The quality of family life is an objective in itself, because it affects not only the child's future chances in life, but also its happiness and well-being while it is a child.
I am guessing, but I believe that the Government are so reluctant to include a reference to family life among the objectives of the Bill for a political reason. They are rightly reluctant to seem to suggest interference in private family life. I respect that concern, although I believe that supporting family life need not be intrusive, provided that it is based on listening to what families, children and parents want rather than imposing solutions on them. I respect the Government's concerns, and have therefore crafted the two amendments. They go some way towards addressing two of the most important aspects of a child's well-being that family life normally delivers. Neither mentions "family" or "family life". I hope that the noble Baroness will be grateful for that change in the direction of my amendment.
That is a key good for all children, especially young children, so should be one of the objectives that defines the welfare of children in the Bill. Amendment No. 19 would add "emotional" well-being to the list of well-beings in Clause 7(2)(e). It may be the most important well-being of all for children. It affects their current life as children, their ability to relate to others, and their prospects for the future. To say that it should be excluded because it is simply part of the process is as absurd as saying that health should be excluded because it is also part of the process, which it is. Emotional well-being is a good in itself for children, and should be included in the definition of targets for children's well-being in the Bill.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I support the amendment. I have already mentioned the report, Aim High: Stay Real, which clearly underlines the importance that children give to a secure and happy home environment. The amendment is a way of emphasising that in the Bill. I differ slightly from my noble friend in not thinking that the motives of the noble Baroness are political. If they are, it is with only a small "p". There is recognition of the importance of family.
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