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COMMONS AMENDMENT


5 Clause 2, page 2, line 4, at end insert—
"(2A) The Children's Commissioner is to be concerned in particular under this section with the views and interests of children so far as relating to the following aspects of their well-being—
(a) physical and mental health and emotional well-being;
(b) protection from harm and neglect;
(c) education, training and recreation;
(d) the contribution made by them to society;
(e) social and economic well-being."

Lord Filkin: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 5.
 
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Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 5.—(Lord Filkin.)

[Amendment No. 5A not moved.]

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENTS


6 Clause 2, page 2, line 10, leave out "review and report on" and insert "consider or research"
7 Clause 2, page 2, line 12, leave out paragraph (c) and insert—
"(3A) Where the Children's Commissioner publishes a report under this section he must, if and to the extent that he considers it appropriate, also publish the report in a version which is suitable for children (or, if the report relates to a particular group of children, for those children)."

Lord Filkin: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 6 and 7.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 6 and 7.—(Lord Filkin.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENT


8 Clause 2, page 2, line 19, at end insert—
"(4A) The Children's Commissioner is not under this section to conduct an investigation of the case of an individual child."

Lord Filkin: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 8.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 8.—(Lord Filkin.)

[Amendment No. 8A not moved.]

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENT


9 Clause 2, page 2, line 30, at end insert—
"(6A) Where the Children's Commissioner has published a report under this section containing recommendations in respect of any person exercising functions under any enactment, he may require that person to state in writing, within such period as the Commissioner may reasonably require, what action the person has taken or proposes to take in response to the recommendations."

Lord Filkin: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 9.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 9.—(Lord Filkin.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENTClause 2, page 2, line 31, leave out subsection (7)

Lord Filkin: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 10.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 10.—(Lord Filkin.)

[Amendment No. 10A not moved.]

On Question, Motion agreed to.
 
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COMMONS AMENDMENT


11 Clause 2, page 2, line 36, leave out "rights and"

Lord Filkin: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 11.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 11.—(Lord Filkin.)

[Amendment No. 11A not moved.]

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENT


12 Clause 2, page 2, line 44, leave out subsection (10)

Lord Filkin: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 12.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 12.—(Lord Filkin.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENT


13 Clause 3, page 3, line 1, leave out Clause 3

Lord Filkin: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No 13. The amendment deletes the existing Clause 3. It should be seen in the context of Amendment No. 25, which creates a new clause on annual reports. I will also speak to Amendment No. 15, moved and passed in Committee in another place, which grants the commissioner powers to obtain responses to the recommendations in his reports produced under Clause 4. That is the same as government Amendment No. 9, to which I have already spoken and which gave the commissioner powers to follow up recommendations. The reasoning behind the amendment is the same.

The Government believe that the commissioner's reports should, where necessary, lead to action and positive change. We do not want to see his reports disappear without trace. There may be some unpopular recommendations, but that is part of the commissioner's function. The amendment was phrased as simply as possible to allow flexibility in how the commissioner may wish to exercise his power. We have not laid down a response time; we will leave that to the discretion of the commissioner. I hope that the House feels able to accept those changes tabled and passed in another place.

Amendments Nos. 13 and 25 were passed in another place, inserting a new clause on annual reports and removing the previous Clause 3 seen and debated by this House. The new clause is similar to Clause 3 in that it requires the commissioner to prepare an annual report and outlines the type of information to be contained in the report and the processes involved in laying it before Parliament. The clause differs from the previous one in that it requires that the commissioner report on the way in which he has discharged his function under the whole part, not only under Clause 2. That is why it was moved from its original position in the Bill. That is a necessary
 
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alteration because of the additional functions that the commissioner holds on non-devolved or reserved matters in other UK nations, set out in other clauses.

On annual reports and reflecting on the involvement of children, subsection (2) requires the commissioner to report on the steps that he has taken to involve children in the discharge of his functions. On the publication of reports, subsection (3) requires the commissioner to send a copy of his annual report to the Secretary of State and that the Secretary of State lay a copy before each House. The Secretary of State must do that "as soon as possible", to allay concerns voiced in this House on the issue. We do not believe that presenting the report to Parliament via the Secretary of State will in any way compromise independence; it is the normal way in which such reports are brought into Parliament. The Secretary of State has no power to change or alter the annual report in any way.

Subsection (5) requires reports to be published in a version suitable for children if the commissioner thinks it appropriate. I hope that the House agrees that the clause substantially enhances the previous Clause 3 and will feel able to accept that change. To allay any concerns, the Government tabled Amendment No. 19 in another place to make it explicit that the Secretary of State cannot delay publication of Clause 5 reports, by inserting the words "as soon as possible".

On the important issue of the involvement of children in choosing the commissioner, let me speak to Amendment No. 32. It has always been the Government's intention to involve children and young people in the appointment of the commissioner. That was one of the points raised when we consulted on Every Child Matters. The process that we envisage will be in keeping with the code of practice of the office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments, and we will draw on the experience of colleagues elsewhere in the United Kingdom. The appointment of the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, Nigel Williams, was an example of extremely good practice in that respect.

In July we established a children and youth board made up of 25 children and young people from across the country, selected from a wide range of organisations, both local and national, including the UK Youth Parliament. The board has an important role in the recruitment and selection of the commissioner by contributing to the person specification, producing the design material and taking part in the interview process. We introduced the amendment in another place. It ensures involvement in all future commissioner appointments.

I hope that all the amendments will be accepted by the House. Where we have been able to, we have gone with the views of the House; where we have not, I hope that I have explained satisfactorily why we think the stance right as it comes from another place.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 13.—(Lord Filkin.)
 
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7.15 p.m.


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