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The Earl of Listowel: I thank the Minister for his very detailed and reassuring response to my concerns. Perhaps he could drop me a line in response to two questions. One is whether there are proposals to reform the recruitment of judges from areas of family law. It has been emphasised to me that there is a shortage of judges specialising in this area, but they are
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needed in order to make possible the kind of practice arrangements that the president of the court has said are so desirable for continuity. I may have to write to the Minister in relation to the second question.
Lord Adonis: I shall have to write to the noble Earl about the proposals for the recruitment of judges. I am sure that the Department for Constitutional Affairs has such proposals because the recruitment of judges is an issue of continuing concern, but I do not know precisely what they are in respect of the issue raised by the noble Earl.
Baroness Morris of Bolton: Before the Minister sits down, I do not think that he addressed the important points raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth. If, as we hear, CAFCASS is now to have an extra monitoring role, will it have extra resources?
Lord Adonis: When we prepare for the next spending review, which we are starting to do, we will take full account of CAFCASS's responsibilities and we will make allowance for that in the process. Unfortunately, I cannot make a commitment now concerning the arrangements and the CAFCASS budget in the period ahead.
The Earl of Listowel: I am sorry to interrupt. I thank the Minister for his response on the issue of arrangements in divorce, but I wonder whether he knows of any proposals that may be in train to strengthen the arrangements at the time of divorce to make the contact plan a more robust document and more helpful than it is currently? He might like to write to me on that point.
Lord Adonis: I am happy to write to the noble Earl on that point. A parenting plan is available to parents dealing with very difficult issues relating to their children after the break up of their relationship. I am sure that the noble Lord has seen it. We are consulting on a revised and updated version of it at present. It gives a good deal of information about how parents can best approach these issues and where they can seek advice and guidance.
Baroness Walmsley: I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this little debate. Noble Lords will not be surprised to learn that I was not at all surprised to hear the words "resources" and "prescriptive". Perhaps I should own up to being a little mischievous when I tabled three years, but it was for the purpose of having the debate. I had to put something.
The principle that I am trying to get at is not the one addressed by the insertion of Section 11H into the Children Act 1989, because that refers only to situations where the court asks for monitoring. I would like to see some monitoring of all contact orders
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so that their smooth operation can be ensured. This links to Amendment No. 114, tabled by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, because unless one has that material, one cannot do research. There needs to be a body of evidence before any generalisations can be made to inform good practice. That body of evidence cannot be produced if one is only looking at situations where the court anticipates that there may be problems and therefore puts monitoring in place. We also need to look at contact orders that the court thinks will work well, because sometimes they do not and sometimes there are changes that the court might not have been able to anticipate in a thousand years. We need to know how things work out because we need evidence-based policy in all legislation and we will not get it unless we have evidence.
I appreciate the explanation given to us by the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth of Breckland, and I realise that what I was proposing would place a considerable extra burden on CAFCASS. Therefore, I was very pleased to hear the Minister's say, in response to the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Bolton, that these extra responsibilities will be properly considered when the funding of CAFCASS is being decided.
I shall withdraw the amendment, but I may come back at the next stage, perhaps in consultation with the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, with something to put in the Bill that is not too prescriptive, but that ensures that there is a appropriate level of monitoring so that if things are going wrong with contact it can be picked up early to avoid an entrenched dispute between the parents and the child feeling let down. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 37. 39 and 40, which are largely technical, about which I have written to Members of the Committee. I shall briefly explain what they involve.
The Bill gives courts new powers to make contact activity directions, contact activity conditions, enforcement orders, financial compensation orders and to require CAFCASS monitoring of contact orders. However, these new powers cannot be used in connection with a contact order that is an "excepted order". The Bill, as introduced, includes the concept of an excepted order already, but these amendments will ensure that all appropriate cases are excepted, in respect of other types of contact cases under Section 8 of the Children Act, including when a court is considering whether to make an adoption order in respect of a child, or a contact order as between an adopted child and someone who, prior to the adoption, was his parent or relative.
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Amendments Nos. 36 and 37 will mean that a contact order is excepted if it is made in proceedings that include an application for a "relevant adoption order" or if it makes provision for contact between a child and someone who would be a parent or relative of the child, but for the child having been adopted by an order falling within new subsection (4A) of new Section 11B of the Children Act 1989.
This new subsection, inserted by Amendment No. 39, will cover all adoption orders made under the Adoption and Children Act 2002, except step-partner adoptions, and adoption orders made under the Adoption Act 1976 and the equivalent adoption legislation in Scotland and Northern Ireland, except step-parent adoptions.
The overall effect of these Amendments will be to ensure that courts will be able to use the new provisions in the Bill in the case of contact orders made where there is a "step-parent" or "step-partner" adoption, but will not be able to use the new provisions in any other case where an adoption order is made.
"(4A) An order falls within this subsection if it is
(a) a relevant adoption order;
(b) an adoption order, within the meaning of section 72(1) of the Adoption Act 1976, other than an order made by virtue of section 14 of that Act on the application of a married couple one of whom is the mother or the father of the child;
(c) a Scottish adoption order, within the meaning of the Adoption and Children Act 2002, other than an order made
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(i) by virtue of section 14 of the Adoption (Scotland) Act 1978 on the application of a married couple one of whom is the mother or the father of the child, or
(ii) by virtue of section 15(1)(aa) of that Act; or
(d) a Northern Irish adoption order, within the meaning of the Adoption and Children Act 2002, other than an order made by virtue of Article 14 of the Adoption (Northern Ireland) Order 1987 on the application of a married couple one of whom is the mother or the father of the child."
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