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The Earl of Balfour: I am concerned about the amendment because there is so often such appalling friction between the two parents when they have got divorced. I have a great deal of sympathy with Amendment No. 10, but I think the first two amendments create more difficulties than cures.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie): In another place the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Lord James Douglas-Hamilton, agreed to consider the points raised in Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 when similar amendments were tabled there. However, following that consideration we have concluded that it is not necessary to provide a specific responsibility for the parent who has the child living with him or her to facilitate contact with the parent who does not have the child living with her or him; nor do we see that there is a need for a corresponding right.

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Our concern in particular is how such amendments would impact on the rest of the Bill and, more importantly, what precise effects they would have on all of the parties concerned. Our conclusion has been that the amendments made to Clause 11 in another place are sufficient as they stand to allow the courts to regulate the sharing of the residence arrangements of children to such an extent as to make unnecessary the amendments which the noble Earl has moved to facilitate contact. Nothing is between us on the desirability of such contact being maintained; the question is simply whether we need to include this provision, and our conclusion is that it is unnecessary.

As regards Amendment No.10, I am grateful to the noble Earl for raising this point, but it should be quite clear that when a child is staying with his parents alternately or periodically, he or she normally should have contact with the parent with whom he or she is not living at that time. It is therefore right that the court should be able to make an order regulating that contact in circumstances of alternating or periodic changes. I hope nevertheless to give the noble Earl this assurance: it is not necessary to spell that out in the Bill. Our view is that the provisions in Clause 11 regarding residence are sufficient; nor is it necessary to require the parent with whom the child is staying to allow the other parent to have his contact. If a court made an order regulating residence and/or contact, anyone who obstructed that order from being implemented would indeed be in contempt of court and serious consequences could flow from that. With that brief explanation I hope I have persuaded the noble Earl that, while there is merit in what he wishes to achieve, these amendments are not necessary.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar: Before the noble and learned Lord sits down, I wonder whether we are now in the state in this Bill where we are dealing with philosophy instead of practicability. There is a great philosophy that every child is entitled to two parents. I take the view that some children are entitled to have one parent if the other parent is being a bad parent. In this context I wonder whether the phrase,

    "to promote the maintenance of personal relations and direct contact on a regular basis between the child and the parent with whom he does not live".

in fact imposes a social obligation on the partner. Let us forget about people being married, because people do not very often get married these days. Let us take the partner, the father and the mother of the child. Is there an obligation on the mother who has been deserted by the father, perhaps the father of three or more children, who has been away for five years and who has contributed nothing to the household? Is there now a duty imposed by the Bill on the mother, who has taken over the burden of looking after the children, to persuade the children to contact the father? These are very personal issues. Should it not be left to the children in their own due time to make contact with their parents?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: The noble Lord raises a number of matters which are philosophical in their nature and which go to the core of Part I of the Bill. In Clauses 1 and 2 we set out what are parental responsibilities and

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parental rights. At the centre of this set of amendments is the order that the court might be making under Clause 11. It is not difficult to envisage circumstances, with which I am sure the noble Lord is familiar, where one parent has simply disappeared, has been an abusive parent, or the like. That parent would not be encouraged and would not be allowed by the court to have contact with the child or indeed the residence of the child.

I sought to explain that within Clause 11 I considered there to be a sufficiently wide range of options to enable the court to make an order that would allow residence to alternate and that during that period there should be the sort of contact the noble Earl wishes to achieve.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: I am grateful to the Minister for his reply, which I will study tomorrow in Hansard. I hold to the philosophy that it is important for all children to know their parents. This does not mean that I believe that it should be necessarily on a regular basis, but contact should be contact which can be described as regular, albeit perhaps on an annual basis. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [Parental rights]:

[Amendment No. 2 not moved.]

Baroness Faithfull moved Amendment No. 2A:

Page 2, line 24, at end insert:
("( ) to have access to identifying information about the child's genetic parents.").

The noble Baroness said: This amendment is to provide access to parents of children who were adopted. The parents of children conceived by donor insemination would be able to obtain information about the children's origins to help in the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions.

I realise that this is an extremely difficult amendment. I move it based on personal experience. On three occasions when dealing with children who were adopted or the result of artificial insemination, when the child reached the age of 10 the doctor from the Radcliffe Infirmary telephoned me and said he wanted to know the medical history of the parents of the child. Fortunately, I had the medical history and it was a help to him because the child had developed some peculiar disease.

Secondly, I took part in the proceedings on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. I am in some difficulty here because I wanted to check with the committee under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 whether this was a wise recommendation or not, but unfortunately the noble Lord, Lord Walton, is out of the country at the moment and the vice-chairman of the committee, Mrs. Deech, was unable to see me. I shall, therefore, be withdrawing the amendment with a view to bringing it forth at the next stage.

It is right for a child to know its origins, and it is right that the parents of that child should know its origins. But if you have a child who is the result of artificial insemination, will you get any donors to give sperm if they think that their name and their medical history will be made public and made available? On the other hand,

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a Dr. MacWhinney has carried out research in Scotland. She says that in Denmark and Sweden the name and the history is given to the adopters so that they know what is the medical background of the child. I just ask myself whether this would be so in England.

I would like to make a suggestion which was also put forward by Family Care in Edinburgh and was supported by Dr. Scarth, the psychiatrist of the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh. I would like to suggest that this should be discussed as between the Association of Scottish Directors of Social Services, the voluntary organisations and the Adoption Society in Edinburgh and, if I may respectfully suggest, the Scottish Home Department, so that we can come to some agreed policy. There is no doubt about it that this should be further discussed in view of the fact that embryology will develop even further and that it certainly is right that children should know their medical background in case of something developing at a later stage.

3.45 p.m.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: As I did not see the amendment until this morning, I have not been able to do any research into the matter. I rather think that an amendment of this kind was moved during the passage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill but was unsuccessful.

I think you would certainly be up against serious trouble if you wanted the name of the donor parent to be disclosed, but I would have thought that there could be no objection to medical history, but without the name being disclosed. That surely would meet the case.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar: I find this a very distressing area of life with regard to the genetic parents and so on. I just wonder whether we are creating artificial children. I use that phrase advisedly in that we have access to the child's genetic parents who are not the child's natural parents. How far does this go on?

I am not against what the noble Baroness said in principle and I can see that at some time children will want to know who their parents are. But I just wonder how far we can go in this direction without creating some substantial degree of artificiality in society.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: I think the whole thing is perfectly frightful, but it is happening and I think that we are not going to stop it happening. Therefore, we must be prepared to mitigate the worst side effects.

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