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The Earl of Mar and Kellie moved Amendment No. 169:


Page 80, line 43, at end insert:
("( ) A child or parent of a child may request a local authority to hold an inquiry into their functions in relation to that child, in terms of subsection (1) above, and if the local authority refuse to hold such an inquiry, they shall give written reasons for such a refusal.").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, the amendment would give parents and children the specific right to ask for an inquiry into their case. I wish to ascertain from the noble Earl what the Government propose to put into guidance about that. In particular, I wonder whether such inquiries will be easy to request. Will the local authorities be required to justify a refusal? Who will pay for the inquiry? Alternatively, will it automatically have to be paid for by the person requesting it? An inquiry may be helpful, but it seems strange to limit it to those who can afford to pay for it. I hope that I have misunderstood the provisions of the Bill in that respect. I beg to move.

The Earl of Balfour: My Lords, before my noble friend replies I wish to make a short appeal. I have often been interested in hearing the replies given by my noble friends on the Front Bench to the noble Lord, Lord

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Macaulay, that something will be put into the guidelines, regulations or whatever comes after the Bill is enacted. I make the appeal that there should not be too great a delay after the Bill comes into force before the regulations appear.

The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, first I can reassure the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, on some of the points he raised. There may be some details which I cannot cover tonight, but I shall be able to write to him about them.

Local authorities should always, in the spirit of the Citizen's Charter, clearly explain their decisions when called upon to do so. This is an important part of their accountability. In addition, all authorities now have in place formal complaints machinery. In cases of maladministration, individuals can have recourse to the local authorities ombudsman. I do not think, therefore, that we need in the Bill a prescription on the local authority to intimate a negative decision in a particular way, which would be one of the consequences of the amendment as drafted.

I can also reassure my noble friend Lord Balfour that it is our intention to minimise any delay or time-lag between the Bill coming into force and regulations which are required for it. With those assurances to both noble Earls, I hope that the amendment can be withdrawn.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for his answer and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.45 p.m.

Clause 98 [Panel for curators ad litem, reporting officers and safeguarders]:

[Amendment No. 170 not moved.]

The Earl of Lindsay moved Amendment No. 171:


Page 81, line 29, at end insert:
("(1A) Regulations under subsection (1) above may provide, without prejudice to the generality of that subsection—
(a) for the appointment, qualifications and training of persons who may be appointed to that panel; and
(b) for the management and organisation of persons available for appointment from that panel.").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, this is a technical and consequential amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 102 [Extent, short title, minor and consequential amendments, repeals and commencement]:

The Earl of Lindsay moved Amendment No. 172:


Page 82, line 20, at end insert:
("( ) The transitional provisions and savings contained in Schedule (Transitional Provisions and Savings) to this Act shall have effect but are without prejudice to sections 16 and 17 of the Interpretation Act 1978 (effect of repeals).").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, this amendment to Clause 102 introduces transitional provisions. They are set out in detail in the new schedule. I should also mention in relation to Clause 102 that some minor adjustments might be appropriate at Third Reading in relation to the Bill's extent. I beg to move.

5 Jul 1995 : Column 1219

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Amendments of the Adoption (Scotland) Act 1978]:

The Earl of Lindsay moved Amendment No. 173:


Page 86, line 9, at end insert:
(". Section 8 (direction where adoption society inactive or defunct) shall cease to have effect.").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, Amendment No. 173 simply seeks to delete a provision which is no longer required. The addition to Schedule 4 of Section 8 at page 118, line 33, merely notes the repeal. It is covered in Amendment No. 244. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Lindsay moved Amendment No. 174:


Page 86, line 32, leave out from ("which,") to end of line 34 and insert ("if no application has been made for an adoption order in relation to the child, application for an order under section 18(1) shall require to be made in relation to him.".").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment when moving Amendment No. 126. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar moved Amendment No. 175:


Page 87, leave out line 13 and insert:
("(a) in subsection (1), the words "Subject to section 53(1) of the Children Act 1975 (which provides for the making of a custody order instead of an adoption order in certain cases)" shall cease to have effect; and").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is grouped with Amendment No. 176 and it refers to the deletion of Section 53(1) of the Children Act 1975. I am advised that the amendment might be acceptable to the Government. It is technical and is a tidying-up process which follows on Amendment No. 168. Perhaps the matter could be considered to see whether the amendment is technically correct. I beg to move.

The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 175 and 176 seek to delete references to Section 53(1) of the Children Act 1975 from Sections 14 and 15 of the Adoption (Scotland) Act 1978. I agree that for practical purposes the Section 53 provisions, which allow a court to consider custody rather than adoption, are in effect spent because of the improvements brought about through the Bill.

Clause 93 of the Bill makes clear that an adoption agency should consider alternatives to adoption and should not proceed with adoption if a better option is available. Similarly, paragraph 15 of Schedule 2 amends Section 24 of the Adoption (Scotland) Act to the effect that a court must not make an adoption order unless it considers that this would be better for the child than if it did not make the order. Clause 11 of the Bill provides scope for various orders and arrangements.

I am sure that the provisions in the Bill and in the Adoption (Scotland) Act 1978, as amended by the Bill, cover all the necessary ground as regards alternative orders. It may be, therefore, that Section 53 of the 1975 Act could be repealed. The noble Lord's amendments, however, only delete other references to it. I should like to consider whether it would be possible to bring

5 Jul 1995 : Column 1220

forward a minor amendment to meet the noble Lord's wishes. With the assurance that I will consider the matter further, I hope that the noble Lord will agree to withdraw his amendment, which would only achieve part of his desired aim.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar: My Lords, I am glad that the amendments have highlighted the issue and am grateful to the Minister for his explanation and for taking on board the revision of the legislation. Under those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 176 not moved.]

The Earl of Lindsay moved Amendment No. 177:


Page 88, line 10, leave out ("he would not be granted") and insert ("it is likely that he would be refused").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, this amendment makes a modification to the way in which the court should consider the position of a father who is not married to the mother of a child when an application has been made for a freeing order. Essentially, it provides a sensible degree of flexibility. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Lindsay moved Amendments Nos. 178 and 179:


Page 90, line 1, leave out from beginning to ("placing") in line 4.
Page 90, line 16, leave out ("(4) (c) (ii) or") and insert ("(4) (c)").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I spoke to Amendments Nos. 178 and 179 when moving Amendment No. 126. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

The Earl of Lindsay moved Amendment No. 180:


Page 91, line 18, at end insert:
(". In section 28 (restriction on removal of child from care and possession of applicant for adoption order etc.)—
(a) in subsection (4), for the words from ", in terms of" to the end substitute "under or by virtue of Chapter 2 or 3 of Part II of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995"; and
(b) in subsection (5), the words "or of a voluntary organisation" and "or the organisation" shall cease to have effect.")
.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, with the approval of the House, I should also like to speak to Amendment No. 245. These are essentially consequential amendments which follow from other changes being brought about by the Bill. On that basis, I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.


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