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Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, I warmly welcome the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, to his new job. I know that he will not take it as any reflection on him when I say that I am very sorry that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, is not present
First, the noble and learned Lord consulted representatives from various children's organisations about the content of the Bill before it was finally drafted. Next, I am sure that he fought hard to persuade the Government to make time for it and played a great part in formulating the new, experimental procedures which took place at Second Reading in the Scottish Grand Committee in Edinburgh; later before the Committee stage when the Standing Committee took evidence; again in Edinburgh, from many of the children's organisations which were interested; and when having the Committee stage off the Floor of the House. Our thanks are due to him for ensuring that the Bill has reached this stage. I certainly hope that he is very proud and happy about it. To all those noble Lords, whether or not Members of the Scottish All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children, and to those who assisted us, I extend my warmest thanks as Lords' Convenor.
I know that some noble Lords still have concernsthat became quite clear this eveningand some would have liked further amendments. But I hope that they will recognise that there is a balance to be maintained between the interests of children and those of the general public, between what is ideal and what is practical and between the extent of provision which we would all like to see and what can be afforded.
Before we finish, I wonder whether the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, could tell us when the guidelines on interviewing children are to be published. Some of us would very much like to know that. Meanwhile, we shall see how the legislation works. If problems arisewe hope that they will notwe shall see then what can be done. I hope to see the Bill receive Royal Assent before we rise next week.
The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, I should like to thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, and the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, for their help, patience and reassurance throughout the passage of the Bill through your Lordships' House. I also welcome the noble Earl, Lord Courtown, as the new Scottish Whip. I hope that he will enjoy dealing with Scottish business.
As the Bill has been classified as non-controversial and enjoys all-party support, so there has been a greater need to clarify at the margins and seek reassurance that any loophole spotted will be plugged, at least in guidance.
I pay considerable tribute to the help and advice that I have received from the Consortium for the Children (Scotland) Bill, serviced by Children in Scotland and the Scottish Child Law Centre, representing 80 childcare organisations in Scotland. In particular, I pay tribute to the outstanding contribution of Dr. Kay Tisdall, whose new employers, Glasgow University, will be pleased to gain her full attention. I should also like to thank parents for raising the relationship between independent schools and the Children (Scotland) Bill.
Perhaps I may comment on the use of the Moses Room for the Committee stage of the Bill. The advantages were considerable in that the Ministers and their advisers were seated together and could confer speedily. Moreover, there was room for everyone to spread their papers on the tables in front of them. The downside of using that location was that apparently the acoustics below Bar are very poor. Considering that there were a number of well-paid advisers present, that was perhaps a pity.
Lord Macaulay of Bragar: My Lords, I echo the words of the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, about the progress of the Bill. It started off on a pretty shaky foundationnot, that is, the Bill itself, but the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children. We were very fortunate to find a slot in the legislative procedure. I shall not go into the reasons for that. This is not the time to make any political points.
The Bill has taken a fairly protracted way through the legislative procedure. We join with the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, in paying tribute to the people who briefed us. We must be frank about the matter. One cannot use one's imagination on Bills such as this except to a limited extent. We must be instructed by the people who deal with children and know the problems. As the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, said, we now have a better Bill than when it came into your Lordships' House.
I should like to pay tribute to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Fraser, who, as I said, has been very co-operative from the beginning. It was pointed out to me that he now appears to have taken a seat on the Bishops' Benches. I wonder whether he has been elevated to one of their posts. He keeps moving upward all the time. But perhaps his choice of seat was just accidental and he will take his place on the Government Benches in due course. I am sure that, as yet, he has not become a Bishop.
We are very grateful to him. Everyone involved in the consultation process is grateful to him for his consideration of the issues which were raised. He did not agree with some of them but agreed with others. That is his privilege. But everyone recognises his unfailing courtesy towards those who raised the points. His successor, the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, has had an opportunity for a short time to take part in the debates and he echoed the approach of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Fraser, to the Bill.
This is the moment when we all congratulate one another and say what fine fellows and ladies we are. I shall not shrink from that. We have done a lot of hard work on this Bill. Everyone in your Lordships' House who has contributed to it has done a lot of hard work on this Bill. I pay tribute to the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, as one who really makes the Government think. I have never met his equal as a scrutineer of legislation. There is a parallel with Long John Silver and the parrot. I am sure that some Ministers might have felt at times that the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, was like Long John
We on this side of your Lordships' House have views about the continuation of this House in its present form. I wish that some of the detractors of your Lordships' House who speak without knowledge of what happens in this Chamber could come here for a few days to see the work done to get legislation through. This Bill is one of the better examples which demonstrates the purpose of the House of Lords from the legislative point of view; namely, to take a Bill, grab it by the throat, make it a little better and send it back to where it came from in the hope that it will be accepted in the other place. We have had many examples of that in the various matters that have been considered.
I make only one further point. The noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, spoke about the Moses Room. There is one problem about that room, which is that it can become a little too cosy. Because this was an all-party Bill, we got over that problem. But I am not sure that it is the proper place to hold discussions on a more controversial Bill. Until the noble Earl told me this morning, I did not realise that the people sitting in the seats at the far end of the Moses Room who were interested in the Bill could not in fact hear what was going on because the microphones were only used for reporting the proceedings. I may be wrong about that, but I believe some of them felt rather deprived, having come all the way to hear the debate and not being able to take part.
The second point made to me is that the reports of what happened in the Moses Room are not officially recorded in Hansard. They are separate reports. If we are to use those proceedings, it may be an idea that the reporting should be part of the Official Report. People buy the Official Report in the hope of seeing what has happened and find that there is no sign of the debates. Perhaps that is something which the House authorities can consider.
The Earl of Balfour: My Lords, at this stage I join with what the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, said. If another Bill is taken off the Floor of the House, its proceedings should be attached to the daily Hansard that comes out of the proceedings of the Whole House. It is a good point and I am grateful to the noble Lord for making it.
Of all the legislation I have followed through your Lordships' House, none has ever had the care and attention to detail that this Children (Scotland) Bill has received from my noble and learned friend Lord Fraser and my noble friend Lord Lindsay and the Scottish Office. More than half of the clauses and schedules of this Bill are introducing new ideas to protect the youngest members of our society.
In its passage through Parliament this Bill has been practically rewritten to meet proposals from all sides of this House and of the political spectrum. It seems a pity to me that the electorate of Scotland are not aware of how much the laws and general welfare of Scotland have been improved by this Conservative Government.
Finally, I wish my noble and learned friend Lord Fraser of Carmyllie every success in his new position as the Minister for trade and industry, and my noble friend Lord Lindsay every success in the Scottish Office.
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