Orders of the Day — Child Migrants

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:13 pm on 22nd November 1993.

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Photo of Paddy Tipping Paddy Tipping , Sherwood 10:13 pm, 22nd November 1993

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe) for allowing me a few minutes.

These important issues are not just history. Some argue that, as the events took place 20, 30 or 40 years ago, they can be forgotten. That clearly cannot be the case. The children who went abroad want to understand their history. They need to understand and make sense of their past and look forward to their future. Many families here in the United Kingdom still grieve about that past and it is important that some action should be taken. People are aging, memories are fading and records unfortunately are not being released.

The Minister will know that on 18 May I came with representatives of the Child Migrant Trust to see his predecessor at the Department of Health, who undertook to have discussions with the child care charities involved in those activities.

The present Minister wrote to me on 2 July to say that he shared the concerns of the trust, that there was an issue and that there would be speedy action. I hope that the Minister will not mind my reminding him that six months have passed since that initial meeting at the Department. I should be grateful if he would tell us what discussions there have been with the child care agencies involved.

Many child migrants will not accept help from those former charities. They believe that the charities are in the dock and they accuse the charities. They will not take help from a party that they feel is implicated in events from which, although history, many people still bear the scars.

It is important to fund the Child Care Trust adequately. I note the enormous help that the Australian Government have given the Child Migrants Trust. That organisation is extremely highly regarded in Australia and it would be fitting if it had similiar recognition here.

The Government could help immediately by making sure that records are available. They could put pressure on the child care charities that have been involved. They could provide finance, as they have in the past. I believe that £45,000 has been made available from the Department of Health over recent years. However, the real funding for and the real commitment to the Child Migrants Trust has come from Nottinghamshire county council. Over the past seven years it has made almost £200,000 available to the trust. It really is time for action. It really is time for the Department of Health to match the commitment of the trust, its volunteers and Nottinghamshire county council because it is vital that, for people to have a future, they must make sense of the past, and the Child Migrants Trust can ensure that.