Provisions Relating Both to Parental Responsibilities and to Parental Rights

Orders of the Day — Children (Scotland) Bill – in the House of Commons at 7:30 pm on 1st May 1995.

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Photo of Dr Norman Godman Dr Norman Godman , Greenock and Port Glasgow 7:30 pm, 1st May 1995

I beg to move amendment No. 4, in page 3, line 44, at end insert— '(5A) An arrangement under subsection (5) above as to the exercise of parental responsibilities or parental rights shall be made only with the agreement of any other person who has parental responsibilities or parental rights in relation to the child; and such arrangement may be made—

  1. (a) in the case of a child of twelve years of age or below, only after consulting the child, or
  2. (b) in the case of a child of thirteen years of age or above, only with the agreement of the child.'.
At first glance, it might appear that I am being somewhat heavy handed with this amendment, but I am concerned about the purpose of clause 3(5). Is it advisable to allow a parent to entrust parenting responsibilities to a third person unrelated or even related to the child without the permission of the other parent and without, say, the approval of a court? I believe that the potential for conflict is huge, especially in relation to the rights given to parents under clause 2.

A child aged over 12 years should be able to give his or her consent to any proposed transfer of parental responsibilities. The agreement of a child under 12 years should also be sought in each and every case. If that is not done the child will be treated as a piece of property, which I am sure is not the Minister's objective.

As I have said, the amendment may appear somewhat heavy handed. When looking through it I thought that the Minister might ask whether one should have to apply for a court order before sending bairns off on holiday with their granny. Despite my reservations, there is concern about the purpose of clause 3(5). I believe, and it is the Minister's conviction as well, that where appropriate a child over the age of 12 should be able to consent to any transfer of such awesome responsibilities. Even children under the age of 12 should be consulted at all times. I should be grateful to hear the Minister's response to my somewhat defensive description of the amendment as heavy handed.

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

I have some sympathy for the intention of the amendment but it is unnecessary and in some ways impractical. For example, I am not sure how one would consult a very young infant before asking the grandmother to look after the infant for a couple of hours. More seriously, the amendment is unnecessary because clause 6 already provides for the views of the child to be considered.

It would also be wrong to limit the power of a parent to make arrangements for the care of the child in an emergency when it might not be practical to consult the other parent. It would also conflict with clause 2(2) which gives parents the power to exercise their parental rights independently. However, we hope to cover the consultation of the other parent when a major decision is involved in a Government amendment to clause 6.

Photo of Dr Norman Godman Dr Norman Godman , Greenock and Port Glasgow

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: No. 115, in page 3, line 47, at end insert— '; and where any arrangements so made are such that the child is a foster child for the purposes of the Foster Children (Scotland) Act 1984, those arrangements are subject to the provisions of that Act.'.—[Lord James Douglas-Hamilton.]