I beg to move amendment No. 5, in page 54, line 8, after 'permission', insert
'of the other occupiers and'.
The purpose of the amendment is to modify clause 68 (1), but if the Minister gives me one of his honest assurances that it is unnecessary, I shall happily withdraw it. Clause 68(1) states:
An exclusion order shall, in respect of the home to which it relates, have the effect of suspending the named person's rights of occupancy (if any) and shall prevent him from entering the home, except with the express permission of the local authority which applied for the order.
My amendment would modify that to read,
with the express permission of other occupiers and the local authority".
I supported clause 67, and I have long campaigned for the exclusion of the alleged abuser rather than the removal of the child or children from the home. But in this case express permission can be given to a named person to enter a home from which he or she has been excluded. Presumably, that requires the permission of the other parent, or the child concerned if he is old enough to have an opinion.
It seems perfectly reasonable to suggest that such a child should be able to express an opinion about the local authority's decision to prevent the excluded person from returning to the family home. The interests of the child should be made an explicit requirement. I must first ask the Minister whether that is feasible.
The amendment would protect the child's interests—and those of the other parent—by putting them on a level with the local authority. I believe that the amendment is necessary, although the Minister may seek to convince me that it is not, to defend the interests of the child. I believe that the child and the other parent should be placed alongside the local authority in this matter.
I should say at the outset that I have some sympathy with the amendment. The concept of excluding someone from the family home does carry with it the expectation that those remaining will be content with the situation. If those involved conclude that, in the light of changing circumstances, this is not possible—or if the person requires access to remove personal belongings—it would seem reasonable to allow the people remaining in the house to have a say.
There is another side to the coin. It may be that the mother and child who remain in the house are put under serious pressure by the excluded abusing husband, and that they might reach a point where they could no longer resist. It is important to remember that, if the woman had wished, she could have sought to exclude the person through the Matrimonial Homes (Family Protection) Scotland Act 1981. The fact that she chose not to do so, and that an authority became involved, may reflect on the woman's inability or unwillingness to take matters forward herself.
On balance—this was very much a balanced decision—we reached the view that the local authority should probably be left very much in the driving seat. I have little doubt that it would consult where appropriate, but the final decision should be for the authority. The mother, child or other occupants of the family home should not have to face decisions of that type at a time when they might be under considerable stress, and may have difficulty in forming balanced views. They may also have been subject to violence. I hope that, on the basis of that explanation, the hon. Gentleman will agree to withdraw the amendment.