Co-Operation Between Authorities

Orders of the Day — Children (Scotland) Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:45 pm on 1st May 1995.

Alert me about debates like this

  1. '.—(1) Where it appears to a local authority that an appropriate person could, by doing certain things, help in the exercise of any of their functions under this Part [Promotion of Children's Welfare By Local Authorities And By Children's Hearings etc.] of this Act, they may, specifying what those things are, request the help of that person.
  2. (2) For the purposes of subsection (1) above, persons who are appropriate are—
    1. (a) any other local authority;
    2. (b) a health board constituted under section 2 of the National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1978;
    3. (c) a national health service trust established under section 12A of that Act; and
    4. (d) any person authorised by the Secretary of State for the purposes of this section;
    and an appropriate person receiving such a request shall comply with it provided that it is compatible with their own statutory or other duties and obligations and (in the case of a person not a natural person) does not unduly prejudice the discharge of any of their functions.'.—[Lord James Douglas-Hamilton.]
Brought up, and read the First time.

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

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson) was responsible for one of those Acts and I am glad to see him in his place.

The purpose of the new clause is quite clear: it is a response to issues that were raised in Committee and it seeks to ensure proper co-operation between the various service providers in addressing the needs of children. It achieves that by providing power for the local authority to approach appropriate persons when it appears to the local authority that such persons would be able to help the authority in the exercise of its functions under part II of the Bill.

Subsection (2) of the new clause states that the persons whom the authority can approach are: any other local authority, a health board, a national health service trust and any person authorised by the Secretary of State. Any person so approached is required to comply with the request, provided it is compatible with that person's statutory and other duties. The new clause should encourage closer working among the various agencies and must be to the benefit of Scotland's children. I commend it to the House.

Photo of Mrs Maria Fyfe Mrs Maria Fyfe , Glasgow Maryhill

The Opposition welcome the new clause, which responds to criticisms made in Committee.

I have a brief question. Paragraphs (a) to (d) of subsection (2) imply that persons who are not listed would be inappropriate. Surely the Minister does not mean that a local authority could not seek help from the Secretary of State. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is not trying to evade such a responsibility, but will the Minister clarify that point?

Photo of Margaret Ewing Margaret Ewing , Moray

I, too, have a brief question on subsection (2). Why does it not include the recognition of registered voluntary organisations, which often do a great deal of work in providing for children, including those with special needs and disabilities who were referred to earlier? How does the Minister see voluntary organisations playing a role under this subsection?

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

I should like to add to the question asked by the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing). Voluntary organisations and charities play an important role in catering for the needs of many children. Will the Minister confirm that the definition in subsection (2)(d) embraces the voluntary organisations and charities that do such fine work in the care of children?

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

I see no reason why the Secretary of State should not give such authorisation. The Scottish Office will give guidance in due course on all these matters. It would be open to a local authority to apply to the Scottish Office for guidance on any point that might arise. The new clause does not require co-operation between departments of the same authority, because social work and housing will be the responsibility of a single authority after reorganisation. It clearly would not be appropriate to require under primary legislation a body to co-operate with itself. Under subsection (2)(d) voluntary organisations can be authorised. They play a strong and supportive role and we look forward to that continuing.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.