Removal of Duty to Report on Operation of Children Act 1975

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

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'. Section 105 of the Children Act 1975 (which among other things provides that every five years there shall be laid before Parliament by the Secretary of State a report on the operation of such sections of that Act as are for the time being in force) shall cease to have effect.'.—[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.

Photo of Mr Michael Morris Mr Michael Morris , Northampton South

With this, it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments Nos. 208, 90, 209, 210 and 95.

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

This new clause and the associated amendments seek to repeal section 105 of the Children Act 1975, which requires the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament every five years a report on the operation of the sections of the Act that are in force. As all the substantive provisions relating to adoption and custody have now been updated and incorporated in other legislation, the need to produce a report on the 1975 Act becomes redundant.

Amendment No. 208 seeks to add section 105 to the repeals schedule in the Bill. Amendment No. 90 makes various changes to section 51 of the Children Act and is required as a consequence of the Bill. It does so by setting out the revised subsection in its entirety. Amendments Nos. 209, 210 and 95 propose minor consequential amendments.

Photo of Mrs Maria Fyfe Mrs Maria Fyfe , Glasgow Maryhill

As it has occurred to the Minister to repeal a section of the 1975 Act, why has it not crossed the mind of anyone in the Scottish Office to include provisions in the Bill to report on or monitor the operation of the clauses of this Bill? Such a request was resisted in Committee and I thought that the Minister had undertaken to consider how often such reports could be made. Has that matter been considered?

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

I should like to reinforce my hon. Friend's plea. As the new unitary authorities will implement this Bill, it is important for such reports to be presented to the House so that we can see how the Bill's provisions are being implemented by the new authorities.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

I was not entirely clear from the Minister's comments whether the provisions to which the statutory duty of reporting relate are being transferred to another Act. Is there still a duty to report, albeit under a different Act, or has it disappeared altogether? How many times in the past 20 years has the Secretary of State laid a quinquennial report before Parliament?

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

We discussed this matter at considerable length in Committee. We propose to monitor what happens by research, social work inspectorate reports, statistical surveys and other ways. We remain firmly of the view that regular reports are of limited value. If produced annually, they do not adequately reflect changing patterns of service provision, demographic changes and other such matters. Indeed, they can be something of a bureaucratic chore. However, we strongly believe in the need for specific research projects, the results of which will be and are published; the regular publication of statistical data; the preparation and publication of local plans for child health care services; and the ability of the social work services inspectorate to carry out necessary inspections. All those represent a more useful and realistic way to proceed in future. After four quinquennial reports and the extensive development of services, we believe that provision along those lines would serve no useful purpose. New clause 12 removes a provision for the preparation of reports, which was useful in its time.

Question put and agreed to.

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