Award of Parental Responsibilities and Parental Rights to Father

Part of Orders of the Day — Children (Scotland) Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:45 pm on 1st May 1995.

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Photo of Michael Connarty Michael Connarty , Falkirk East 5:45 pm, 1st May 1995

That is a useful intervention because it shows the Government that there is already good practice in this area. The social work department or some other body, although in Scotland it is mainly the social work department, is responsible for uplifting the child and taking him to a mutually acceptable environment. It is important that children are not taken to cold, dank halls in which there is a physical barrier between them and the second parent who comes to see them. The environment should be such that the child and the second parent have genuine access and contact. Even if they are not supervised all the time, the responsibility for bringing the child to the place of contact should certainly lie with a third party unless the residential parent is capable and willing to meet and make contact with the father.

Subsection (3) of the new clause is about positive parenting. The purpose of the new clause is to show the Government that if parental responsibility were automatically shared it would safeguard the residential partner, in the main the woman, from any form of contact with an unsuitable person. All the issues that are outlined in subsection (3) are reasons why a parent should be kept away from the family that he has abused, threatened or committed violence against. Such people should be prevented from re-establishing contact with the child.

These 40 pages of amendments were stuck down on Friday for debate today. To act in that a way on a Bill of such magnitude and importance shows that the Government are half-hearted about what they are trying to do. They are tied up with bureaucratic difficulties and missing fantastic opportunities to use the UN convention on the rights of the child and enact useful and expansive legislation for children.

The new clause puts children first because my hon. Friend the Member for Maryhill has obviously focused on the child. It is interesting to note that the organisation in Scotland which used to be called the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children is now called Children First. It has got the message but it appears that the Government have not. However, if they at least accept this new clause there will be a slight lowering of the barriers that the Government's myopic, weak and half-hearted thinking have put in the way of the kind of legislation that we thought we would get when we set out on this journey so many months ago.