Separate Representation of Children and Their Interests

Part of New clause 10 – in the House of Commons at 6:45 pm on 17th June 1996.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Paul Boateng Mr Paul Boateng Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Minister (Lord Chancellor's Department) 6:45 pm, 17th June 1996

New clause 10 is a worthwhile amendment, which certainly follows on from our debates in Committee. The impact of divorce on children obviously gives rise to considerable concern. Experience shows clearly that the child's interest is best served when there is an opportunity to focus on his or her needs and for an interventionist role to be played, to ensure that that interest is secured. The new clause seeks to build on the guardian ad litem system and as such has much to commend it.

The resource implications are also worthy of consideration. One issue that the Government need to examine, both in relation to new clause 10 and generally in terms of the way in which resources are raised and applied, is whether there is scope in the system of court fees and payments for the raising of revenue to be applied specifically to that purpose. So the resource implications are modest and there is no reason why they cannot be met from the existing budget and through the capacity of the courts to meet such expenditure.

Experience has shown that the use of guardian ad litem in proceedings where children have an interest, by identifying the issues and seeking to ascertain where intervention by the various agencies can be most usefully applied, contributes to the harnessing and saving of resources.

So on balance, the new clause has a great deal to commend it. We look forward to the Minister's response. If it is not possible to take the matter forward in respect of the Bill, I hope that we shall be able to return to it in other contexts and generally—building on the other amendments and new clauses set down for discussion this evening—to make sure that the special needs and requirements of children are met and respected.