Children, Schools and Families Bill

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 6:08 pm on 11th January 2010.

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Photo of Hilary Armstrong Hilary Armstrong Labour, North West Durham 6:08 pm, 11th January 2010

The hon. Gentleman is trying very cleverly to get around something that we know is not there, and I shall not be dragged down his route. I could have a lot to say about home education, but I am determined to stick to discussing what we are going to do about the most vulnerable in our communities.

What the Government seek to do overall, in opening up proceedings, is absolutely right, but I am concerned that in doing so we protect sensitive personal information. On my understanding of the Bill, such information could be published unless the court specifically imposes restrictions, but I suspect that any court that imposes such restrictions will be subject to enormous criticism by some members of the press. We need to be clear about what we are licensing and what we are allowing, and we must make absolutely sure that we consider the interests of the child. Family proceedings usually involve children when they are at their most vulnerable, and we must make sure that we do not put them into more danger from, for example, bullying or further abuse. I approve of the principle, but I am concerned that, frequently, because there is no disagreement about the principle, we do not pay enough attention to the level of detail. That might come back to hit us if we do not maintain the clear level of care needed for the most vulnerable children when they are part of family proceedings.

There is much in the Bill that I welcome and much that I would like to talk more about, but I have tried to concentrate on the issues that, for me, are part of how we support the most vulnerable in our society and enable them to grow up to play a full part in it because they have been able to meet their full potential.

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