After section 17

Part of Family Law (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:45 pm on 15th December 2005.

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Photo of Marlyn Glen Marlyn Glen Labour 3:45 pm, 15th December 2005

Perhaps we should not be discussing something like this in such great detail at stage 3; we really should have dealt with this earlier. Again and again, people have said that the Family Law (Scotland) Bill is so big and complex that we needed more time to enable us to take it in sections and debate it properly in committee before we brought it to the chamber.

I want to bring some context to the debate. We are talking about only a small number of difficult cases. In more than 70 per cent of cases, contact arrangements are agreed between parents without reference to the courts at all. Of the remaining 30 per cent, the courts refuse only about 1 per cent.

I agree with the sentiments that Kenny MacAskill expressed, but I underline the minister's point that section 17B would not meet that requirement because it would not impact evenly on resident and non-resident parents.

I urge a note of caution about the idea of contact compliance officers. That sounds like a good idea but I would have thought that it required a lot of work. The part of the bill that is most important relates to the safety of the child. We are talking about safe contact. We must not forget that.

I am relieved that Pauline McNeill will not press her amendment. Although it is desirable to minimise delay in court processes, that must not be to the detriment of decisions taken. Time must be given to investigate closely all matters that impact on the child's safety, including domestic abuse, prior to making any contact order. That includes giving the child the chance to voice their views and giving proper consideration to those views. It could be absolutely counter-productive to have an expedited procedure.